Vandal women top Eastern Washington

Wednesday night, just days after the loss of senior Karly Felton to an injury, freshman Katie Madison and junior Jessica Summers combined for 54 points, 29 rebounds, 9 assists, 5 steals and 2 blocked shots as the Vandals beat the Eastern Washington Eagles 73-60 at the Cowan Spectrum. With the win Idaho improves their record to 2-3 on the season.

At Tuesday's practice, Vandal women's coach Mike Divilbiss emphasized the importance of post play by not allowing any shot attempts from the outside until the ball had been passed into the post.

Wednesday night the Eastern Washington Eagles and a sparse crowd of 557 got to see the results up close and personal as freshman Katie Madison and junior Jessica Summers combined for 54 points, 29 rebounds, 9 assists, 5 steals and 2 blocked shots as the Vandals beat the Eagles 73-60. Idaho is now 2-3 on the season and Eastern Washington 3-4.

Madison, a 6-0 true freshman from Brush Prairie, Washington, exploded for a double with 35 points and 15 rebounds while Summers, 6-1 from Blaine, Washington, just missed a triple-double collecting 19 points, 14 rebounds and 8 assists. The two also combined for a perfect 16-for-16 night at the free-throw line.

"Yesterday we practiced all day with no perimeter shots until it touched a post player, Divilbiss said after the game, "and they're getting message. You've got to build your offense from the inside out..The outside kids are going to start getting a lot better looks as we start to establish an inside game, and I think it looks like we're starting to do that. 35 and 19 from the post. Those are two really good basketball games right there."

The last two years saw the Eagles post two-point wins over the Vandals, and Wednesday's game looked to be every bit as tough as Eastern led most of the first half by as many as six points on three occasions, the last time being a 30-24 advantage with 6 minutes left in the first half. From there the Vandals started dominating the game in the paint and outscored the visitors 10-3 taking a 33-32 lead with 59.5 seconds left in the half on basket by Summers.

Despite Eastern's height advantage starting 6-5 and 6-2 forwards, the Vandals kept pounding the ball inside to Madison and Summers. The team shooting percentage was not outstanding (25 of 68 for 37% from the field), but the Vandals dominated the boards at both ends of the floor, collecting 54 rebounds (including 21 offensive) to 40 for the Eagles. "It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog, especially in the post," Divilbiss added.

Idaho was also dominant at the free-throw line sinking 22 of 25 attempts compared to 8 of 12 for Eastern.

Divilbiss was extremely happy with the inside play of the Vandals who had taken their lumbs physically in their last two games against Eastern. "I thought our two inside kids just did a great job," he said. "I'm really proud of ‘em. They just showed a tremendous heart, tremendous mentality. I'll tell you the truth. Eastern Washington the last two years with Joanna Chad and her great mentality, they have kicked the snot out of us physically. Both games were two-point losses, but they were physical beatings. That didn't happen to us tonight… Obviously I don't know if we've ever had anybody put 35 up and get 15 rebounds. That's pretty impressive."

The coach was also quick to point out the contributions from the entire team. "I thought Ticey Westbrooks did a tremendous job defensively guarding Joanna, and she was a big catalyst for us," said Divilbiss. "I thought Sara Dennehy did a very good job defensively as well. Charlotte (Otero) did a great job handling pressure. Jessica should have had eight or nine assists at least to Katie, and she did…eight. She's a great post feeder, but the other kids are getting better at figuring out how to get the ball inside. When your big kids go nine-for-nine and seven-for-seven from the line too, that's pretty good. Both had double-doubles. This looks like a pretty good stat sheet right here except we didn't shoot the ball very well, but I think we will as we get more comfortable, get a little bit better understanding of the system and think a little bit less.

"You know Liz is going to shoot it better, Sara is going to shoot it better, Charlotte is going to shoot it better," he continued. "Our perimeter kids can shoot it. We're still thinking a little bit, and I think we'll get a little more fluid as we go, and I think our shooting will come around. I'm not concerned about it. What I am concerned about is just playing hard and playing smart, and we'll get it together.

"Well, we're together already…I'm going to tell you right now we could win no games this year and we'd be way more together than we've been in the previous five years. It's so good. We're together. It's that simple. That's a lot of why we got out-toughed by Eastern Washington the last two years, for those types of things. We would call it up and play occasionally like against Gonzaga last year or the La Tech games, but we wouldn't do it consistently because we weren't together. I know that we're going to take care of that part of it; so we've just got to keep focused on playing hard and playing smarter, taking better care of the ball, making easy passes, those types of things, and I think we'll be fine."

The Vandals under Divilbiss play under the slogan, "Hard, Smart, Together," The coach was pleased with the mentality of his players Wednesday. "I just thought we played with great mentality. We showed a lot of poise. The kids did a good job getting the ball where it was supposed to be, and I was real impressed with them. They made a lot of really good decisions. We haven't been playing as smart as we did tonight. I thought we played hard, but I thought we also played very smart, and I think that's really important. We did a lot better job taking care of the basketball and making passes. We had 15 assists and 17 turnovers. We haven't even been close to that. I think 15 assists probably is as many as we've gotten in the other four games total. I think there's just a lot of good things."

Defensively the Vandals threw a variety of looks at the Eagles alternating man-to-man, trapping, and zone looks. It began to take a toll late in the first half, but when asked it he had called for any special defensive strategies Divilbiss declined to take credit "No, that wasn't anything I did. It was all the kids. They did a great job. It wasn't any coaching things at all. It's just what we do. We were good defensively, and the kids got into a rhythm defensively I thought and worked very hard. They've worked very hard, and they earned it."

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