Vandal women fall to La Tech in Spectrum
The visiting Lady Techsters took advantage of lapses by the Idaho Vandal women Wednesday night in the Cowan Spectrum and posted a 63-56 win in the final home game of the season for the Vandals. The Vandals went away from their game plan and found themselves down by 22 points with 7:41 left on national TV.
Taking a time out to stop a late La Tech run, Vandal coach Jon Newlee laid it on the line for his team. "I said, ‘Look. You've got two choices. You can just embarrass yourself on national television and lose by 40, or basically you can pull your heads out and start playing our kind of basketball…one way or the other it's gonna go. We need to push the ball, push the tempo, get down, take some shots, get up, play some defense. You've got to do all the things we talked about before the game started,'" Newlee said. "We play a good 10 minutes out of 30; it's not gonna happen against a team like Louisiana Tech. You might get away with it against San Jose, but you're not gonna get away with it against Louisiana Tech."
The loss took some of the luster off senior point guard Charlotte Otero's final home game as a Vandal. The 5-3 speedster from San Diego did it all with her parents and brother in the stands finishing with a career-high 18 points (she was 7-for-9 from the floor including 4-of-6 on 3-point shots), handed out 6 assists, collected 4 rebounds and added 2 steals.
"It felt good breaking my career high scoring mark and just knowing that I went out with the best that I could and gave it my all," Otero said, "but of course it would have been a lot better to have won. It was the first time for our women's team to be on national television. We know what we're capable of, but just didn't take it all the way there. We had it there in spurts, but if we would have brought it the whole time it definitely would have been a different game."
"Char had a fantastic senior night," said Newlee. "I think she was the best player on the floor, both teams. She played with a lot of heart, a lot of energy, made her shots, handled the ball, got assists, got some steals. She was all over the place. She did a fantastic job."
Asked what had happened to the Vandals when the Lady Techsters ran up the big lead, Otero said, "I think we were trying to play out of our element. When we were sharing the ball, especially toward the end, we were sharing the ball, everyone was scoring and we were running up and down…that's out team's strength. We're a quick team. We're good when we share the ball. We're not good when we try to go one-on-one with people. Once we had that timeout and coach was just telling us we need to play with some pride I think it hit a lot of people. We just really picked it up."
He did not arrive in the media room until after Otero had made her comments, but Newlee echoed his point guard's observations. "Our shot selection was horrendous again. We're not a team that can play one-on-one basketball, and there were some people playing one-on-one basketball, and then they were trying to attack the best defender I think in the WAC, (Adrienne) Johnson. It's not gonna happen, but some people decided I guess it was ‘me' night and that's what happened."
Things could have been worse both Wednesday night and in the immediate future. The Vandals were leading 13-8 with 14:09 left in the first half following back-to-back scores from Shaena Kuehu, the latter on a steal and layup. But 55 seconds later Kuehu fell to the floor under the La Tech basket crashing her head on the court. She was assisted to the sidelines then to the locker room, and from that point Louisiana Tech posted a 24-9 scoring run to lead 32-22 at the half. Fortunately Kuehu was able to return to the game at the start of the second half, but the Vandals still did not regain their rhythm until their closing run at the end of the game.
Newlee said Kuehu had "…a huge knot on the back of her head, but luckily no concussion symptoms. That's what we were worried about when they took her off…I didn't think she'd even be back tonight. She brings a lot of energy, a lot of spark to us, plays hard and just gets everything going along with Char. She runs with Char, gets down the floor and makes things happen for us. I'm breathing a big sigh of relief right now. I just got done talking to her and she's fine."
In addition to the great performance by Otero, the Vandals saw junior post Yinka Olorunnife pick up another double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds to go with 3 steals and a blocked shot. Junior Bianca Cheever drained back-to-back three pointers to help spark the Vandal run in the second half and wound up with eight points. Kuehu had seven, Rachele Kloke six, Natasha Helsham four and Kanisha Bello two.
The Vandals close out the regular season Saturday in Reno in a 2 p.m. matinee game against Nevada.
ADDITIONAL POST GAME COMMENTS:
Jon Newlee on how Idaho handled the physical style of the Lady Techsters: "I thought (we) got after it pretty good. La Tech is a very physical basketball team, that's their style. They're not dirty physical like a couple of teams in our league are, and that's nice. I'll you what, I thought…that's the best officiated game we've had all year long. They called it right at both ends. I thought they did a great job. The game was physical, but we didn't back down. It didn't hurt us. We got right after ‘em. I was happy to see that. They (the Vandals) understand, and that's the way it's gonna be out in Reno and in the tournament. Reno is a very physical basketball team as well, but I like the way we didn't back down tonight, and I thought we continued to attack. La Tech's got a lot of talent…a lot of talent and they're well coached. I'm telling you right now if we don't win it, then I think they might. I just think they're the best team in our league. I do."
Newlee on the turnaround in the second half by the Vandals: "I thought our team lost focus as a group. When we're not mentally there that's what happened in that stretch when they took that 20-point lead. It was just a lack of focus, and La Tech was bringing it. They brought it and we just didn't respond, but the credit goes to Louisiana Tech. They started pounding it inside a little more…Johnson was basically unstoppable. A kid that big…who can jump like that and finish, honestly when she gets that ball down that low it's over. We can't defend that…We played smarter, a couple of bad fouls, but we did a good job. One of our goals was to keep ‘em off the free throw line and we did that, but our other goal was to get to the free throw line and we didn't do that. We did that in the second half in Ruston, that's when we made our push there and had that game where we should have won in Ruston. We got to the free throw line a bunch because we kept attacking and not settling for cast off 3's as the shot clock's winding down."
Newlee on the upcoming Nevada game and the WAC tournament: "We've done a good job of bouncing back and playing better. This group is intelligent. They're smart kids and they understand when things go bad, and why they went bad afterwards when we analyze stuff. I'm expecting that same result, a bounce back and a much better effort on Saturday and going into the WAC tournament."
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