It was no fluke when junior guard Stacey Barr made a layup for the first points of the game in Idaho’s WAC home-opener against Texas-Pan American. Barr would go on to have a career-high scoring performance for the Vandals with a 29-point, 11-rebound double-double.
“We came back from the road trip and she immediately got out the shooting machine and she took hundreds of extra shots in the last two days that we’ve been here,” Idaho coach Jon Newlee said of Barr. “Her hard work paid off tonight. She got back on track, she felt comfortable out there, her shot looked great. It’s a testament to her hard work.”
The Broncs (7-8, 1-1 WAC) stayed close in the first half before Barr and the Vandals (10-7, 3-0 WAC) pulled away in the second half to seal a 76-65 victory Thursday in the Cowan Spectrum. It was the first win in the Spectrum for Idaho.
“They hung tough with us for a while. It was a really competitive game,” senior Alyssa Charlston said. “They shot the ball extremely well, they were hard to guard.”
Idaho couldn’t shake UTPA in the first half in a game that featured seven ties and six lead changes. The Brons led by many as seven points thanks to a 13-0 run in the first half, but three late 3-pointers put the Vandals ahead by three going into halftime. Sophomore guard Christina Salvatore hit a buzzer beating 3-pointer to give Idaho the lead heading into the locker room.
After making some halftime adjustments. Idaho was able to pull away in the second half.
“They are a great team and scored a lot of baskets in transition, hit a lot of threes in the first half and they were uncontested,” Barr said of UTPA. “That was really our biggest adjustment in the second half was to get out to their threes and contest them. That really helped us pull away in that second half.”
Both teams shot well form 3-point land with UTPA shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc but the Vandals shot a staggering 50 percent going 9-of-18. Salvatore and Barr each made three 3-pointers.
Idaho had four players score in double figures with sophomore post Ali Forde (10) joining Barr, Salvatore (12) and Charlston (12).
The Vandals also played well on the defensive end. No UTPA players reached double figures until late in the game when Shawnte’ Goff and Cherrell Price reached the mark. The Vandals had 15 more defensive rebounds than the Broncs and Charlston also recorded her 100th career block on the night and.
“Alyssa (Charlston) is our leader. She’s our senior captain and has been for a couple years, our leader. She’s hungry, she wants to win the WAC again and get to that NCAA Tournament. She’s one of the best kids I’ve ever coached on and off the floor.”
Idaho is back on the court at 2 p.m. Saturday in the Cowan Spectrum to take on New Mexico State. The Aggies will be the first team from last year’s Western Athletic Conference to face Idaho this season.
– Stacey Barr scored a career-high 29 points for Idaho
– Alyssa Charlston recorded her 100th career block
– Idaho is 3-0 in conference play for the first time since the 2003-04 season
– Connie Ballestero played all 40 minutes for Idaho due to an injured Karlee Wilson