Weekend Report: Men's and Women's Hoops

The Idaho men lost a heartbreaker Saturday night in overtime to the visiting Fresno State Bulldogs, and saw a three point halftime lead Thursday against San Jose State fade into a 3-point loss. The Vandal Women on the other hand beat SJSU on the road 72-64, then lost by 20 on the road at Fresno State.

Men's Basketball – Vandals drop two by a total of five points – Playing without shooting guard Keoni Watson Saturday, the fourth leading scorer in the WAC, the Vandal men took Fresno State into overtime Saturday night at the Cowan Spectrum before suffering a disappointing 72-70 loss to the Bulldogs.

At the end of the contest, after the two teams exchanged handshakes and the exhausted Vandals headed towards their locker room through the northeast tunnel in the Cowan Spectrum, the UI student section gave the team a high-class standing ovation applauding the effort the team put forth in the action-packed game.

In his post-game comments, coach George Pfeifer said, "I thought what we didn't have is what we did have."

He explained. "A couple of games ago when we lost, I…did tell our team that I couldn't be more disappointed because of what we did in the second half, how we didn't come out prepared mentally to play. The one thing that we've come to the realization is that character – heart - whatever…as a coach you can't control that right now. At some point in time you have to understand that's the player, and that's hard as a coach because you want to nurture them and help them and do all that kind of stuff.

"Tonight the thing I told them after the game was it was really enjoyable to be your coach. A break or two here, if a charge goes the other way or whatever the case may be…I thought we got some tough breaks tonight without question, but we battled. I mean, we shot 24% in the second half but they shot 22% in the second half. I thought we had some good looks at the basket. If we could have knocked one or two down it could have given us a little bit more of a gap."

Watson was not in uniform and not on the bench because of academic issues. Pfeifer declined to go into detail but said, "Keoni lost his academic pathway. Hopefully he'll find his academic pathway and join the team Monday. I want (him) to graduate, and he lost his path. We think that's important. We think academics is important. Would we like to have Keoni tonight? Yes we would. Do we feel good about the way these guys performed? Yeah. They played just fine. I love Keoni, but I want to see him graduate."

The Vandals outrebounded the Bulldogs 48-41, handed out 17 assists, had 2 slam dunks, and made 12 of 14 free throws but it wasn't enough. Idaho had a slim 35-34 lead at the half, but in the second half a relentless full-court Fresno press finally started to wear down the Vandals. Fresno had a chance to win it in regulation leading 58-55 with 31.3 left, but Trevor Morris was fouled attempting a three-point shot with 18.4 second left and made all three free throws to tie the game. The Vandals nearly stole the subsequent inbounds pass but the Bulldogs called time out and set up their final shot. With time all but expired Fresno's Dominic McGuire drove the lane for a virtually uncontested layup but missed as time expired.

In overtime the Vandals never led but with the score tied at 62, senior Ja'Vance Coleman, a returning second-team all-WAC performer who had been held scoreless for 44 minutes nailed a three-pointer from 24 feet with 1:08 left in the game and was 6 for 6 from the free throw line to put the game away.

Morris led the Vandals with 16 points, Michael Crowell had 15, and David Jackson 14 for Idaho. Point guard O.J. Navworo, who played the entire 45 minutes, had 5 points, 8 assistsn and led the team with 9 rebounds as no Vandal reached double figures on rebounds but nine different players had at least one rebounds.

After the game Morris was asked about the game and Watson's absence. "[Not having Watson] definitely hurt us, he said. "Keoni brought a lot of different things to the table. I think the biggest thing is they pressed us all night long. That's something that teams don't like to do with Keoni in there. That definitely hurt, but I thought we fought through that pretty well tonight too."

The Vandals travel to face rival Boise State next Wednesday then will team up with the Vandal women to host Utah State in a doubleheader in the Cowan Spectrum next Saturday at 5 and 7 p.m.

Thursday against San Jose State, the Vandals saw a 30-27 halftime lead evaporate and trailed 63-53 with 1:16 remaining and leading scorer Keoni Watson on the bench having fouled out a few moments earlier. At the point the Vandals kicked into high gear and put on a furious rally sinking four three-point field goals (three by Darin Nagle and one by Trevor Morris and San Jose missed some crucial free throws to make the game close. The Spartans were still on top 68-65 but the Vandals had the ball with 11 seconds left.

After a timeout the Vandals tried to get the ball to either Nagle or Clyde Johnson, but the Spartans switched out and forced OJ Avworo to take a desperation shot which bounced off the glass and rim before kicking out as time expired.

Coach George Pfeifer after the game said, "In this arena – not just the Spectrum but in this college basketball arena and particularly in the WAC – you can't take possessions off offensively and defensively, and that's what we do. We have some possessions where guys reach out with one hand to catch the basketball. We get away from what was working for us in the first half….We're not going to make all the shots. We understand that, but I thought we were getting good looks at the basket in the first half doing some simple things, and in the second half I thought we strayed from that.

"I thought we got the ball inside a lot more, and that was a priority to us., Pfeifer said. "We did pound the ball inside. There were times where we got ball reversal. We had a high success rate when that took place. It's kind of frustrating we only shot four free throws tonight. We didn't have any free throws shot at halftime, and we're trying to get it inside. We're trying to go at you. Maybe we're not going at you hard enough.

"It's mental, he added. "The mentality to understand how important every moment is, we don't have that…It would be nice to think you could have gotten a little better look at the basket (at the end of the game). I can certainly appreciate that, but it wasn't the outcome of the game. The outcome of the game was when it was 41-51.

Nagle posted a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Watson and Morris had 10 points each.

Women's Basketball Splits on California Tour - The Vandal women split a pair of games in California this weekend posting a wire-to-wire win over San Jose State 72-64 Thursday evening. Saturday afternoon Fresno State defeated the Vandals 75-53.

By beating San Jose State Thursday the Vandals posted their second win in three games and moved into eighth place in the WAC standings, one-half game behind Hawai'i.

"The team played very well," coach Mike Divilbiss said. "This is a quality win. Every win in the WAC is a quality win. They are all tough, especially on the road."

In particular, the Vandals battled strong inside with freshman Katie Madison's 15 boards paving the way to a 42-40 edge. "We aren't athletic enough to just jump up and go get it," Divilbiss said. "We absolutely have to block out because we are undersized and we did a nice job of that tonight."

In addition to her game-high rebounding effort, Madison had 24 points – a total matched by SJSU's Brittany Powell. Liz Witte had 22 for the Vandals and Lindsey Koppen was also in double-digits as she had 10 points. Powell was also the leading rebounder for the Spartans as she hauled in seven boards. Myosha Barnes had 11 points in the game for SJSU and Alisha Hicks had 13 for the Spartans.

Saturday against Fresno the Vandals were in contention at the half trailing by only six, but in the second half fatigue set in and the Bulldogs pulled away for a 75-53 win in a rare 1 p.m. game.

Not a man to make excuses, Vandal coach Mike Divilbiss did not mention that the Vandals had played San Jose State Thursday, but Fresno had been idle since losing last Saturday to Louisiana Tech.

"They did a good job of trapping us on the perimeter and making it hard for our girls to shoot," Divilbiss said after the game. "The defense also did a good job of keeping the passes out of the post. The biggest factor is we got tired. It was a six point game at halftime. We played pretty well defensively in the first half and kept them off the boards very well. There is no question we were tired. Five-of-22 from the 3-point line isn't how we shoot it.

"We had 16 assists and only 12 turnovers, which is a pretty good ratio against a team that last season turned us over 27 or 30 times. You can see these girls growing and improving."

Katie Madison had 15 points to lead the Vandals, she also had seven rebounds in the game. Sara Dennehy was the only other Vandal in double-figures as she had 11 points before leaving the game in the second half with a foot injury. The extent of the injury is not yet known.

TRACK NEWS: Owen Sets New Pole Vault Standard - Junior Melinda Owen erased her existing Vandal indoor pole vault record Saturday clearing13-5 1/4 in the McDonald's Collegiate Indoor Invitational in the Kibbie Dome. Going into this weekend Owen who had the eighth-best mark in the country at 13-1-1/2 and the UI record at 13-3 ¾. Her vault Saturday moved her up to number six in the country among NCAA pole vaulters. She is also the leading vaulter in the WAC, and the defending WAC champion.

On the track, sophomore Sam Michener had two seconds and two personal bests in the 60 and 200 meter dashes. Heather Bergland led a 1-2-3 Vandal sweep in the women's 60 meter hurdles.

Here's a link to the complete meet results: http://www.uiathletics.com/pages/sport.asp?Action=DrawBoxscore&SportID=&NewsID=4207&PageID=17

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