| March 24, 2018

Opinion: War for Idaho

February 21, 2018

With a win streak on the line and a hot streak heading into the Big Sky tournament, the Vandals are looking to blow over their next opponent.

An inner-state matchup between the Idaho Vandals and the Idaho State Bengals is an even better matchup on paper than expected.

The Vandals come into the game Thursday rolling on a nine-game win streak that has lasted a little over a month. Idaho has fought their way to the top of the Big Sky behind fantastic offensive showings, led by junior guard Mikayla Ferenz.

The team from Pocatello is having quite the season too. Idaho State is currently third in the Big Sky conference with the best scoring defense in the conference, limiting opponents to just 61 points this season.

It will be the battle of the top-teams Thursday night, with Idaho’s top scoring offense against Idaho State’s top scoring defense.

From a statistics standpoint, the Vandals have a tough challenge against the Bengals. Idaho State leads in many major statistical categories. The Bengals have the best field goal percentage in the conference, meaning that missed shots are something that Idaho State does not experience often.

Idaho State defends the ball well, takes high percentage shots and can rebound the ball significantly. With all the statistics against the Vandals, it may seem nearly impossible for Idaho to pull away with the win.

But that is where this Vandal team shines and has grown the most throughout the year. When you have two of the best shooters in the conference in Ferenz and junior guard Taylor Pierce, the Vandals cannot be taken out of the game so quickly.

Idaho’s big three, Ferenz, Pierce and senior post Geraldine McCorkell, have come up big for the Vandals time after time. To pull off a statement win and extend this win streak, Idaho is going to have to rely on these big three to get the momentum rolling and set the tone for the rest of the squad.

Battling against the top defensive rebounding team in the conference, winning the rebounding margin on Thursday is a must for the Vandals. Winning the rebounding battle leads to more possessions for Idaho and having a better opportunity to win. Once again, Idaho is going to need to live by the 3-point line to open up opportunities for McCorkell and senior post Nejra Solo. If the “splash sisters” duo of Ferenz and Pierce can find their shot early, a 10th-straight win for the Vandals may very well be on the horizon.

Getting in the latter half of the season, the pressure of each game is rising in a cluttered Big Sky conference. Idaho has proved in the last month they may arguably be the most explosive team in the league, but with their toughest defensive matchup on Thursday a heavyweight Big Sky bout is upon us.

The Idaho Vandals will take on the Idaho State Bengals 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 22 in the Memorial Gym.

Chris Deremer can be reached at arg-sports@uidaho.edu and on twitter at Cderemer_VN

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