History made as Vandals take down NMSU, head for WAC semis

10 Mar

RENO, Nev. — Since Idaho joined the Western Athletic Conference in 2005, neither the men nor the women had ever advanced past the quarterfinals in the conference basketball tournament. Excepting a pair of play-in game victories, the WAC Tournament represented an unbroken streak of futility for the Silver and Gold.

No more.

Led by a pair of double-doubles from stalwart starters Yinka Olorunnife and Shaena Kuehu, the Vandal women pulled away from New Mexico State late in the second half to secure a 75-63 victory over the Aggies in WAC Tournament quarterfinal action at the Lawlor Events Center. The fourth-seeded Vandals now advance to the semifinals, where they’ll face No. 1 Fresno State at noon Friday.

“This is a big win for our program and I’m proud of this whole team for gutting it out, hanging tough and getting the win,” Idaho coach Jon Newlee said. “I know this means a lot to everyone, but particularly for Charlotte (Otero), who can cap off her senior year with some success in the tournament.”

Idaho and New Mexico State traded the lead back and forth throughout the first half, though the Vandals had to crawl out of a 7-point deficit early. After that, neither team could gain more than a two-possession advantage, and it took Bianca Cheever’s baseline jumper with 3 seconds on the clock to give Idaho a two-point edge into the locker room.

In the second half, the Vandals twice made bids to control the game. Idaho opened on a 6-0 run to push the lead to 8, keyed by buckets from Kuehu and Olorunnife. But the Aggies responded with an 8-0 run of their own to tie the game, with Tabytha Wampler and Jasmine Lowe earning 3-point plays. With 12:17 to play, Crystal Boyd’s free throw gave NMSU a one-point lead — but it would be their last.

That’s because Olorunnife chose that moment to take over the game for Idaho. She drilled a jumper to put the Vandals back in the lead, dished up to Kuehu for a 3-pointer and then canned a trey of her own — Idaho by seven, 10:32 to play.

New Mexico State wasn’t done, though. For the next eight minutes, both teams turned the Lawlor hardwood into a 3-point shooting gallery. Lowe drilled a three — Otero responded likewise. Danisha Corbett knocked down back-to-back shots from long range, putting the Aggies within a point of tying the game. Right-back-atcha came Otero and Cheever to keep Idaho ahead, and time was running out for New Mexico State. A deep dagger from Otero and two free throws from Olorunnife with a minute left sealed the Aggies’ fate.

“Every time they made a run, one of these guys right here (Kuehu, Olorunnife and Otero) made a big shot to keep us in front, and I thought it was important that we keep the lead down the stretch,” Newlee  said. “It just seemed like big shot after big shot. They’d hit one and then we would.”

Olorunnife finished as the team’s leading scorer, with 23 points, 10 rebounds and 4 steals, and shot an outstandingly efficient 9-for-11 from the field, missing just one of four shots from downtown. Kuehu added a career-high 22 points, 10 more boards and 4 assists. Those rebounds helped Idaho dominate the glass by a 46-37 margin.

“We’re going out with no regrets,” Kuehu said.

Rachele Kloke put in 12 more points and grabbed 8 rebounds, while Otero scored 6 points and dished up 4 assists. The senior point guard’s 2-for-4 performance from the field was indicative of the Vandals’ shooting as a whole — .444 from the field, .435 from beyond the arc.

“To get this win feels great,” Otero said. “I’m really proud and happy to be a part of this team, knowing that these are the girls who are helping to make my senior year keep going as far as it can go.”

New Mexico State got solid efforts from Lowe (19 points on 7-for-9 shooting, including 4-of-4 from distance) and Boyd (17 points, 10 rebounds). But Wampler struggled to gain traction in the post and fouled out with just 9 points and 4 boards after 29 minutes of play. That allowed Olorunnife to rack up easy bucket after easy bucket in the paint. Stout defense held the Aggies to just .354 — including starting guard Camila Rosen’s stone-cold 1-for-5 performance.

Looking ahead to Friday’s matchup with Fresno State, which went undefeated in conference play this season, Olorunnife acknowledged the challenge but remained defiantly confident.

“We have nothing to lose against Fresno. Last time we played them was a disaster and we have nowhere to go but up,” she said. “They’re a great team but there’s a game to be played and we want this win just as bad as they do.”

Newlee said what he wants for his team in the tournament is exactly what they’ve got: a chance to keep playing.

“There’s a mountain in front of us, but we’re still here and all you can ask for is the opportunity to compete,” he said. “We want to win the WAC, and whether it’s in the semis or the championship, you have to go through Fresno to get there.”

The Vandals get a day off to prepare for Friday’s semifinal battle against Fresno State. That game will open up the WAC’s second-round action, with tipoff scheduled at noon in the Lawlor Events Center.

                              Box Score (Final)
                      2009-10 Western Athletic Conference
                      New Mexico State vs Idaho (3/10/10)

VISITORS: New Mexico State
                          TOT-FG  3-PT         REBOUNDS
## Player                 FG FGA FG FGA FT FTA OF DE TOT PF  TP  A TO BLK S MIN
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
13 Soto, Kaitlyn....... *  0  4   0  1   0  0   0  2  2   5   0  1  1  0  0  23
24 Spence, Madison..... *  2  8   1  4   0  0   0  4  4   2   5  0  0  0  2  34
33 Wampler, Tabytha.... *  4  9   0  0   1  1   2  2  4   5   9  3  4  0  0  29
34 Boyd, Crystal....... *  7 22   1  8   2  5   2  8 10   2  17  2  6  1  3  32
35 Rosen, Camila....... *  1  5   0  0   0  0   1  3  4   0   2  0  1  2  1  20
02 Magazzeni, Malia....    0  0   0  0   1  2   0  0  0   0   1  0  0  0  0   1
03 Lowe, Jasmine.......    7  9   4  4   1  1   2  3  5   0  19  5  1  0  2  29
11 Corbett, Danisha....    2  6   2  4   0  0   0  4  4   0   6  1  0  0  1  21
25 Fletcher, Christina.    0  1   0  0   0  0   0  0  0   2   0  0  0  0  0   8
40 Rozendaal, Kelsie...    0  1   0  0   4  4   1  2  3   0   4  0  0  0  0   3
TM TEAM................                            1  1             1
   Totals..............   23 65   8 21   9 13   8 29 37  16  63 12 14  3  9 200

             1st Half       2nd Half     Game Totals
TOTAL FG%: 11-28  .393    12-37  .324    23-65  .354
3-Pt. FG%:  3-6   .500     5-15  .333     8-21  .381
F Throw %:  6-7   .857     3-6   .500     9-13  .692
Deadball rebounds: 2

HOME TEAM: Idaho
                          TOT-FG  3-PT         REBOUNDS
## Player                 FG FGA FG FGA FT FTA OF DE TOT PF  TP  A TO BLK S MIN
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
01 Otero, Charlotte.... *  2  4   2  3   0  1   1  4  5   1   6  4  3  0  1  40
11 Cheever, Bianca..... *  3  8   2  6   0  0   0  4  4   0   8  1  2  0  0  27
15 Olorunnife, Yinka... *  9 11   3  4   2  3   4  6 10   3  23  2  3  0  4  34
23 Kuehu, Shaena....... *  7 15   3  6   5  6   1  9 10   3  22  4  4  0  1  36
25 Kloke, Rachele...... *  5 17   0  2   2  6   2  6  8   2  12  4  3  0  0  38
05 Bello, Kanisha......    0  1   0  1   0  0   0  1  1   0   0  0  0  0  0   3
10 Helsham, Natasha....    0  2   0  1   0  0   0  1  1   1   0  0  0  0  0  14
42 Sisel-Kumpfer, Ally.    2  5   0  0   0  0   2  1  3   0   4  0  0  0  0   8
TM TEAM................                         1  3  4
   Totals..............   28 63  10 23   9 16  11 35 46  10  75 15 15  0  6 200

             1st Half       2nd Half     Game Totals
TOTAL FG%: 15-33  .455    13-30  .433    28-63  .444
3-Pt. FG%:  3-8   .375     7-15  .467    10-23  .435
F Throw %:  0-0   .000     9-16  .563     9-16  .563
Deadball rebounds: 3

Date: 3/10/10       Site: Reno, Nev. (Lawlor Events Center)  Attendance: 743
Officials: Lisa Jones; Kent Johnson; Kyle Bacon;
Technical fouls: New Mexico State-None. Idaho-None.
Score by Periods      1  2   Total
New Mexico State.... 31 32  - 63
Idaho............... 33 42  - 75
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2 Responses to “History made as Vandals take down NMSU, head for WAC semis”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Good Afternoon Vandal Nation: WAC Tournament Day 2 « Vandal Nation - March 11, 2010

    [...] to reach the semifinals in any WAC basketball tournament since Idaho joined the conference in 2005. They defeated New Mexico State, 75-63, and will play the No. 1 seeded Fresno State Bulldogs on Friday at [...]

  2. Vandal Nation Live in Reno: (4) Idaho vs. (1) Fresno State « Vandal Nation - March 12, 2010

    [...] 12, 2010 Travis Mason-Bushman Leave a comment Go to comments RENO, Nev. — On Wednesday night, Idaho’s women made history, becoming the first Vandal basketball team to advance to a Western Athletic Conference Tournament [...]

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