Vandal women fall 61-55 to Wyoming

Despite dominating on the glass at both ends of the floor and leading by as many as 10 points in the first half, the Idaho Vandal women were not able to close out the visiting Wyoming Cowgirls in Memorial Gym Thursday night as Wyoming racked up 41 points in the second half, including an 8-2 run in the final 1:51 to claim a 61-55 non-conference win over the Vandals.

Wyoming improved to 7-0 on the season while the Vandals dipped to 1-6. Idaho will have a couple of days to regroup before hosting St. Mary's Sunday at noon in Memorial Gym.

The Vandals looked outstanding in the first half, limiting Wyoming to 28% from the floor, 21% from three-point range, and holding a 28-14 rebounding edge. Things changed in the second half when the visitors shifted to a collapsing zone defense and made a concerted effort to get the ball inside to 6-3 junior Hillary Carlson. Limited to 2 points and zero rebounds in the first half, Carlson came to life to finish the game with 20 points.

The Vandals again had problems taking care of the ball, turning it over 16 time to 9 for Wyoming, but in almost every other aspect of the game Idaho more than held its own, playing one of its best games of the season. Idaho held a 44-33 lead in rebounding (including 13-7 edge in offensive boards) even though Wyoming started a front line that went 5-11, 6-1 and 6-3. Points in the paint were even at 18, the Vandals had 15-5 edge in second chance points and a 21-8 advantage in bench points.

"I'm encouraged by our play tonight. I thought we played good for longer stretches than we've played this year," Vandal coach Jon Newlee said after the game. "Still, certainly, it wasn't a complete 40 minutes, and giving up 41 points in the second half hurts. I think our communication at the other end once again is something we need to continue to work on and get better at, but Carlson really took it to us. She's that kind of kid. She's a special player, but I think we could have done a couple things differently probably to maybe kinda slow her down a little bit. Credit to them. They hit their big shots when they needed to. We turned the ball over and were too careless with the ball tonight, and I felt like that's what really hurt us." Wyoming scored 23 points off turnovers compared to 11 for Idaho.

The coach was pleased with a number of aspects of the game. "Rebounding we did a great job, by far our best rebounding effort of the year. That's what almost won us the game. .. I thought Shaena (Kuehu) really came to play tonight. I thought she did a good job. I thought by far (it was) Kanisha Bello's best game of the year so far. I thought she came in and gave us a good spark. Tasha (Helsham) came in and played for a while and came in and had 3 assists in the first half. She didn't play in the second because they went to that zone and we need shooters on the floor. That's not a strength of her game. Her strength is to create and get to the rim, but I was encouraged by her play tonight. I think Yinka (Olorunnife) was battling. She kinda was saddled by foul trouble and that hurt." The 6-0 junior fouled out with 3:24 remaining in the game with the Vandals up 51-49.

Shaena Kuehu was a dominant force in the game collecting a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds to go along with two assists and two steals. Bello checked out with 13 points and 5 rebounds and Rachele Kloke had 11 points, 6 rebounds and an assist. Jessica Graham had 8 points and 3 rebounds, and Olorunnife 6 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocked shots, a steal and an assist. Bianca Cheever finished out the scoring with 3 points and a rebound.

The learning process continues for the Vandals. "We still need to continue to rebound," said Newlee. "I thought we did a good job of keeping them from second shots tonight. I think they had seven offensive boards, and that's by far our best job. Tonight I thought that was encouraging. We've got to continue to box people out. We're not big; so we have to get physical. I know we can be tougher physically and we need to get tougher physically with teams. It's a learning process for the younger guys…the freshmen. They've got to learn that this game is physical at this level, and they're not used to that. I told ‘em in practice we've got to get after each other."

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