Idaho survived an exciting start to the postseason against Montana State.
The Vandals (18-12, BSC 14-5) edged the Bobcats (16-15, BSC 9-10) by a score of 76-74. Idaho took the lead for good early in the first quarter, but the teams traded runs throughout the game to keep things interesting.
“I loved the way we came out in that first quarter. You always worry when you get the bye how you are going to come out and start,” Idaho Head Coach Jon Newlee in a news release. “I thought we came out with a lot of energy, shot the ball well and defended fantastically. I think that really set the tone for us.”
Idaho was led by junior guards Taylor Pierce and Mikayla Ferenz. Pierce led the team with six assists and poured in 21 points, all of which came from 7-16 3-point shooting. Ferenz added 27 of her own, 21 of which came in the second half. Both veterans played all 40 minutes and led Idaho to a historic 14 3-pointers made, tied for second most in Big Sky tournament history.
“It felt good [out there]. Shoot-around felt good today. You just have to have the mindset that every shot you take is going to go in,” Pierce said in a news release. “Every shot I let go, in my head it’s going in. It just helps my confidence moving forward.”
Senior post Geraldine McCorkell also filled the stat sheet for the Vandals. McCorkell tallied 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists. She needed eight points to surpass 1,500 career points and she crossed the threshold with a layup in the fourth quarter.
The game looked like a blowout early, as the Vandals led 20-7 by the end of the first quarter. The Vandals stretched their lead as wide as 16 early in the second quarter, but Montana State would not go away. The Bobcats traded blows with Idaho throughout the quarter to keep the deficit close to single digits and slim the lead to seven at the half.
Montana State’s star guard Delaney Junkermier contributed only four points in the first half, and the Bobcats shot 23.5 percent from three in the half.
The Vandals were able to keep Montana State at a distance throughout the third quarter, but the Bobcats threatened to take control in the final minutes of the fourth.
Idaho’s shooters went ice cold, posting a 1-11 run that allowed Montana State to get within two points. Ferenz nailed a three with 49 seconds left to put the Vandals up by two possessions for good. Both teams traded fouls as the clock wound down, totaling 21 points between them over the course of the last 49 seconds.
With the win, Idaho moves on to the Big Sky tournament semifinals and will play Portland State 2:35 p.m. Friday Mar. 9 in Reno, Nevada.
Jonah Baker can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @jonahpbaker