Vandal women battle, fall by three to Wazzu

This was a tough loss for Idaho's rebuilding women's basketball team, but was an impressive example of what is in store under first-year head coach John Newlee. There were too many turnovers, but Idaho outrebounded WSU 41-39 and outshot them 46% to 26%, holding a good Pac-10 team to their lowest point total this season. Inside are stats, plus player and coach post-game quotes.

COMMENTARY: Depth played a role in the outcome, but the Vandals had every chance to win the game. Washington State came in averaging a whopping 76.2 points per game, second in the Pac-10, and carrying a 5-2 season record. The Vandals outshot and outrebounded Wazzu, but turned the ball over too many times and were outrebounded 20-7 on the offensive glass.

The ending was furious. Down the stretch, the Vandals tied the game 41-41 with about 7:10 left in regulation, then led by five with 5 minutes remaining, and led by three at the 3:56 mark, but missed two key free-throws that could have given them a five point advantage. WSU then caught and passed Idaho to take a 48-47 lead on two free-throws by April Cook with 2:41 left. Char Otero then took a pass from Rachele Kloke and drained a three with 52 seconds left. Then Cook answered with a three (astonishingly her only basket in 12 attempts) with 51.2 seconds left on the clock to make it 51-50 WSU. Idaho called time out and worked for the last shot but turned the ball over with 2 seconds left, and then was whistled for a foul. The Cougs made both free-throws to make the final score 53-51.

Statistical summary:

- The game was close all the way. The biggest Vandal lead was eight and the largest lead for the Cougars was three. The game was tied 10 times and there were 11 lead changes.

- WSU came in averaging 76.2 per game, second in the PAC-10 and 43% from the floor. The Vandals held them to season low marks in points scored (53) and shooting percentage (26%). Idaho shot 46% from the floor and 67% from the line.

- Scoring-wise Idaho had three players in double figures led by Yinka Olorunnife with 12 and Derisa Taleni and Rachele Kloke with 11 each. Char Otero had 6 and Shaena Kuehu and Alana Curtis each added five points.

- The Vandals held a surprising 41-39 edge in rebounds against the taller Cougars. Olorunnife and Taleni had nine each, Kloke finished with six, Kuehu had five, and Otero and Curtis two each. The Vandals also held a 34-19 edge in defensive rebounds but collected only seven offensive rebounds to 20 for WSU. The Cougars held a 16-7 edge in second-chance points.

- The Vandals blocked five Cougar shots -- two each by Taleni and Kloke and one by Olorunnife. WSU had one block. Taleni also led the Vandals with three assists and two steals. Otero had two assists and two steals, Olorunnife had two assists and one steal. Kloke had an assist and Kuehu also had a steal.

- Turnovers were the big difference in the game. Idaho committed a season-high 27 turnovers compared to 11 for WSU. The Cougars had an 18-8 edge in points off turnovers. Idaho had four fast break points to two for WSU as both team showed excellent transition game skills getting back on defense quickly.

- WSU got eight bench points and Idaho five.
The Vandals will be involved in final exams this week and will not see action until they travel to Bozeman, Montana next Saturday to take on Montana State in a game starting at 1 p.m. PST. Their last non-conference tune up will also be on the road when they travel to face the University of Portland January 28 at 2 p.m. WAC action begins at home January 2 with BSU in a 2 p.m. game at the Cowan Spectrum.

Coach John Newlee post-game quotes

Q: What are your thoughts?
JN: "I'm extremely disappointed to lose a basketball game. I felt like we outplayed ‘em in everything we were doing except the turnovers really killed us. A lot of those were unforced. I'm going to have to go back and look at the tape and look at some of…what we're doing traveling and all that that was going on. I don't know. I gotta look. The turnovers and the O boards in the second half cost us the ball game."

Q: In the first half the Vandals really battled for the rebounds…in the first half you were leading on points in the paint.
JN: "Yeah we did. We were winning the battle in the paint. Everything we did, we played a great first half I thought on both ends, and then we knew they were gonna come out fired up. You've got to meet their intensity level, and I don't think we met their intensity level on the boards."

Q: Is that what you talked to the players about tonight (after the game)?
JN: "Yeah. We told them, ‘We can't keep giving games away…We've got to expect to win games. You can't play not to lose.' I thought we came out in the second half playing not to lose. All of a sudden we were ahead, and it's like we were back on our heels. I said, "You people have to expect to win." I expect to win games here. They need to. Last year's over, man. They need to expect to win games. People have got to step up and play with some confidence."

Q: We saw that confidence in the first half. They came out like, ‘This is our home.'
JN: "Exactly. They came out ready to defend the home court and played with a lot of confidence. Then like I said they started the second half playing not to lose and they kinda trickled into it. Then we got back in front and we kinda got that confidence back, and it came right down to the end."

GAYLEN WOOD: What kind of positives can you take away from losing a game like this by three points to a Pac-10 school?
JN: "Well, you know I told them, "It's great, but I'm not really into moral victories either." I'm into winning games, and I think they have to be into winning games. They know they can play with people. I think what you take away from this is they know they can play with a team from the Pac-10, the Big West, the WCC. Whoever we're playing, they're capable of playing and beating teams like that from those leagues if we do all the little things right and really take care of our business which we did for most of the game, but the stretch cost us."

GAYLEN WOOD: Any comments on the crowd and the atmosphere here?"
JN: "I thought it was great. I mean, I heard a lot of Cougar fans over; that's eight miles away. You expect them to be over here, but I thought our support was great. Hopefully people understand that we are putting a pretty good product on the floor, and they're gonna come out and really support us, especially once the WAC season starts."

GAYLEN WOOD: Can you estimate just how far you guys have come since that Montana game?
JN: "Uh, [chuckles] we've come a long way. A long, long way from the Montana game, especially I think from a defensive standpoint. We're really doing a great job with that. We've shown a lot of good flashes offensively. Now we need to put longer stretches together, but yeah. I think night and day from that Montana embarrassment."

Q: It seems like even a couple of weeks ago when we asked if you were about "WAC ready" you said, "No, we're not ‘WAC ready' yet.' Are you going to take over the WAC right now at this very moment, probably not, but are you ready for WAC season now?
JN: "I think we're getting there. I still don't think we're there. I'm glad we got a couple of games left to try to fix some things up to get ready for the WAC. That's what I told them (after the game). ‘A physical game, but I've got news for you. Nevada, Fresno State, Louisiana Tech…it's gonna be the same exact thing; so learn from this and learn how to fight back."

Q: Talk about the defense today. This team averaged 76 points a game; they shoot 40% average and today they shoot 26%, get 53 points. Do you have something to take out of it from the defense today?
JN: "Yeah. Absolutely. I thought once again, just like UOP, we executed the defensive game play great. We took away what we wanted to take away. Our kids really did a great job of rotating and getting to people. They really did a great job defensively. I have no complaints, but the problem with the defensive effort is it doesn't end when the shot goes up. That's what I told them (after the game). Defense is great. We were great until the shot went up, and then boxing out is part of defense, and that's the part we've got to fix up."

Yinka Olorunnife post game quotes

Q: Are you feeling better (than earlier in the week when battling strep throat against Pacific)?
YO: [smiling] "I'm feeling way better. I can feel it a little bit, but compared to last time it's way better."

GAYLEN WOOD: This is kind of a weird question because I know you're disappointed with the loss. Was that a fun game for you to play?
YO: "I enjoy playing games like that lot. Rival games are my favorite. Those are the most fun to play. The crowd…the passion you have for the game. It's a lot of fun to play."

GAYLEN WOOD: You enjoyed standing there toe-to-toe giving what you were taking?
YO: "Yeah. I enjoyed it. I mean, you've got to do what you've got to do, but I like to do that."

GAYLEN WOOD: You took some (physical) shots, I mean really some shots.
YO: "Oh, I, uh…yeah [laughs], but there's not much you can do about it."

Q: You dealt out some shots too…not mean shots, but you hold your own.
YO: "Oh, yeah. If you're going to be aggressive I'm not going to be there and just take it. I'm going to be aggressive back. Yeah. That's the way you've got to play."

Q: Did you get elbowed right in the gut?
YO: "Right in the gut. She elbowed me right in the gut, and it just hit the spot. I thought I probably could fight through it, but I was, like, ‘Ugh. No I can't.'" [Olorunnife sat out for 2+ minutes in the second half after taking an elbow to the stomach under the boards]

Q: What's it like? Their 31 (Heather Molzen, 6-3 senior) and 34 (Ebonee Coates, 6-4 senior) are a good three or four inches taller than you and (probably) outweigh you by a good amount. What's it like battling in there with them?
YO: "It's fine. I mean, it's a challenge because they're tall but they're not really all that…they're no Candace Parker (6-4 forward for the LA Sparks in the WNBA). I mean, you can battle them. Let them do what they've got to do and just play the defense I gotta play. Let them shoot over me if they have to…I'll still just play defense no matter how tall they are."

GAYLEN WOOD: Did this game kinda remind you of what you ran into in the WAC last year, or would you say this was more physical? Less physical?
YO: "The WAC is cool because everyone is just getting after it. This game, I felt like it was physical because there were a lot of cheap shots. I mean, you can be physical, but you can be physical to an extent…half of the aggressiveness was unnecessary. That's what I thought."

Q: Are you ready going into these last games with finals coming up? These last two weeks are awful for a student athlete.
YO: "Yes. Ah. Finals. Well…time management is the key. Knowing when you have practice, knowing when you have time to study, and just balancing everything out. That's what I'm trying to do right now."

GAYLEN WOOD: What are you majoring in?
YO: "Exercise science."

Q: You guys came out really fired up, and it looked like you owned the court. It was really fun for the fans to watch. Would you say that was a fair team attitude?
YO: "Yes. We've been waiting for this game. I mean, we didn't need each other to pump each other up. The minute we woke up this morning we were pumped. "Game day today!" Yeah. I'd say it's a fair team attitude."

Q: When the second half started all of a sudden it was kinda like (Idaho) didn't want to mess up, didn't want to let Washington State back in it, and that kinda let them back in the game a little bit.
YO: "Yes, unfortunately. As coach was saying, we played to not lose. We didn't play to win. We stepped back a little bit. We were a little…I wouldn't say scared but that's the way it looked. That's what happened."

Derisa Taleni post game quotes

Q: Obviously it's a disappointing loss because you were so close to getting it, but coming in you guys looked fired up and so focused, like you weren't going to let anyone walk on your court.
DT: "For the past couple of games we were lacking team chemistry or being really hyped before a game, and I think from the last win we kinda brought that over and we're trying to continue to bring that over. Not just because it's Washington State and we're playing them, but we're just trying to boost our confidence before a game, because we see other teams, they're fired up and ready to go. We want to match their intensity. I think we've done really well so far…We've grown so much. I think our girls are really ready, and we're not backing down no matter who we're playing."

Q: How's your nose (following an elbow to the face forcing her to miss the last seven minutes of the Pacific game earlier in the week)?
DT: "It's a little sore."

Q: Not broken, though?
DT: "No, thank God. It's pretty good."

Q: Did you ever think it was going to stop bleeding the other day?
DT: "No, because it, like, bled for seven minutes straight since I left. I thought it was broken, but it wasn't too tender…I'm good."

GAYLEN WOOD: As a JC transfer, this is probably the first time…is the first time you've stepped up against a team quite like this, like a Pac-10 school and physical?
DT: "Um, a team like Washington State, I've played against a couple of teams in juco that were just as tough as these guys, and I think just me coming out here and experiencing that already I can just push that with our girls: "We're not backing down. Don't back down from nobody. Who cares who they are? Just match their intensity, and we can get the job done."

GAYLEN WOOD: What a great attitude. That helps. That brings something that the team really needs.
DT: "Yeah, since we're really, really young; so (I'm) one of the ‘old people' on the team."

Q: How do you feel the team chemistry is? Are you getting back to that whole group thing?
DT: "We're getting back to the whole, being one instead of being separate…we're just trying to get it all together because without having that whole team chemistry we can't get anything done. We can't win games, we can't focus in practice. We've just got to stick together, and we're getting there."

GAYLEN WOOD: We asked coach Newlee this: How would you compare you performance tonight and your game as opposed to the Montana game? How far have you guys come since Montana (a 55-36 home loss November 18)?
DT: "Since Montana. Wow! We've grown so much, I think. A lot of our girls, we've seen that tape. We always review back to that. We can't go backwards. We always try to push forward, and I think just from the Montana game we've grown. We see now what it takes to win. We see now that we can compete with Washington State, a Pac-10 school; Long Beach State and all of them. I think we're doing good. We're doing really, really good."

Q: Was it fun tonight…I mean other than the loss itself? It was a good battle out there.
DT: "It was fun. I think all our girls came in focused, ready. It's been, ‘Washington State's coming in here. We're not gonna let them come down on us. We've gotta jump on them first,' and it was fun for us. It was really intense and physical, but I think all-in-all we all had fun."

Q: What are you majoring in?
DT: "I'm majoring in Sociology."

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