Vandal women top Utah State in Spectrum

This evening the University of Idaho womens basketball team overcame an 11-point deficit in the Cowan Spectrum to win pulling away, finishing with a 71-63 advantage. Junior DERISA TALENI led the Vandals with a game best 31 points, including 5 of 6 from 3-point range (the Vandals went 11-for-25 as a team on three-point attempts).

COMMENTARY: For the second consecutive game the Vandal women got off to a slow start Monday evening at the Cowan Spectrum. Visiting Utah State, led by 6-4 transfer post Lydia Whitehead's 12 first-half points on 6-of-11 shooting from the low post, led by as many as 11 points before settling for a 36-28 halftime lead. It was the most points Idaho had surrendered since losing to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in December. The Vandals made some defensive adjustments at the half and rode an amazing 22-point scoring outburst from junior Derisa Taleni to notch a 43-27 scoring edge in the second half and a 71-63 victory over the Aggies, leveling the Vandals' WAC record at 1-1 on the season.

It wasn't by any means all Taleni. The Vandals used eight players tonight, and all contributed to the comeback win to the delight of an estimated 400 fans in the Cowan Spectrum. Char Otero had six assists. Yinka Olorunnife had 11 points, 9 rebounds, two steals, an assist and did a great job defensively against the towering Aggie front line. Alana Curtis had five points and a rebound. Rachele Kloke had six points, six offensive rebounds (eight total) and four steals. Amy Eisses had two steals. Shaena Kuehu had 11 points (4 of 8 from the floor including 3 of 4 from three-point range), eight rebounds and two assists. Emily Doran played well in her appearance in the first half.

It was a solid win for this rebounding Vandal team.

Game Summary:

- Taleni checked out with 31 points including (5 of 6 from three-point range), seven rebounds, a blocked shot, a steal and an assist in 34 minutes of action. It was a Vandal career high for Taleni and also a team high for the season. She also unofficially deflected four USU passes leading to turnovers.

- After numerous turnovers and poor free-throw shooting in a loss to Boise State Saturday, the Vandals turned things around against the Aggies committing only nine turnovers (three in the second half) and sinking 14 of 19 free throws (74%).

- Shooting wise the Vandals hit 23 of 57 from the floor (40.4%) and 11 of 25 from three point range (44%) including 8 of 15 in the second half. Utah State started hot (57.7% from the floor in the first half) but the Vandal defense stiffened in the second half limiting the Aggies to 34.5% from the floor for an average of 45.5% for the game.

- Despite a decided height disadvantage, Idaho held a 37-32 rebounding edge limiting Utah State to just nine offensive rebounds. Idaho had 13 offensive rebounds and 24 defensive.

- Idaho had 10 steals to two for the Aggies. The Vandals had 9 turnovers to 13 for Utah State. Idaho had 10 steals to two for the Aggies.

- Miscellaneous stats: Points in the paint: USU 26, Idaho 20. Points off turnovers: Idaho 18, USU 4. Second chance points: Idaho 13, USU 9. Fast break points: USU 2, Idaho 2. Bench points: USU 20, Idaho 11. The game was tied four times and there were three lead changes. Both teams held 11-point scoring leads, USU with 1:08 left in the first half and Idaho with 53 seconds left in the game.
The Vandals now head into a weekend California road trip at San Jose State and Fresno State.

Head Coach John Newlee, post game comments

GAYLEN WOOD: Can you talk about the defensive changes you guys made at halftime?
JN: "Yeah. We did. We had to make adjustments on (Lydia) Whitehead. She was killing us inside. One, we let her post up too low. We said we wanted to meet her up higher, we wanted to do that. We wanted to send people at her, make her think about it. She didn't have to think about anything the first half besides making two-footers. She's pretty good at that. We had to get the ball out of her hands somewhat and make somebody else take some shots."

Q: She (Whitehead) had 12 points in the first half in the second; so that was obviously that was big for you.
JN: "Oh, yeah. That was a big key. Definitely a big key. The shot 57% in the first half and she's shooting from two feet; so yeah, we had to do something about that."

Q: Were you nervous at all when Yinka (Olorunnife) went out with four fouls with 8:17 left in the game?
JN: "I'm nervous when anybody goes out with four fouls as thin as we are, but Amy (Eisses) came in and played solid, and that's all we ask her to do, come in and just play solid. I thought she did. Everyone else picked up their game, too, when Yinka went to the bench. Total team effort."

Q: Shaena (Kuehu) didn't get a lot of minutes tonight, but when she came in she really did some nice things --- rebounded hard, got some good points. Is that how you're looking at her as a big role player coming off the bench?
JN: "She is. She didn't get a lot of minutes because she got tired…but she plays hard. When she's out there playing hard and she's tired, let us know and we'll get her out and get back in…I really think, if you look at our victories this year, the four we've won she has had double figures in every one. I call her our X-factor. I think she really is our X-factor offensively, and when she's flying around rebounding and hitting some shots it kinda picks everybody up."

Q: Were you surprised at all by the way the Vandals shot three pointers tonight?
JN: "Uh, eh, yes. Yes and no. I see ‘em in practice and I think they're better shooters than they've shown. I'm not sure we're as great as we were tonight, but we had the open looks and we knocked ‘em down tonight, and that was great to see because that's what teams are starting to do. You see them; they are pretty much giving us that. Now at least we knocked some down. Maybe that'll make people come out on us a little more."

Q: It looked like you caught and passed the ball well. I think you only missed three or four layups and you shot free throws okay.
JN: "Shot free throws good, had more assists than turnovers, only nine turnovers tonight. Huge key for us…absolutely huge. Those are the things we wrote on the board before the game that we had to get done, and we did."

Q: Your first WAC win as a head coach.
JN: "Yeah. It's nice. Nice. It's a great, I think, momentum builder to get on the road with one under our belts and not be oh-fer and be able to go out with some confidence on the road because you've gotta have confidence on the road."

Q: Talk about this balance that you had. Not necessarily in the scoring per se, but if you look every single person had a big contribution like Char (Otero) six assists, Amy (Eisses) two steals, (Rachel) Kloke six offensive boards. How big it?
JN: "Yup. We kept telling ‘em. I sat down with each of them this week, talked about roles, going into WAC play what I expected out of ‘em. I think a couple of them really took it to heart, and I like seeing that. They're coachable kids, they want to be coached, they want to play hard and they just need to know what I expect out of ‘em. I thought they did a good job tonight of fulfilling those roles and playing within themselves."

Q: How about Derisa (Taleni): 31 points. Is this what you expected?
JN: "Yeah. You'd better believe it. She was a big-time scorer out of high school and out of junior college. She can score. It was great seeing her look real comfortable tonight. I thought she looked for her shot more, was more confident about it. It's something we talked about this week. One of those talks we had was ‘Look. You're a scorer. I brought you in here to score points, too. It's great you're getting everybody involved, but I also want you to take some shots and she did a great job with that tonight."

Derisa Taleni, post game comments

Q: Not a bad night for you tonight.
DT: "Ahh, it was good. I had a talk with my coach, and he just basically said, ‘Just be an offensive threat. That's what we need you to be. We know you can play defense.' Today I kinda took it in…"

Q: All of a sudden did you feel, as a player, everything was starting to come together as one of those nights for you?
DT: "Yeah, for myself and my team. We all came together. Once somebody gets off or is feeling it, everybody else is feeling it. It's like a domino theory effect. If one person does it everybody else is gonna do it."

GAYLEN WOOD: Can you talk to us a little bit about your defense? I know it doesn't show up in the stats, but we had you for breaking up at least four passes that led to turnovers.
DT: "My coach basically wants me to use my length and to basically just make my offensive player guess where I'm at, and that's what I like to do. I like to make them really try to figure me out. I like playing defense like that. I like being scrappy and getting my hands on the ball and trying to help out the team. That's what I did today."

Q: I know you want to talk about team. I just want to ask you one individual question: What's the most points you've ever scored in college before, junior college."
DT: "45."

Q: Nice!
DT: "Yeah. Broke it in (De Anza) California juco, leading scorer in juco for California."

Q: Team-wise, how were you guys able to overcome that really sluggish start against Boise State to all of a sudden be the team that you expected to be tonight?
DT: "Our coach basically got on us yesterday in film about it. He basically told us that we can compete with anybody. It doesn't matter who it is – Boise State, Fresno State, anybody. Doesn't matter. Come out and compete and play hard and don't be scared. That's what we took from Boise. We knew we can beat them. It was a tough loss, but we took all that and came in today and showed everybody what we've got."

Q: How does the locker room feel right now?
DT: (smiling) "They're really, really excited and high. We're trying to take that to the road when we go to San Jose and Fresno State."

Q: Are you excited to go to California?
DT: "Yes. My family's coming. I'm excited!"

Q: How good is it to feel right now that you were just taking shots and they were just going?
DT: "I feel like myself now. Before …my coach was getting on me telling me, ‘We need that player we recruited.' Last night was … major. I was talking to some of my teammates who said, ‘You know what? Just come out and play. Be Derisa and come out and play.' That's what I did and I felt good.'

Rachel Kloke, post-game quotes

Q: What's the difference between tonight and Boise State?
RK: "Losing to Boise State never feels good; so we came out wanting to prove a point that we can with this year, and that's what our main purpose was this game. We came out hungry to win."

GAYLEN WOOD: Can you talk a little bit about your rebound and your hustle all over the floor?
RK: "It was just…they need more aggressiveness out of all of is. It was more team effort. When we come out fired up it brings out the aggressiveness in everybody."

Q: It looked like the whole team was really energized and focused tonight coming off of that loss, and yet you still had kind of a little bit of a lull there. Were you worried at all?
RK: "No. Not this year. We don't get worried like that. We all just regroup and focus and say, ‘We got this.' That's when you see us come out and hit threes and stuff.

Q: Have you guys ever shot three-pointers like that before?
RK: "Um, I don't…maybe in high school, but not quite…"

Q: Is it fun when something like that start to happen?
RK: "Oh, yeah. You get some much energy off of that."

GAYLEN WOOD: What were your thoughts when the second half started and you guys were changing up the defenses and just started going at them and the game turned?
RK: "We made a couple of adjustments down low, pushing the post more out, and when that happened and it was taking away their low game it made all of us able to do what we needed to do on defense."

Q: Talk about the team's balance today – not necessarily in scoring totals, but if you look at the stat sheet everyone did something…How big is it for you guys to have everyone get in there and do something?
RK: "That's big. I mean we're not a big team; so we've all got to come out and do what we've got to do. We came out focused with goals and we achieved them."

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