Idaho women’s basketball righted the ship Wednesday to end a two-game losing streak in typical fashion.
The Vandals (16-12, BSC 12-5) returned to their roots with red-hot shooting and enough defense to cruise to a 93-83 win over Northern Arizona (7-21, BSC 4-13). After averaging about 33 percent shooting from the field in their two losses, Idaho shot exactly 50 percent and had six players make at least two field goals.
A hot start on both ends of the floor allowed the Vandals to set the tone early. Idaho began the game on an 11-2 run and finished the first quarter shooting 55.6 percent from the field. Junior guard Taylor Pierce hit a three to start off the game and Idaho never trailed.
The team started off strong on defense, allowing only 13 points in the first quarter.
“Defensively, we were just on them. We were contesting every 3,” Idaho Head Coach Jon Newlee said in a news release. “We were keeping them off the foul line and when they drove our help was there. I thought our ball pressure was tremendous. That was certainly one of our best quarters of the year.”
Idaho was able to ride that strong start all the way through the game. A good portion of their success came from Pierce, who had a career night.
Pierce finished with 28 points on 58.8 percent shooting and added six assists, but her most important stat came in the fourth quarter. With her eighth three pointer of the night, she moved past Sacramento State’s Maranne Johnson to become the conference’s all-time career 3-point leader with 292 makes.
“She had that looker in her eyes and was really focused,” Newlee said. “I think she really wanted to come out and prove something after the home stand. When I saw those first couple go in we started running more plays for her. I thought she might go off and she did.”
Senior post Geraldine McCorkell also came in clutch for the Vandals. Despite a down shooting night, she still managed 17 points, including 10-10 from the free throw line. She has now shot 30-31 from the free throw line in her last two games, including 27 straight makes. Her performance tied her for eighth among all Vandals in career points and she added 11 rebounds for her eighth double-double of the season.
As a team, the Vandals put together a remarkably clean game. NAU’s Olivia Lucero put up a career high 36 points for the Lumberjacks, but Idaho was able to limit turnovers and spread the ball around to ensure victory.
“I really thought our ball movement was fantastic tonight, which is something we talked about,” Newlee said. “The ball really stuck in the last home stand at times, and we made an effort to get everybody involved today. 22 assists and only five turnovers tonight was huge.”
Six different players tallied at least two assists and Idaho’s bench was remarkably involved. Sophomore Isabelle Hadden came off the bench to pour in 12 points and pace the second unit.
The win further solidifies Idaho’s place at second in the Big Sky standings and brings them closer to a first round bye in the postseason tournament.
The Vandals will travel to take on Southern Utah 5:30 p.m. Friday in Cedar City, Utah.
Jonah Baker can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @jonahpbaker