Wolfpack falls to blistering shooting performance
In the first half Thursday evening the Vandals shot 63% from the floor, 83% from beyond the 3-point arc, and 94% from the free-throw line, led by as many as 24 points, and settled in for an eventual 13-point win over Nevada. Emily Faurholt (23 points) and Leilani Mitchell (20 points, 7 assists, 7 rebounds, and 3 steals) paced the win, but there were a lot of high points throughout the lineup, as coach Mike Divilbiss was pleased to point out after the game.
Commenting on the first half, Divilbiss said, "It was really impressive. I thought we had a lot of people who were real aggressive offensively – Jessica (Summers), Karly (Felton), Emily, Leilani, Jordyn (Bowen). Everybody was aggressive and looked to score, and I think when we do that we're very good. We just haven't done it on a consistent basis this year."
The coach said the Vandal offensive scheme is designed to put together a balanced scoring attack. "I think quite frankly our system is really designed for that (scoring from everyone on the floor)," he said. "The secondary break, the motion, and the stuff that we do is really designed to encourage everybody's involvement. When everybody looks aggressive and looks to score, it just goes to another level. I was really impressed with how we started that way offensively, but I think the key for us is how we start defensively. When we're aggressive and have a good mentality defensively we always play better on the offensive end. It just carries over." The Vandals held Nevada to 34% from the floor in the first half.
Jordyn Bowen, 6-0, Fr, Post
"I thought we were very ready to play tonight," she continued. "We've had good practices. They were very excited to play the game. We just had tons of defensive breakdowns. Hopefully you can see my team doesn't give up. They came back in the second half with a lot of heart, a lot of effort, made some adjustments. We've been in most games, and I never felt like we were really in this game. That's disappointing. I was proud that we cut it to 10 at one point."
The Vandals cooled off in the second half but were still never seriously threatened. "I think we got a little complacent," Divilbiss said. "I think we're learning how to play from that situation. We haven't been in that situation very much. We're been in many, many wars, and everything has been really tight, and I think that our biggest challenge this year has been to learn to play on a consistent basis, bringing it for 40 minutes. Bring our fire and be on an edge for 40 minutes. I think that we're getting a lot better at that, but we still are not where we need to be yet."
Summers finished with 8 points, 9 rebounds, 3 steals and a blocked shot; Bowen had 7 points, 4 rebounds, a steal and a block; Karly Felton had 4 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal, defensive specialist Emily Halliday had 4 points and a steal; and MacKenzie Flynn had 3 points.
Familiar foe plays Vandals tough
Saturday night Utah State brought a 1-12 season record to town, but the Vandals and Aggies stood toe-to-toe in a defensive struggle that was not decided until the final seconds.
Leilani Mitchell, 5-5, Jr, Guard
Aggie Ashley Rutledge's 3-pointer cut into the lead, but Mitchell sank two free throws with seven seconds left to rebuild the lead before a 3-pointer by Brittany Hagen with 0.3 seconds left ended the scoring. On the game the Vandals shot 31% from the floor and 18% from 3-point range. Utah State shot 38% from the floor and 27% on 3-point attempts.
"I thought we ground one out," Divilbiss said after the game. "I knew it would be a really good game because the teams know each other so well. We were travel partners the last two years in the Big West and we've played each other six times now in three years. That's what happens. You start to know each other's plays and what you do, and that results in a score like this and shooting percentages like this because you're so familiar with each other. You have to work so much harder for every basket. That's what happens. There weren't many open looks by anybody tonight."
The Vandals led throughout the game but were forced to make lineup adjustments when Faurholt picked up her fourth foul with 13:04 remaining in the second half and left the game until the closing minutes. What could have been a crisis with the WAC's leading scorer on the bench turned into a positive for the Vandals. "That was scary," Divilbiss said, "[but] I was very impressed with Jessica and Jordyn. They both stepped up. Jordyn hit a big step-through move for us when we really needed a basket, and Jessica was really aggressive and sat in the post strong."
"It was really difficult to get the ball inside, and they made us work very hard. Both the kids were very good with (Faurholt) out. I thought the kids stayed really confident. Nobody panicked. You didn't see any panic in anybody which was nice, because we haven't played much without Emily…not since two years ago, her sophomore year, when she got into foul trouble against Portland and we played the last five minutes without her. We won without her, and that really helped us. It was a big shot in the arm just because the other kids now know they can do some things too. That's important."
"I think it took our team a little while to adjust (to Faurholt's absence)," Mitchell said. "Even if she's not scoring she's attracting a lot of defense, and that leaves other people open; so it just takes a while to adjust to it. Jessica and Jordyn did a great job inside. Jessica played really hard inside, and that really helped us out a lot."
Mitchell, who lead all scorers with 19 points (Faurholt ended with 18), credited the win to the Vandals' defensive strategies as only one Aggie (Ali Marchant with 10) scored in double figures. "I think switching up the defenses really helped us a lot against them, especially late," she said. "They just kept coming at us, and we kept switching the defenses, whatever worked trying to catch them off guard. Basically we just had to bear down and get a stop and say ‘we're not going to lose this game.' We pressed a little, went to a zone, went back to man. We just kept switching."
Aggie coach Raegan Pebley gave Mitchell a lot of credit for the Vandal victory. "Mitchell just stepped up defensively," she said. "(She) makes really good plays happen. She takes over for the team, throws them on her back whether Faurholt's in the game or not. I really think she had a lot to do with that win.
"It is a tough loss. Any loss is tough, but there's a really good, healthy, friendly rivalry between Idaho and us. We almost felt like we were home," she said. "We haven't played at home a whole lot, but then you come to a place in a new conference that you're familiar with; so it felt good…the University Inn, getting the same room. You know what this place is going to be like. It's a great atmosphere. (There are) great games every time we play each other."
Congratulations to the 1986 WNIT Championship Team, honored at center court during the Nevada game. The 1985-86 team won 26 of 31 games and is the only Idaho team to advance to the Women's National Invitational Tournament (WNIT). The Vandals defeated Fresno State, Notre Dame and Northwest Louisiana on the way to claiming the WNIT title. As a team, Idaho shot 53.8 percent from the floor during the season to set the school record.
Emily Halliday, 5-7, So, Wing
Emily Faurholt, 5-11, Senior, Post