The Vandals played their final game of the regular season in the Cowan Spectrum, where they put away another win, defeating Southern Utah 76-61.
For some Vandals, it was more than the last game of the regular season — it was the last game as a Vandal.
Seniors Karlee Wilson and Agueda Trujillo were honored to kick off the game.
Idaho head coach Jon Newlee said he liked the way the team played to send off the seniors.
“I think they did a great job,” Newlee said. “I think they rallied around, you know (Wilson) obviously had a great night tonight, it’s a good way to go out as a senior. Everybody wants their seniors to go out with a win and I think everybody realized again they are going to have to play a little harder than they were playing in those first couple of minutes, if we wanted to beat this team.”
The Thunderbirds struck first to kick off the game, taking an early 6-0 lead. The Vandals gave up a lot of rebounds in the opening minutes, allowing Southern Utah to take control of scoring.
The game began to turn the Vandals way after junior post Geraldine McCorkell knocked down a clean 3-pointer to put Idaho on the board.
A three-point shot from sophomore guard Taylor Pierce pushed the home team up 13-12. Idaho held the advantage for the remainder of the quarter and into the second.
Idaho held control of the game with help from McCorkell, who put up seven points in the early second quarter, pushing the margin out to 28-23. The Thunderbirds battled back to bring it within three with less than two minutes to the break, but a long three from Pierce gave the Vandals a 33-29 lead in the first half.
McCorkell came out for the bulk of the Idaho offense, putting up 12 points in her 14 minutes off the bench.
Idaho head coach Jon Newlee said he thought the team started slow but picked the pace up to send the seniors out on a good note.
“I thought we started out pretty sluggish,” Newlee said. “Again, it was kind of like Thursday where after the timeout, we talked about picking up our effort and our energy and I thought from that point forward we did a much better job, you know, as a group.”
Wilson said the team backed her in achieving her personal record setting night.
“I think my teammates did a great job of finding me,” Wilson said. “Most teams put a lot of emphasis on like Geri, Taylor and Mikayla, so they were really helping off me tonight particularly, and Brooke. So, they did a really good job of finding us. We were knocking down our shots, moving the ball really well in the second half. My team gave me a lot of confidence at half to just keep shooting, I mean they were all cheering me on so I had to do it for my team.”
In the closing ten minutes of the game, Vandals fought for each rebound and score. Wilson made back-to-back trips to the free throw line, where she added an extra five points to her career-high 20-point game. She was pulled off the court for the remainder of the game, but not before a warm round of applause from the senior’s fanbase. The Idaho bench finished off the game before they won out 76-61.
Wilson finished her final home game as a Vandal with a career high 20 points and eight rebounds in her 30 minutes of play. Yet she wasn’t the only Vandal to finish with top marks. McCorkell, Pierce and Reilly all finished in the double-digit point range. McCorkell put up 16 points and eight rebounds, Reilly with 11 points and five rebounds and Pierce with 13 points.
The Southern Utah offense was headlined by Jessica Richardson with 17 points.
Newlee said they are ready to play in the exciting and unpredictable Big Sky Conference.
“Oh, we feel good,” Newlee said. “I mean again, it’s cliché but everybody is starting 0-0 out in Reno and it’s any body’s game out there, man, any body’s game 1-12. It should be a big show out there in Reno.”
The Big Sky Conference tournament kicks off Mar. 6 in Reno, Nevada.
Meredith Spelbring can be reached at email@example.com