Vandal women top Boise State 84-81 in OT

Idaho vs. Boise State. Everyone knows about the rivalry, the implications, and the importance of each game no matter what the sport. The clichés are valid: Throw out the records. It's the one game you really need to win. These are the games you'll always remember, either as a player or as a spectator, and Saturday night was memorable for the Vandal women, knocking off their rivals in overtime.

Saturday night in the Cowan Spectrum it was the Vandal women (2-13) against Boise State (11-5). It was the first game of the second semester (classes resumed Wednesday) and the best crowd of the season (officially 702 but it looked more like 1200) was on hand, thanks in large-part to a great turnout of students.

The all-important bottom line was the final score: Idaho 84, BSU 81 in overtime, but there were a lot of story lines involved in the game, and they will hopefully signal a turning point in what to this point has been a very disappointing season for the Vandals.

It's impossible to describe the action – you had to be there (another appropriate cliché). Suffice it to say there were 9 lead changes and the score was tied 10 times. Both teams had chances to blow the game open but didn't. BSU went the first 3:29 of overtime without scoring, allowing the Vandals to build an 8-point 81-73 lead with 1:31 left. But the Broncos battled back as the Vandals had difficulties making layups and free throws until it was 83-78 with 42 seconds left.

It an amazingly frenetic finish.

In those final 42 seconds Idaho was 1 for 2 from the line and 0 for 1 from the floor -- a missed layup. BSU made 1 of 7 field goal tries and 1 of 4 free throws.

It was an exciting win in a rivalry game, but the Vandals hope they can take the lessons of this game and run with them through the rest of the season.

"I've only been here going into my second year now, but I understand the rivalry with the Broncos and how important and special it is," said Vandal coach Jon Newlee after the game. "Certainly Yinka (Olorunnife) and Char (Otero) were really, really tuned into that. It's always sweet to get a win over the Broncos with the rivalry factor, but we needed a win period. Every game is a big game for us in the WAC."

Newlee had to be frustrated seeing the Vandals turn the ball over 13 times after halftime and have problems at the free throw line, but he was pleased with the way the team kept its composure and pulled out the win.

"That was some pretty bad free throw shooting. I will say we haven't been in a position to shoot free throws under that kind of pressure this year," he said. "And as much pressure as we put on in practice with running and everything else we do sometimes it doesn't translate to having to beat Boise State by making free throws when you're a Vandal. The good news is we didn't get hurt. We didn't ultimately get hurt by it. We pulled it out."

Otero, the only senior on the team, said, "Before overtime started we sat on the bench. We haven't won an overtime game in a while (since 2008) and we said, ‘This is our game. We need to get this one. We've got to come out hard from the jump.' Coach said in the locker room we handled them in overtime. We attacked them every single time. We missed free throws, we missed layups, but it was just focus on the next one. You can't dwell on the last possession because you've still got a couple of minutes left and you've still got to handle what they're giving us.

"I think throughout the whole game we kept our composure a lot more. Even at the jump, like from the beginning we didn't crumble under the pressure," Otero continued. "Just playing on the court with everyone, everyone just felt, like, calm. It was like ‘let's play our game. Let's execute. Let's do what we have to do.' We just stayed focused, and I think that was a huge difference for us (between) this game and Fresno State. Fresno started pressuring us and we crumbled, but this game everyone stayed focused. We knew what we had to do and we executed really well."

Newlee and Otero were also impressed by the crowd. "The crowd was great," the coach commented.

The senior, Otero, had more to say. "It was really, really awesome to see all the people there and cheering for us," she stated emphatically. "It was nice to see people out there and hearing the fans every time we come out. We were playing over the break and there were not many people. But to come back, play Boise State and to beat them, to show the school, ‘We're here. We can play too. It's not just all about the men. We can win too.' I think we just kinda proved it to everyone too, and we loved having the support out there."

Olorunnife had a career night for the Vandals (25 points, 10 rebounds2 assists and a blocked shot), and the junior post felt there were a lot of positives in the victory. "We were a totally different team from the team that played in Hawaii." she said. "I think we finally decided just to step up and play as a team and we got (the win). Any win gives you momentum. As soon as you win one you are ready for anyone. It's like ‘bring it on.'"

The taller Broncos dominated in the paint (a 40-26 edge led by Janie Bos's 29 points) but the Vandal defense asserted itself in the second half and BSU, after shooting 59% from the floor in the first half, shot 38% in the second half of regulation and only 13% in overtime. The Vandals also drew 26 fouls while committing 20, but made 22 of 38 free throws compared to 15 of 28 for BSU.

All five Vandal starters scored in double figures. In addition to Olorunnife's 25, Bianca Cheever and Rachele Kloke had 18 each; Shaena Kuehu had 11 and Otero 10. Cheever also had 7 rebounds.

Idaho will be on the road against New Mexico State Wednesday and San Jose State Saturday.

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