Idaho hit the hardwood to take on Northern Arizona University (NAU) in the Cowan Spectrum Thursday with a 76-61 loss.
Idaho head coach Jon Newlee said he thought the Vandals played well during parts of the game, but the slow start and lack of intensity held the team back.
“Well I thought we had a really good third quarter,” Newlee said. “We played well in the second quarter, got off to a bad start defensively. I thought we did a great job, took control in the second half. I thought we might just take control of the game from then on out, but obviously, that didn’t happen.”
Both teams had a slow start. NAU grabbed a narrow lead at the end of the opening quarter, 11-10, then Vandals and the Lumberjacks went cold.
Idaho went nearly four minutes scoreless, while NAU scored within three minutes.
Junior post Geraldine McCorkell came off the bench early in the second quarter and broke that streak.
Sophomore guard Mikayla Ferenz hit the first Idaho three-point shot of the game and gave her team a little more momentum.
Idaho went on a 4-5 field-goal run with less than two minutes in the first half, but it was ultimately not enough. Idaho trailed by as many as 15 points midway through the second quarter. NAU held the lead 36-29, heading into halftime.
The first half was a team effort from Ferenz, redshirt junior post Brooke Reilly and McCorkell. Ferenz and Reilly each put up eight points. McCorkell came off the bench with five points and a total of seven rebounds.
Newlee said he thought Reilly came out strong for the Idaho offense.
“(Reilly) had a great game,” Newlee said. “From an offensive standpoint, she did a good job of knocking down shots, she looked really comfortable out there, battling. It is good to see, you know she needs to play with that kind of confidence. I think she has that kind of talent and it is good to see her playing with that kind of confidence.”
Reilly said she felt she came out with more confidence to take her shots.
“Thanks to my coaches, they have always been pushing me, telling me to take my open shot and not to pass it up,” she said.
The Vandals picked up speed the third quarter opening, but still struggled to keep the ball in bounds and instead grabbed the rebounds, giving the Lumberjacks a handful of points that could have gone on the Idaho scoreboard.
Reilly pushed Idaho ahead of its opponents by a three-point shot, but it was quickly reclaimed by NAU at the final quarter with 51-47.
The Vandal defense was unable to slow NAU in the fourth quarter, allowing them to take over 25-14 in the closing 10 minutes. Idaho was unable to score, shooting just 31.3 percent in field goal attempts and 33.3 percent from the three. NAU made up for the Vandal deficit in shooting with 61.5 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc. Despite Idaho’s third quarter run, they were unable to pull through, losing 76-61.
The Vandals lost, but Reilly came out strong for Idaho, finishing the night with a season-high 23 points, including 12 of Idaho’s 15 points in the third quarter. She led the team with eight rebounds, the majority for the defense with seven defensive boards. Senior point guard Karlee Wilson also played a strong game with five rebounds and 14 points.
Leading the way for the Lumberjacks was Raina Perez with 26 points.
As the final game of the regular season approaches, Newlee said they will go back to the books to prepare for a tough game against Southern Utah, Senior Night.
“I think dropping this (game) tonight, we’ll come out even hungrier for a win,” Wilson said. “We go back to the drawing board Friday and get ready for Southern Utah. We certainly expect another tough battle from those guys.”
Idaho will have its final game of the regular season against Southern Utah 6 p.m. Mar. 4 in the Cowan Spectrum.
Meredith Spelbring can be reached at email@example.com