The Vandals came out of the time-out pumped and ready to defend. The clock read nine seconds, and the score was tied 55-55. Nine seconds — it was all that separated Idaho from an overtime period against Utah State.
“He (Idaho coach Jon Newlee) told us to stay with the players, don’t foul, and contend shots,” said junior post Yinka Olorunnife. “We were very confident that we were headed into overtime.”
Utah State worked their way down to the Vandals zone, trying to exploit an opening. There was none to be had. As the clock winded down, the ball found its way to the hands of Utah State’s TaHara Williams, who had not missed a shot all night.
She faked a shot, twirled around an Idaho defender and let loose a jump-shot as time expired. Fans held their breath as Williams’s shot sailed overhead towards the basket, arching perfectly in the air before falling through the hoop.
Then there was silence.
With that silence, Idaho dropped to 2-4 in the WAC, losing in heartbreaking fashion to Utah State by a final score of 57-55.
“It’s devastating,” Olorunnife said. ” One possession losses really get to you, but to lose at the buzzer, yeah… it’s the worst.”
The bitter loss comes after a valiant comeback from the Vandals, who dug themselves a hole early yet came back to tie at halftime and keep the second half competitive, in a game where there was very little to fault for the loss. The Vandals shot a respectable 45 percent from the floor, more than doubled Utah State on points off turnovers and tied for point in the paint.
“The very good teams make the plays at the end,” Newlee said. “You got to make your own luck — we didn’t get the loose balls and we didn’t make our own luck tonight.”
Newlee said he was proud of his squad for battling back from several deficits, and said he feels the team is a much-improved team over the squad at the start of the conference season.
The game was the first action for Debbie Pederson, who joined the team in late December and has been practicing ever since, but had yet to see game time. Pederson said she was working on adjusting to the pace of college basketball and learning the plays, but was happy to get out on to the court.
“I was trying not to get nervous and trying to stay calm and play,” Pederson said. “I just wanted to come in and help out the team as much as I could.”
Pederson played seven minutes and tallied her first two points of her college basketball career on free-throws, along with getting two defensive rebounds.
Newlee said he was impressed with the way Pederson played, despite acknowledging the fact that he has to limit the amount of plays they can do with her.
“I thought she did a great job, battled hard, and held her own against their (Utah State’s) big kids,” Newlee said. “I told her before the game to be mentally ready to play — I was very happy with the way she played tonight.”
At 6’3″, Pederson is the tallest player in Vandal uniform to see action this season along with fellow 6’3″ teammate Ally Sisel-Kumpfer. She adds some much-needed strength and height for the Vandals.
There is little time to grieve for the Vandals, who square off against Louisiana Tech on Saturday before coming home for a grudge-match against Nevada.