Big Sky play started off with a bang for Idaho women’s basketball following its 80-75 win over North Dakota Thursday in the Cowan Spectrum.
“Obviously, it was a tale of two halves,” Idaho head coach Jon Newlee said in a news release. “Bad foul trouble really cost us early. The posts got called early and we had to keep rotating guys in there. I am proud of those guys. They stepped up. They were trying to hold their own and battle. Nina and Nat and then I thought Solo came up huge for us. She brought that senior leadership for us out there. I can’t say enough about how Isabelle played tonight. I thought she did a great job.”
The Vandals and the Fighting Hawks dueled it out in the opening quarter, with four lead changes over the 10-minute period. UND’s Lexi Klabo struck first, getting the Fighting Hawks on the board in the opening minute of play.
Junior guard Mikayla Ferenz wasted no time responding, knocking down one of her five 3-pointers of the night to gain an early edge less than a minute into the contest.
The lead continued to alternate between the two teams right up until the end of the first. A jump shot from UND’s gave the Fighting Hawks a 17-16 lead.
North Dakota broke away from Idaho in the second quarter, extending its lead to as many as 11 points at several points in the half. The Vandals could not reign the Hawks in and went into the break down 41-30.
Despite the 11-point gap, Ferenz had 16 points and 4-5 from deep.
Idaho slowly chipped away at the opponents lead throughout the third quarter. Ferenz added to her 33-point game with another shot from beyond the arc to cut the advantage to 43-41 minutes into the second half.
It wasn’t until senior post Nejra Solo created a turnover and got the ball to Ferenz for a layup to return the lead to Idaho with three minutes to go in the third. The Vandals held the lead for the remainder of the third.
The Fighting Hawks kept fighting up until the final buzzer. Klabo came in clutch for the Hawks late in the game with a layup to tie the game once again at 68. UND maintained its edge over the home team but could not hold out in the home stretch.
Idaho’s senior post Geraldine McCorkell laid in another two points to return the advantage to Idaho for the final lead change of the game.
The Hawks’ Fallyn Freije brought it back to 76-75, but that is as close as they would come.
Four final points from Ferenz iced the 80-75 Idaho win.
Freije and Klabo led the charge for the Hawks, each ending the night with a double double. Freije finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds and Klabo with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
The Vandals hit only 39.3 percent from the floor in the opening half, but made up for it with 53 percent shooting in the second to finish 46.8 percent on the night. Even with a slower shooting start, the Hawks hit just 36.4 percent in the game.
Idaho continued to find success from deep, hitting 10-21, five of which came from Ferenz.
Ferenz lead the way for Idaho with a season-high 33 points and five assists. McCorkell closed out the night with 13 points on the game.
“It was huge,” Ferenz said of the win in a news release. “I know we felt a little defeated after our preseason schedule. We played some really hard teams and lost some games we should have won. We started our ‘second season’ like coach said earlier to us today. This was the start of our second season and it is huge to start with a win. It definitely helps our confidence going forward.”
Idaho looks to continue its winning streak in conference play against Northern Colorado 2 p.m. Saturday in the Cowan Spectrum.
Meredith Spelbring can be reached at email@example.com