USU downs Vandal women 57-55 on last shot

After being down by 11 points in the first half the Vandal women fought back to take a 32-30 lead a minute into the second half. Utah State pulled back out to a seemingly comfortable 55-46 lead with 4:17 left, but the Vandals staged another remarkable comeback to tie the game at 55 with 9.1 seconds remaining. This time however, the Vandal women would come up short on a buzzer beating shot.

With the game tied at 55 and 9.1 seconds left in regulation, Utah State took a time out and set up a play presumably for Alice Coddington. But Idaho contested and the ball went instead to Amber White who made one fake and nailed a 15-foot jumper at the buzzer to boost the Aggies to a 57-55 win.

"Our kid went for the shot fake, Vandal coach Jon Newlee said after the disappointing loss. "We got the ball out of Coddington's hands and I know that's who they wanted to take the shot. They go to the other kid…and she made the big shot. More credit to her. It wasn't a layup. It was jump shot and she put it down at the buzzer. Give her the credit."

The Aggies started a front line that was 6-2, 6-4 and 5-10 with a 6-6 post coming in off the bench…and they could all shoot. Utah State on the game shot 50% from the field, 57% from three-point range (8 of 14) and 50% from the line. Still, the outsized Vandals played hard throughout the game and felt they were in a great position to win it either in the last seconds or in overtime.

"Losses like that really get to you," said Vandal post Yinka Olorunnife. "One possession losses always get you, but on the buzzer… We were planning, like if we went into overtime, that's what we wanted. We wanted overtime, and all we had to do was don't let them score for 9 seconds and we were ready for overtime. But unfortunately she made that shot." Olorunnife, listed at 6-0, led both teams with 9 rebounds and chipped in nine points. "They were big," she said "They were pretty quick, too. There was a lot of pushing and shoving down there. I feel like everyone's bigger than me anyway; so that's nothing new for me."

The loss was disappointing, but the Vandals feel they have turned their season around and are contenders in the WAC.

"Every game we're right in it," Newlee said. "That's all you can ask for. You've got to be in it. I told our guys that we need to learn how to finish out games and come out on the right end and make those plays. The really good teams make the plays at the end. You've got to make your own luck. They can say they were lucky, but we didn't get the loose balls we needed to, and we didn't make our own luck. I was proud of our guys for battling back when we were down five with a couple of minutes left. (Rachele) Kloke hits a big drive, she did a great job executing the play we called. Shaena (Kuehu) got the ball…and she attacked the rim, got there. I was proud of the comeback when we got down, but once again we can't keep putting ourselves in that position, home or away, and expect to come out on top all the time."

"I think now we are more confident in ourselves," Olorunnife said. "Pre-season we were still trying to figure out a lot of things, and I think especially with the wins we just had we are definitely more confident in our game. This is the WAC. It's very important, and I think we realize how important it is. Regardless of what happened pre-season this is a whole new start for us.

"I think we're just more confident, we are way more competitive," Olorunnife continued. "Every WAC game we've played we've pretty much been in it with the exception of Hawai'i, and even with that we were still in it."

"We did have some points in the game (tonight) where we did do well," Olorunnife added. "But we need to do that for the full 40 minutes, and I think our breakdowns throughout the game were the reason it came to that. It didn't have to come to that last shot."

On the game Kuehu and Kloke each had 14 points to lead all scorers. Charlotte Otero matched Olorunnife's 9, Kanisha Bello had 5, and Bianca Cheever and Debbie Pederson (see separate story) had 2 points each.

Both teams had 27 rebounds with Olorunnife leading both teams with 9 while Kuehu and Kloke had 5 each.

The Vandals will be in Ruston to take on Louisiana Tech Saturday at 4 p.m. PST and will return home to take on second-place Nevada Feb. 3 at 7 p.m.

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