The back-to-back WAC Champions are facing some challengers in their new conference to start conference play. The Idaho women’s basketball team’s second-half comeback fell short Saturday in Cheney, Washington, as Eastern Washington beat Idaho 71-65.
“We always have great games I feel like with Eastern,” Idaho coach Jon Newlee said. “The last few years it’s always kind of been down to (the end). They hit their big shots when they needed to. Hats off to them — they played well down the stretch and pulled out the win.”
The loss brought the Vandals to 7-7 on the season and 1-2 in conference play heading into their home conference opener against Sacramento State Thursday in the Cowan Spectrum.
Eastern Washington’s win brought the Eagles to 10-4 on the season and 3-0 in the conference.
“Every night is rough in the Big Sky and I know that,” Newlee said. “The depth of the league is great. I feel like every night we’re going to get everyone’s best shot for sure, especially coming in as the WAC champs. We’ve been to the NCAA Tournament the past two years — people are going to give us their best shot.”
Idaho fell behind 12-2 early against the Eagles. Five minutes into the game, the Vandals had only made one of their first eight shots.
“I told them ‘Hey, we dug ourselves a hole really both halves,'” Newlee said. “I thought we started off slow offensively, but I loved the way we battled and came back. Our rebounding effort tonight I thought was huge to keep us in the game.”
The Vandals left the slow start behind them in the second half and came out to take a 38-37 lead on a 3-pointer by Idaho’s all-time 3-point leader Stacey Barr five minutes into the period. The senior guard from Melbourne, Australia led all scorers with 22 points in the game and Idaho stayed with Eastern Washington for most of the rest of the half.
With less than a minute left in the game, Idaho was down by three points, but back-to-back missed layups by junior post Ali Forde and sophomore post Brooke Reilly sealed the fate for the Vandals.
“It was a killer, man. It was a killer,” Newlee said of the missed layups. “We were right there, run the play, ran it great, and you gotta finish those plays that Eastern made and we didn’t make tonight. That was the difference in the game is those kind of plays.”
Stephan Wiebe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org