Vandal women beat Spartans in finale

Posting a 15-point halftime lead thanks to excellent shooting (46% from the floor and 47% from behind the three-point arc), the Vandal women fought off fatigue and a determined comeback attempt by visiting San Jose State to defeat the Spartans 69-66 on Senior Night Saturday night in the Cowan Spectrum.<

The game was very much in doubt in the latter stages of the second half. The Vandals held a 52-41 lead with 13:06 remaining in the game but hit a scoring slump as the Spartans, behind Lawanna Griffin and Lynette Jacobs, ran off 10 points to knot the score at 52 with 7:57 left. After Katie Madison sank a free throw that was matched by San Jose's Brittany Powell, Katie Schlotthauer hit Madison with a picture-perfect pass for an assist to give the Vandals a two-point lead with 6:42 remaining.

From there the teams battled on fairly even terms with seven lead changes and three ties until a free throw on the front end of a one-and-one by Kalia Williams of the Spartans made it 66-65 Spartans with 31 seconds left. Williams missed the second shot and freshman point guard Charlotte Otero stepped up and took control of the game for the Vandals.

True freshman guard CHARLOTTE OTERO leads Vandals to season finale victory on senior night at the Spectrum.
Otero worked her way inside to grab the rebound off the missed free throw and drove the length of the court. Splitting Spartan defenders down the middle of the lane Otero sank a critical layup to make it 67-66 Vandals and was fouled in the process. She converted the three-point opportunity to make it 68-66 with 21 seconds left. San Jose then missed a jump shot with 15 second remaining and Madison rebounded getting the ball into Otero's hands. Otero was fouled with 11 seconds remaining and made the first of two free throws for a three-point Vandal lead. The Spartans rebounded the missed second free throw and took a time out to set up the final play but a three-point attempt fell short at the buzzer to end the game.

Afterwards Otero was asked about the key rebound, drive and layup. "I just knew I had to go to the basket because they were most likely going to try to foul me and we didn't have enough time to kick it out to anyone else," she said. "I just tried to take it in as hard as I could and I got fouled."

Asked about taking control of the action with the game on the line, Otero said, "Well, I just needed to step up. I knew we needed leadership from some point; so I decided to take it into my hands and help lead the team and do what I had to do."

Asked how it felt to get a win at home in the last regular season game, Otero said, "It feels great. We've been battling so hard, and after our last game we just were really down about it, but we decided to come out, forget about that game…that game was over… and just do what we can do and try to win this one."

Divilbiss said that after the excellent first half the Vandals had trouble getting their shots to fall and started to get frustrated. "We got some really good looks, and I think the frustration started to set in because they wouldn't go in the basket," he said. "Our kids were really tired. Thursday we played very tired. We were tired emotionally, we were tired physically, we were tired mentally. I just think in the first half we looked pretty fresh. With Sara (Dennehy) being out that gives us one less rotation. We've got three or four kids playing almost the entire game. Fatigue takes its toll.

"We did a good job sprinting back defensively and making them play against five set defenders…in the first half. In the second half we didn't do that. I thought we were really tired. We did a really good job of getting back in transition in the first half and in the second half we didn't do as well. Some of that was because we were missing shots instead of them getting it out of the net after we made it, but I think a lot of it was just fatigue. We got great looks and I thought they were good choices. I only think we took one or two bad shots. Some of that was out of frustration, and then they did a great job of doubling Katie (Madison) and making it harder on her to get shots.

"Then Schlott (Schlotthauer) gave us a little spark there because we weren't finding Hannah for some reason but we were finding Schlott, and Schlott made a couple of really nice plays besides her shooting, but she made some really nice passes and made a really big play to Katie. I think we'd been on 52 forever. That was a big basket."

Asked to comment on Otero's play with the game on the line, Divilbiss said simply, "Clutch. Leadership is somebody who's willing to step up and make a play when a play needs to be made, and that got done."

Madison posted a double-double leading all scorers with 20 points and added 13 rebounds and 3 assists. Lindsey Koppen had 16 points and 8 rebounds, Otero had 14 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists, Liz Witte added 9 points and two assists, Schlotthauer had 8 points including a pair of three-pointers, and Hannah Well had two points.

The win gave the Vandals the regular season sweep over the Spartans, snapped a six-game losing streak, and gave Idaho a 6-21 season record (3-13 in the WAC). They will travel to Las Cruces, NM and face San Jose State Tuesday in the first round of the WAC tournament. Tipoff will be 4 p.m. PST.

Vandal women honor Felton and Westbrooks

The two Vandals honored on senior night Saturday in the Cowan Spectrum were in uniform and on the bench, as both Karly Felton and Ticey Westbrooks were unable to participate in the final home game of the season having been sidelined by knee injuries earlier in the year.

Both Felton and Westbrooks are on track to graduate this year ended their playing careers at Idaho this weekend.

After the Vandals beat San Jose State, coach Mike Divilbiss took the Cowan Spectrum microphone to center count to honor the seniors, but first expressed his appreciation for the support shown by the fans. "I want to thank you very much for coming and supporting these girls," Divilbiss said. "I really, really appreciate it. You guys have done a great job. Thank you for coming. Students especially, you guys out here. We appreciate it a great deal.

"We're here to honor our two seniors," he continued. "It's a little bittersweet to say the least. Your years don't end for you the way you'd always like them to. Someone has a different plan than we do sometimes how things are going to go.

"I want to talk about these two girls together because they came here together. They gave a great deal to this program. They showed a tremendous amount of courage when it wasn't popular to do. They showed a great deal of commitment when it wasn't popular to show it. That's what being a leader is, and that's what being someone of conviction is, taking the path less traveled and doing something because it's not popular but because you know it's the right thing to do.

"These two young ladies have been part of two teams that played for a Big West championship. They were a huge part of that, and I will always be thankful in my heart for what they gave both me personally, our program, and the girls they're sitting with right there - right now. I want to say ‘Thank you very much' to them and honor them by bringing their parents out with them as I call their names: Ticey Westbrooks and Karly Felton.

"I want to say a special thank you also to this group of parents. One of the things we're trying to do in our program is build a sense of community. I know there are some parents here tonight, and I want to tell you that I really feel a tremendous amount of support for our coaching staff and our girls and our team from our parents and the people that support us. It really means a lot to us personally and to the program…and Karly and Ticey I can't tell you enough how much this program and the University appreciate all you have done. We are 100% certain that you are going to represent the Vandals and these tremendous families your whole life. Thank you very much."

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