The Vandals opened Big Sky Conference play with a tough loss at Eastern Washington, falling 67-57. After a slow start on both ends of the floor, Eastern Washington grabbed the lead early in the second quarter and didn’t look back.
Idaho head coach Jon Newlee said he was disspointed with the team’s performance.
“Obviously it was one of the worst first halves of the season,” Newlee said in a news release. “Then we got ourselves in some serious foul trouble. We have not had that problem all season. We did not adjust to that [foul trouble] real well. Our bench did not come in strong like we needed them to and that really hurt us in the second quarter.”
Idaho and Eastern Washington went back and forth throughout the first quarter, with both sides holding a single point lead at several points throughout the opening 10 minutes. The first ended with a 10-9 lead from the Eagles.
The Vandals scored six straight points in the opening minutes of the quarter behind three pointers from redshirt freshman post Sue Winger and sophomore guard Taylor Pierce. After that, Eastern Washington took control of the second quarter.
Idaho was shut out for the remainder of the half, allowing the Eagles to go ahead 30-16 at half time.
Newlee expressed frustration with the team’s performance regarding the disappointing second quarter.
“We just fizzled out. I thought we got really tentative. We kept putting [EWU] on the foul line, but then not getting there ourselves. That is usually how you get big runs. It really cost us,” Newlee said. “We had three starts on the bench watching the action. We needed people to step up and that did not happen tonight.”
The Vandals fought in the last 20 minutes of the game but the Eastern Washington lead stretched too far.
At several points throughout the third quarter the Eagles were up 22 points on the Vandals. Idaho rallied throughout the final half to make a run on Eastern Washington to close the score gap. Idaho went on a 16-11 run to bring the gap within six following a layup from junior post Geraldine McCorkell.
Despite the Vandals late rally Eastern Washington held the Idaho offense to win.
Leading the way for the Vandals was McCorkell with 12 points followed by sophomore guard Mikayla Ferenz with 11.
While Newlee was pleased with the way the team stepped up in the second half he said he expects more from the team going forward into the regular season.
“We played a heck of a lot better, but our hole was too big from that first half,” Newlee said. “We have been on the road a lot, but that is the way it goes. Nobody is feeling sorry for the Vandals. We are going to have to get out and work hard in practice these next few days and get ready for the Griz. They play extremely well at home in that environment. Then we head to Montana State. In my opinion we have three of the toughest venues on the road, throw in North Dakota too. We will just have to be ready for it. We will need to be a lot tougher mentally on this road trip.”
Idaho heads out on the road to take on Montana 6 p.m. Thursday in Missoula.
Meredith Spelbring can be reached at email@example.com