Archive | March, 2009

Liveblog: Vandals vs. Drake Bulldogs, Tournament

18 Mar

The Idaho Vandals’ season lives on, and tonight at 7:05 p.m., the Vandals will take on the Drake Bulldogs in a first-round matchup in the Tournament in Memorial Gym.

The Bulldogs, out of the Missouri Valley Conference, were a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament last year, and now face their second meeting ever with Idaho.

We’ll get the party rockin’ at 6:30 p.m.! Join us for Vandal postseason basketball!

Idaho Vandals vs. Drake Bulldogs live!

Vandals will host Drake in the Tournament!

15 Mar

The Idaho Vandals will be playing in the postseason!

Idaho has accepted a berth in the Tournament, and will be hosting its opening-round game against the Drake University Bulldogs on Wednesday.

The Bulldogs have a 17-15 record, but just 7-11 in the Missouri Valley Conference. Like the Vandals, they were knocked out in the opening round of their conference tournament.

More details to come.

Utah State Aggies: Your deserving Western Athletic Conference champs

14 Mar

RENO— The Utah State Aggies rode a 10-0 game-opening run all the way to a 10-point victory, 72-62, over the Nevada Wolf Pack in tonight’s Western Athletic Conference Tournament final in the Lawlor Events Center. They will represent the WAC in the 2009 NCAA Tournament.

More soon.

Vandal Nation/Rush The Court liveblog: #1 Utah State Aggies vs. #2 Nevada Wolf Pack

14 Mar

It’s all come down to this. Just two teams remain in the quest for the Western Athletic Conference Tournament championship and its ticket to the Big Dance.

Tonight at 7 p.m., the #1-seed Utah State Aggies take on the #2-seed Nevada Wolf Pack in the Lawlor Events Center, and Vandal Nation/Rush The Court will bring you all the action, live from courtside. Join us!

Utah State Aggies vs. Nevada Wolf Pack live!

Vandal Nation/Rush The Court liveblog: #2 Nevada Wolf Pack vs. #6 Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

13 Mar

RENO— In tonight’s nightcap, the homestanding #2 Nevada Wolf Pack take on the #6 Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. Vandal Nation, in association with, is liveblogging from courtside in the Lawlor Events Center.

In the night’s earlier game, the #1 Utah State Aggies survived a major upset scare from the #5 New Mexico State Aggies. After Utah State came out of the gate shooting 7-7 from the floor, the WAC’s regular-season champions hit only 6 of their next 22 field goal tries. Meanwhile, New Mexico State went off and shot 8-for-11 from outside the arc, building a 13-point halftime lead. Utah State steadily chipped away in the second half, but still trailed into the final seconds. Tyler Newbold grabbed a huge rebound and stroked the midrange jumper with just 3.1 seconds to play. Final score, Utah State 71, New Mexico State 70.

Nevada vs. Louisiana Tech live!

Vandal Nation/Rush The Court liveblog: #1 Utah State Aggies vs. #5 New Mexico State Aggies

13 Mar

RENO— It’s a BATTLE OF THE AGGIES in the first WAC semifinal of the night. The #1 Utah State Aggies face the #5 New Mexico State Aggies, tipping off at 6 p.m. Pacific. Vandal Nation, in association with, will be liveblogging both of tonight’s WAC matchups from courtside in the Lawlor Events Center.

Utah State vs. New Mexico State live!

No more magic: Vandals upset by Louisiana Tech, 70-62

12 Mar

RENO— The Idaho Vandals’ magic turnaround season came to an abrupt end this evening. Backed by Kyle Gibson’s 23 points, the sixth-seeded Louisiana Tech Bulldogs defeated the third-seeded Vandals, 70-62, in a Western Athletic Conference Tournament quarterfinal matchup in the Lawlor Events Center.

Throughout the game, Idaho could not seem to find an answer to the Bulldogs, either on offense or defense. Louisiana Tech, 15-17 (6-10 WAC), took the lead halfway through the first half on Kyle Gibson’s third 3-pointer of the period and never looked back. Thereafter, the closest the Vandals would manage to get was two points. Idaho finished its first season under coach Don Verlin with a 16-15 record, 9-7 in the WAC.

“You have to give Louisiana Tech all the credit tonight,” Verlin said. “They did a great job with their game plan and they did an outstanding job of countering everything we had.”

Mac Hopson finished with 16 points, 8 assists and no turnovers to lead the Vandals, but he was just 4-11 from the floor and 0-3 from beyond the arc. Marvin Jefferson added 15 points inside, but Idaho’s big man came up with only four rebounds.

After Tech big man Magnum Rolle picked up a pair of fouls in the first four minutes, the Bulldogs switched things up offensively, and the Vandals were caught flat-footed. Louisiana Tech’s guards started shooting the lights out, going 7-10 from beyond the arc in the first half. On the game, Kyle Gibson shot 4-6 from downtown, Jamel Guyton was 2-for-2 and Brandon Gibson went 2-of-3.

“(Tech) went small, used their quickness and drove around us,” Verlin said. “We had to switch up our ball-screen defense and in a weird way, I think it was an advantage for them to have Rolle in foul trouble because it made them harder for us to guard.”

In the second half, Rolle came off the bench and contributed 9 points, along with several key rebounds that Verlin identified as game-changers.

“When we’d get close, (Rolle) would come up with a big basket or a big rebound. He made plays when they needed them,” Verlin said.

With 16 minutes left in the game, Hopson, a junior point guard, pulled down a big offensive board and nailed a quick jumper to pull Idaho within two points, 37-35. But Brandon Wiley caught a foul on the ensuing Tech possession, and that sparked a 9-0 Bulldog run in the next three minutes. Olu Ashaolu drained both free throws and a missed Hopson jumper turned into a Guyton 3-pointer. Idaho turned the ball over seconds later and Ashaolu converted the fast-break layup. Two more free throws from Guyton made it a 46-35 contest, and the Vandals’ best shot at a comeback had been thwarted.

A slew of Vandal fouls gave Louisiana Tech 25 free-throw opportunities in the second half, and the Bulldogs converted on 20 of them.

The one-and-done playoff performance left the Vandals feeling as if they have some unfinished business for the 2009-10 season.

“I’m excited about next year,” Hopson said. “You know, I don’t really want to talk about next year now because we just lost, but I’m excited. We have a good coaching staff behind us and I feel like (Verlin) should have got coach of the year. I love playing for them, I play my heart out for them every night and I can’t wait until next year.”

This year, the Vandals captured nine conference wins — two more than Idaho had earned in its previous three WAC seasons combined. Its 16-15 record is the first winning record for the school in a decade, and the Vandals’ season sweep of downstate rival Boise State was also the first in 10 years. Jefferson, a junior forward, referred to those achievements as giving Idaho a benchmark for the future.

“We did some things that not a lot of Idaho teams have done in a long time,” Jefferson said. “We all accomplished something great, even if it didn’t end the way we wanted it to.”

Verlin, too, acknowledged his team’s superb turnaround effort and the potential shown for more success in the coming seasons.

“This basketball team we have at Idaho came a million miles this year,” Verlin said. “If you’d have told us at the start of the season that, with 11 new players, we’d get 16 wins and finish third in the WAC, we’d have all took it. We’ve set a nice foundation for years to come.”

Tournament update: Thursday, 6:15 p.m.

12 Mar

The WAC’s #1 Utah State Aggies were never seriously challenged in their quarterfinal matchup with the #9 Fresno State Bulldogs, shooting an unreal 70 percent from the field in the first half. They won going away, 85-68. That sets up an all-Aggies semifinal against the #5 New Mexico State Aggies at 6 p.m. Friday.

The #2 Nevada Wolf Pack are taking on the #7 San Jose State Spartans in the day’s third game, which just tipped off — currently, the Wolf Pack lead, 11-6, at the 15:56 mark in the first half.

The #3 Idaho Vandals will make their bid for the semifinals tonight at 8:30 p.m. — we’ll be liveblogging that one from courtside.

Tournament update: Thursday, 3:30 p.m.

12 Mar

The #5 New Mexico State Aggies sent the #4 Boise State Broncos home in defeat, 80-70, in today’s opening WAC Tournament quarterfinal. In doing so, the Aggies avenged a brutal home-floor loss in which BSU hung the century on the scoreboard. Jonathan Gibson led NMSU with 22 points, 15 of those scored from three-point land.

At halftime in the #1/#9 matchup, the Utah State Aggies lead the Fresno State Bulldogs, 45-31. Fresno State hasn’t been completely knocked out, but the Aggies are able to bury big shots at will. Shooting the lights out at a 64 percent clip, Utah State is even hotter from downtown, at nearly 70 percent. It’s an offensive showcase, and I won’t be surprised to see USU try for the century.

Vandal Nation/Rush The Court liveblog: Utah State vs. Fresno State

12 Mar

We’ve partnered with Rush The Court to provide liveblog coverage throughout the Western Athletic Conference Tournament. We’ll be courtside live this afternoon for quarterfinal action, as the #1 Utah State Aggies take on the #9 Fresno State Bulldogs at 2 p.m. Pacific. The Bulldogs took the Aggies into overtime earlier this season, and could pose a major upset threat if Utah State comes out flat. Join us for WAC mid-major hoops fun!

Utah State Aggies vs. Fresno State Bulldogs live!

Tournament update: Thursday, 1 p.m.

12 Mar

We’re at halftime in the Boise State Broncos/New Mexico State Aggies contest, and the NMSU crew lead, 38-36. Early on, Boise State was shooting the lights out from outside, but the Aggie defense has clamped down hard and forced 11 turnovers. The Aggies also hold a narrow margin in the rebounding stat, 20-17.

Tournament update: Wednesday, 8:15 p.m.

11 Mar

The #3 Nevada Wolf Pack closed out the #6 Boise State Broncos this evening, 73-65. Next up, Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State.

Tournament update: Wednesday, 7:45 p.m.

11 Mar

As we sadly noted earlier, the #4 Idaho Vandals were defeated in their quarterfinal matchup with #5 Utah State this afternoon.

In the session’s second matchup, the #1 Fresno State Bulldogs closed out the #8 Hawaii Rainbow Wahine, 65-50.

Currently, the #3 Nevada Wolf Pack lead the #6 Boise State Broncos, 67-65, with about a minute to play.

Next up will be the #2 Louisiana Tech Lady Techsters facing the #7 New Mexico State Aggies, tipping off 30 minutes after this matchup.

Vandal women fall in overtime tournament heartbreaker, 59-58

11 Mar

RENO, Nev. — Idaho coach Jon Newlee clutched his head in his hands and turned back to his bench in disbelief, as he watched his team’s Western Athletic Conference title hopes expire with the game clock. In a WAC Tournament quarterfinal matchup against the Utah State Aggies, the undersized, outmanned Idaho Vandals had seemingly used up their magic. Idaho fell to the Aggies in overtime, 59-58, in the Lawlor Events Center.

The fourth-seeded Vandals (13-15, 10-6 WAC) led by as many as 9 late in the second half, on the strength of a stellar performance from guard Derisa Taleni. The 5-9 junior guard was nigh unstoppable, as she scored a game-high 24 points on 9-15 shooting, pulled in 8 rebounds and grabbed 4 steals. But guard Rachele Kloke fouled out with just two minutes to play, and as she sat down, the air seemed to come out of Idaho’s offense. The fifth-seeded Aggies (16-14, 9-7 WAC) took a one-point lead on a 3-pointer from Chelsea Burns with 43 seconds to go, and only a clutch free throw from Taleni tied the game to force overtime. But critically, Taleni missed her first freebie, which could have sealed the win for Idaho.

Vandal guard Alana Curtis drew first blood in the extra minutes with a beautiful layup off a feed from post Yinka Olorunnife. From there, however, the Aggies scored seven unanswered points to take the lead for good. Idaho had a chance to make a winning bucket with five seconds to play, but point guard Charlotte Otero’s jumper was short — and cut short the Vandals’ postseason trip.

“We had our chances to win and they had their chances,” Newlee said. “Once again it came down to not making free throws like we needed to. Shooting 10 for 17 at the line is not going to win you post-season games, and that’s all there is to it. To give them credit, I thought they hit some big threes in the second half to kill our lead and that was the difference in the game.”

In the first half, the Vandals struggled mightily on the glass, giving up an enormous 23-9 rebounding advantage to the Aggies. Olorunnife, in particular, couldn’t find her rhythm in the opening period, as the team’s leading rebounder pulled down just one board. Utah State’s failure to take care of the ball, however, kept Idaho in the contest — the Vandals scored 12 points off of 14 Aggie turnovers in the game’s first 20 minutes, with Utah State managing just 4 points on 6 Idaho turnovers. A strong Vandal post defense kept the Aggies from capitalizing on many of their 12 defensive rebounds, as Utah State seemed befuddled at times when looking for lanes to drive.

Idaho also suffered from shooting woes in the opening period, as only Taleni and Curtis were able to make more than one bucket and overall, the team shot just 10-26 from the field. Again, Olorunnife’s struggles stand out, as she was an ugly 1-8 in the half. With 11 points on 5-8 shooting in the first half, Taleni almost single-handedly kept the Vandals in the game.

“In the first half, it was a struggle rebounding for us on the offensive and defensive ends,” Taleni said. “Coach told us in the locker room that keeping (the Aggies) off the boards was our key to win. We’re such a small team but if we put a body on somebody, we can get any board. We figured it out in the second half but the first half just killed us.”

Out of the locker room, Idaho crashed the boards with fervor, doubling up the Aggies on the glass, 28-14. Olorunnife responded to the call, grabbing 10 boards in the period. She finished with 11 points and 13 rebounds, recording her eleventh double-double of the season.

“It was very hard playing down inside against a girl as big as Lydia (Whitehead), but regardless of height, we can and should be boxing out,” Olorunnife said. “As Derisa said, I think we failed to get a body on everyone in the first half.”

Newlee termed the team’s improvement too little, too late. In a tournament, one-and-done situation, he said, no team can afford to play a flat first half. Not only was he dismayed at the rebounding trouble, he noted a number of blown layups that could have given the Vandals the margin of victory.

“We couldn’t finish in the first half — we’d go up to the rim and just not attack. We just missed a ton of layups,” Newlee said. “I told them in the locker room, it doesn’t come down to the last play. We lost this game in the first half, not at the end or in overtime. It shouldn’t have been that close.”

The one bright spot for the Vandals: the entire starting five return next season, with the addition of much-needed depth at every position. Idaho has run a six-player rotation all season. Otero, in particular, has had to play virtually every minute of every game. She’s been on the floor for 1,091 of the team’s 1,095 minutes — an NCAA-leading 99.63 percent. Taleni is looking forward to a little on-court relief, and to her second season under Newlee’s guidance.”

“We have a great corps of girls coming in that we know of, and we’re probably going to get more,” the junior guard said. “I think we proved to a lot of teams that this is a totally different Vandal team. Our coaching staff knows what they’re doing and we have a lot of dedicated girls putting in the hard work. Next year will be big for us, so don’t count us out.”

Newlee, who was honored as the WAC’s 2008-09 Coach of the Year for leading the Vandals’ dramatic turnaround, wasn’t ready to think of the future just yet.

“It was just a tough ending for us, and a tough ending to the season,” he said.

Vandals vs. Utah State Aggies courtside liveblog

11 Mar

Vandal Nation is proud to present courtside liveblogs from the Western Athletic Conference Tournament in Reno, Nev. First up, the Vandal women take on the Utah State Aggies in a #4/#5 quarterfinal matchup.

We’ll go live at 11:45 a.m. (or slightly later, depending on when my flight touches down) and the game tips off at noon. Join us as Yinka Olorunnife, Charlotte Otero, Shaena Kuehu and the rest of the Vandals go for a WAC championship and the automatic ticket to the NCAA Tournament.

Vandals vs. Utah State Aggies live!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 463 other followers