| March 20, 2018

WBB: Defensive turnaround for Vandals

One game after allowing 107 points to Sacramento State, the Idaho women’s basketball team put out its second-best defensive performance of the past nine games in a win against Portland State. Idaho won the game 77-49 Saturday in the Cowan Spectrum.

“I thought overall the execution of our defensive game plan was the best we’ve done in a long time,” Idaho coach Jon Newlee said. “I loved our defensive effort tonight. I thought we came out and defended great.”

The Vandals beat the Vikings largely because they held their top three scorers to a combined 20 points. The Viking trio of guard Emily Easom, guard Lariel Powell and forward Mikaela Rivard normally average a combined 33.6 points per game.

“We knew No. 22 (Easom) was a big scorer so she was definitely one of our main focuses,” senior guard Stacey Barr said. “Christina (Salvatore) did a great job on her early on and anyone who came in and had to play defense did really well. So she was kind of our main focus coming in.”

Barr led the Vandals with 22 points moving her into fifth place all-time in scoring at Idaho. She passed former teammate Alyssa Charlston on the all-time list and now has 1,605 career points as a Vandal.

“This is what I love out of Stacey when she’s as efficient as she was tonight — 10-of-14 (shooting), getting to the rim, her 3 looked good,” Newlee said. “I’m amazed she didn’t get some free throws. I won’t get into that, but she was great. That was an MVP performance tonight.”

In addition to Barr driving to the rim from the outside, the Vandals also had solid showing from their post players in the paint. Junior post Ali Forde and freshman post Geri McCorkell combined for 23 points while Forde and sophomore post Brooke Reilly combined for 18 rebounds.

“I loved our matchup. I knew we had the advantage offensively and defensively with Ali against their kids,” Newlee said. “I was happy to see her stay out of foul trouble. That’s been the Achilles heel for Ali.”

On the defensive end, Idaho outrebounded Portland State 29 to 15 while blocking seven shots and grabbing nine steals. The Vandals also held the Vikings to 30.8 percent shooting from the floor.

Idaho pulled away in the second half, but much of the first half was closer. Idaho didn’t lead by double digits until the final seconds of the half.

A lack of free-throw attempts by Idaho contributed to the closer game in the first period. The Vandals had zero free-throw attempts heading into the locker room.

Newlee said he didn’t want to comment on the lack of free throws.

“I thought there were chances we could have got to the line and we did want to continue to attack the rim in the second half,” he said. “I thought they were getting a little tired and I thought we could take advantage of that.”

Newlee said the Saturday win was huge for the Vandals after the Thursday loss to Sacramento State in which the Hornets eclipsed the century mark on the Vandals.

“They were really down, they were down as I’ve probably seen them the last couple years after the loss to (Sacramento State),” he said. “Seeing what happened there defensively and then Sac making all those 3s and doing what they do — we were a little demoralized … There’s a lot of ball to be played in the Big Sky and this kind of win was definitely, definitely needed.”

The win gives Idaho momentum heading into a road stretch against Thursday at North Dakota and Saturday at Northern Colorado.

Stephan Wiebe can be reached at arg-sports@uidaho.edu

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