A series of confusing tiebreak rules overshadowed a Senior Day blowout for the Idaho women’s basketball team Saturday in the Cowan Spectrum. Even after Idaho’s win, it wasn’t immediately certain whether the team would be playing in the postseason or not.
Senior Stacey Barr led Idaho with 27 points while senior Maren Austgulen closed the game out with a 3-pointer, but Idaho (14-15, 8-10 Big Sky) will not compete in the Big Sky Tournament despite the 77-53 victory over Idaho State (13-16, 8-10). The Vandals went into the game knowing they had to beat the Bengals to get a chance at the postseason tournament, though the win alone wasn’t enough.
“My thoughts on it are the tiebreaking system is messed up in the Big Sky and the fact that also their schedule-making is messed up,” Idaho coach Jon Newlee said. “So, if your schedule-making is not fair, they need to send everybody to the conference tournament.”
After Saturday’s game between in-state rivals, Idaho and Idaho State were both 8-10 in conference play and tied for the final seed in the conference tournament. Since the teams each beat each other on the season, the final seed had to come down to a series of tiebreakers in the Big Sky rulebook.
The tiebreakers depend on how the teams faired against the best teams in the conference. ISU and Idaho were both 0-2 against Montana while Idaho was 0-2 against Sac State and ISU was 0-1 against the Hornets.
Since the teams were still tied, the next tiebreaker came down to how the teams faired against Eastern Washington and Northern Colorado — but both teams were 1-2 against these teams.
The final tiebreaker came down to how Idaho and Idaho State faired against the teams tied at 9-9 (UND, NAU and MSU) and Idaho State had the best combined record with a 4-1 combined mark against the tied teams. Thus, the Bengals made the Big Sky Tournament as the No. 8 seed and Idaho was left out of postseason play.
Newlee said he is not happy with the current system because some teams play certain teams on the road and others get them on home. Additionally, not every team plays every other team in the conference the same number of times.
It wasn’t until about an hour after the game that the Big Sky gave Idaho the confirmation that the team wouldn’t compete in the conference tournament. This meant Newlee had to give his team a postgame talk without knowing whether or not they would even be able to play another game.
“I told them we did a great job of taking care of our business and controlling what we can control,” Newlee said. “And that was we wanted to come out and make a statement today — for our seniors and for our basketball team all-around — that we deserved to be in that conference tournament and we’re playing the best basketball of our year right now. It’s a damn shame if we’re not going to get in that tournament.”
Idaho took control of the game from the start going out to a 20-8 lead through the first 10 minutes. The Vandals never looked back from there, cruising to the 24-point victory over a team that beat them by 21 points earlier in the season.
Barr’s 27 points led all scorers and junior post Ali Forde scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for a double-double. Austgulen, Idaho’s other senior, hasn’t seen much playing time all season, but she closed out her Vandal career with a 3-pointer in the final minute of the game.
“I got chills when Maren (Austgulen) hit that 3,” Nelee said. “It’s a great way to go out because Maren has meant a lot to our program. And we don’t win anything without Stacey (Barr). I told her, one of the all-time greatest if not the all-time greatest Vandal basketball player here.”
Stephan Wiebe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org