Tag Archives: Jon Newlee

WAC Tournament: Idaho Women vs Fresno State

10 Mar

The Idaho women were blown out by the Fresno State Bulldogs in the quarterfinal round of the WAC Tournament. The Vandals were unable to get any offensive pressure in the first half, which put them in a hole they were unable to recover from. Photos courtesy of Ilya Pinchuk

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Newlee News Conference – 1.31.12

31 Jan

In this week’s news conference, Idaho women’s basketball coach Jon Newlee talks about the team’s eight game losing streak, the success of Alyssa Charlston, and the talented youth core of his team.

Vandals v Fresno State – Womens Basketball – Jan. 21, 2012

22 Jan

Historic tournament run ends in a Bulldog mauling

12 Mar

RENO, Nev. — After five years of futility, an Idaho Vandals basketball team finally made it to the Western Athletic Conference Tournament semifinals — just two wins away from a ticket to the NCAA Tournament.

Unfortunately for Idaho’s women, after a decisive quarterfinal win over New Mexico State on Wednesday, they ran headlong into the WAC’s hottest team, and the improbable dream was over.

The fourth-seeded Vandals fell to No. 1 seed Fresno State, 80-66, ending a season that saw Idaho’s women endure a two-win non-conference campaign before coming together for a historic trip deeper into the WAC Tournament than any Idaho team has ever gone. Idaho finished the season with an 11-20 record, 8-8 in conference play. The Bulldogs advanced to the tournament championship, where they’ll play Louisiana Tech tomorrow at 1 p.m.

Idaho coach Jon Newlee credited Fresno State with taking the fight right at the Vandals, but considers the season a success for the way his team responded to the adversity it faced early on. Last year’s leading scorer Derisa Taleni was lost to a season-ending injury in preseason practice, and her absence was a big reason the team suffered 11 non-conference losses, including a six-game losing streak.

“After a really bad start to the year, to fight back the way we did, to finish fourth in the WAC and get the first ever WAC Tournament win for this team, it’s tremendous for our program,” Newlee said. “Fresno State is an extremely talented basketball team that will go a couple rounds in the NCAA Tournament if they get the right draw.”

But Newlee had harsh words for the game’s referees, who he said were biased against his squad.

“Today was probably one of the most horrendous, one-sided jobs of officiating that I’ve been involved in, and I’ve been involved in a lot of postseason tournaments in my 22 years,” Newlee said. “It was absolutely horrible, and I’m embarrassed for our league, embarrassed for our kids that we had to go and be subjected to that. Fresno State doesn’t need any help, they’re good enough on their own. It was just bad officiating and I’m not happy about it.”

Shortly after the postgame press conference, Newlee was publicly reprimanded by WAC commissioner Karl Benson for violating the league’s sportsmanship code.

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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.”

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Idaho 75, New Mexico State 63

10 Mar

RENO, Nev. — History has been made in the Lawlor Events Center this afternoon, as Yinka Olorunnife’s 23 points and 10 rebounds led Idaho to a 75-63 victory over New Mexico State in Western Athletic Conference Tournament quarterfinal action.

The Vandals become the first Idaho team ever to advance to a WAC Tournament semifinal game — the fourth-seeded Vandals (11-19, 8-8 WAC) will face No. 1 Fresno State (26-5, 16-0 WAC) on Friday at noon.

Shaena Kuehu scored a career-high 22 points and also pulled down 10 rebounds. Olorunnife canned three of four attempts from downtown, pacing the Vandals — who, as a team, shot a red-hot 10-for-23 from beyond the arc. Idaho also outrebounded the Aggies, 46-37. It’s the Vandals’ fifth straight win over New Mexico State, as Jon Newlee-coached teams have never lost to the WAC’s Red Aggies.

We’ll have a complete postgame story tonight — for now, here’s raw video from the postgame press conferences and game stats.

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Vandal Nation Live in Reno: (4) Idaho vs. (5) New Mexico State

10 Mar

RENO, Nev. — In the Vandals’ five years in the Western Athletic Conference, no Idaho basketball team has made it past the tournament quarterfinals.

That could be about to change.

This afternoon, the fourth-seeded Vandals square off against the fifth-seeded New Mexico State Aggies in a battle royale between a pair of squads that have no love lost between them. The winner goes on to the WAC Tournament semis.

Jon Newlee’s squad has made a miracle turnaround, after losing star guard Derisa Taleni to a preseason injury and winning just two non-conference games. Led by Shaena Kuehu, Rachele Kloke, Yinka Olorunnife and Charlotte Otero, the Vandals have taken down NMSU the last four times the teams have met. Can they make it five? We’ll find out.

Complete pregame coverage begins at 2 p.m., with tipoff 30 minutes later.

Click here for Vandal Nation Live commentary, analysis and chat!

WAC Tournament Pre-info

9 Mar

MOSCOW — We are getting ready to depart for Reno and the Western Athletic Conference Tournament! This space will have much more preview stuff up throughout the day, but here’s a rundown of where the Vandals stand:


Jon Newlee’s squad has made a miracle turnaround after losing leading scorer Derisa Taleni to an injury before the first game was played. The Vandals won just two games in non-conference action, but finished .500 in WAC play to nab the No. 4 seed in Reno. They’ll take on No. 5 New Mexico State at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. We’ll go live from courtside at 2 o’clock.


Don Verlin’s second year has been a roller-coaster ride, and unfortunately much of the conference season was a downward plunge. The Vandals’ 6-10 WAC record was good for only the No. 7 seed in the tournament, and on Thursday they’ll face the No. 2 seed, a very talented Nevada squad on the Wolf Pack’s home floor. That game is the prime-time battle, tipping at 6 p.m., and we’ll go live at 5:30.

Finally, a huge thank you to all who have donated to help make this trip possible — or at least, possible without ruining my credit score! We’ll have more on that later, too.

Louisiana Tech spoils Senior Night for Vandals

4 Mar

This isn’t how Charlotte Otero hoped her senior night would be.

“It felt good to break my career high and knowing that I went out and gave it my all,” Otero said. “Of course, it would have been a lot better to have won — it was our first time on national television and we know what we are capable of, we just didn’t take it all the way.”

The Idaho Vandals fell behind early to Louisiana Tech and couldn’t pull out a win despite drawing within seven points during a 20-5 run late in the game, dropping the contest 63-56.

“Our shot selection was horrendous,” Idaho coach Jon Newlee said. “We are not a team that can play one-on-one basketball.”

Wednesday night’s game was the last home game for seniors Otero, volleyball star Debbie Pederson, Amy Eisses and soccer sensation Anna Sandman. Pederson walked onto the team in the middle of the season and has been a steady contributor for the Vandals, while Sandman came to help with practice.

Otero, who has been the heart and soul of the Vandals in her four years at Idaho, dropped a career-high 18 points, dishing out six assists and grabbing four rebounds in her final home game.

“She was the best player on the floor on both teams,” Newlee said. “She played with a lot of heart, a lot of energy, made her shots, handled the ball and got assists, got some steals – she was all over the place.”

The Vandals got a scare early in the game when sophomore Shaena Kuehu was knocked down, hitting her head hard on the court. Kuehu remained lying on the court for half a minute as the crowd watched in muted dismay before erupting in cheers as she got up and walked to the bench, by her own power but clearly in distress.

She was forced to sit out the remainder of the first half, and much of the second before making a late-game comeback.

“I didn’t figure she would be back tonight — I thought ‘oh man, please, please let her be ready to go in the WAC tournament.’” Newlee said. “She has a huge knot on the back of her head, but lucky no concussion symptoms.”

Kuehu’s injury was followed by flat play from the Vandals, which opened the door for a 15-2 La Tech run in the middle of the first and set the stage for a 22-point lead, which was simply too big for the Vandals to overcome.

The bitter loss was partially redeemed by strong play from Bianca Cheever. Cheever played a strong defensive games, but it was back-to-back three-point shots which has Newlee excited.

“It was nice to see her make a couple of shots,” Newlee said. “There was the Cheever we saw earlier in the year — hopefully that Cheever gets on the bus and the airplane to Reno with us.”

Otero said that, while the loss stings, she is proud to have gone out in such style and been a part of the Vandal tradition.

“I’m really thankful that I had the opportunity to stay here,” Otero said. “When the coaches came in, they still stuck with me and gave me a chance — I’m just really glad to be a part of the Idaho history.”

For Newlee, the feeling is mutual.

“I’ve never had a kid practice and play as hard for as long as she has. She has done everything I’ve asked her to do and more — we are going to miss her, ” Newlee said with a deep breath and a composing pause. ” I wish I would have been here…I wish we had one more year with her.”

Vandal Nation Live: Idaho vs. Louisiana Tech

3 Mar

It’s Senior Night for the Vandal women, and they’re on national television for the first time ever. Live on ESPNU, Idaho takes on Louisiana Tech in a key battle down the stretch of the Western Athletic Conference regular season.

The Vandals have won three straight games and five of their last seven, to put them at 7-7 in the WAC — in sight of a top-half seed for next week’s conference tournament. But to get there, they’ll have to get past the always-tough Lady Techsters.

Will Charlotte Otero have a magical Senior Night in Moscow? Find out with us, as we’ll have all the action for you live, with pregame at 7:30 p.m., tip at 8.

Click here for Vandal Nation Live commentary, analysis and chat.

Vandal Nation Live: Idaho vs. New Mexico State

20 Feb

We’ve got a full day of Idaho basketball action on tap, and it starts with the Vandal women in a Western Athletic Conference matinee showdown against New Mexico State at 3 p.m.. The men square off against Long Beach State immediately after the women finish.

The Aggies are 6-6 in conference play, sitting in fourth in the WAC standings. Idaho is 4-7, in seventh — a victory this afternoon would put the Vandals just half a game back from Boise State with four contests remaining.

In the two teams’ previous meeting, Idaho upset the Aggies in Las Cruces, 68-65. Jon Newlee’s squad, led by Charlotte Otero, Rachele Kloke and Yinka Olorunnife, will look to repeat the feat on home hardwood.

We’ll have pregame coverage starting at 2:30 p.m., tip at 3.

Click here for Vandal Nation Live commentary, analysis and chat!

Idaho 74, Hawaii 59

13 Feb

Idaho couldn’t find its shot from downtown this afternoon, as three after three from the homestanding Vandals clanked off the rim, glanced off the glass or just airballed entirely.

No matter, because it was time for Yinka Olorunnife to have another monster game in the paint.

The Vandal women overpowered Hawaii this afternoon in the Cowan Spectrum, 74-59, on the strength of Yinka Olorunnife’s third career 25-point performance. The junior post once again tied her career scoring high and collected a double-double with 14 rebounds. With the victory, Idaho improved to 6-17 overall, 4-6 in Western Athletic Conference play. The Vandals are now all but assured of a berth in next month’s WAC Tournament.

We’ll have a complete postgame wrap later, but here’s video interviews with Jon Newlee, Yinka Olorunnife and Rachele Kloke.

Victory on the hard court.

4 Feb

It was a situation which the Vandals have found themselves in almost too many times for Idaho coach Jon Newlee to count. With under two minutes remaining, the Vandals held a slim lead over Nevada, ranked second in the WAC, and were coming out of a time-out after Nevada sunk a big shot and looked on the verge of breaking even.

“What was going in my head (during the time-out) was we have been in this position so many times,” Newlee said. “I told the players ‘we are going to close this one out and we are winning this ball game and not giving it away.’”

They Vandals didn’t disappoint.

After heartbreaking losses to La Tech in overtime and Utah State at the end of regulation, the Vandals finally clamped down and held Nevada, whose only loss was to unbeaten Fresno State, to a measly 26 percent shooting in the second half, including an abysmal 18 percent from three-point range as Idaho brought down Nevada by a score of 61-53.

“The first thing I said (to the team) is that I am so happy to not be standing here and saying we gave another game away,” Newlee said. “I am proud of the way the team responded throughout the close games and the breaks have finally started to come our way.”

The entire game was a see-saw affair, with eight lead changes as both teams traded punches early, with Idaho entering halftime down by one point. The Vandals turned up the heat in the second, out-shooting Nevada for a eight-point lead with under two minutes to go before Nevada’s Tahnee Robinson nailed a perfect three to bring Nevada within striking distance at 57-52.

“When she (Robinson) banked in that three, I thought, well, here we go again,” Newlee said. “It was the same as in San Jose, when they banked in a three from the top and, well there you go.”

Instead of folding, the Vandals came out of the huddle and played arguably their best defense of the year — Nevada would get just one point in the next two minutes, off a free-throw.

Rachele Kloke said the team took the best parts of their game against La Tech and worked on transition play.

“It feels amazing,” Kloke said. “Nevada is a great team — it was a big win for us and it will give us more momentum.”

The Vandals, despite being out-matched size-wise in almost every game, have hung in with the best in the conference, losing their past their past three games by single digits. Newlee said the team played hard but the breaks just never seemed to happen for the team until tonight.

“Char’s layup was a great example — it hung on the rim and went in,” Newlee said. “All year, that ball has been hanging on the rim and coming off.”

The Vandals took their high-pressure defense, which was so effective against La Tech, and applied it to Nevada to hold them to a paltry 34 percent shooting from the floor.

On the other end, Idaho nailed 44 percent of their shots and an astounding 41 percent from three-point range.

Idaho was once again led by Rachele Kloke, who tallied up 17 points along with six rebounds. Yinka Olorunnife was a force at both ends, tallying 15 points for the Vandals cause as well as shutting down Nevada’s top scorers, and Shaena Kuehu rounded out the Vandals top-three with 12 points as well as leading the team with 8 rebounds.

“Sometime you feel like that black could is over your head,” Newlee said. “But you have to make your own luck with effort and playing smart, and I thought we did that tonight.”

The Vandals have an entire week to study film and work on their game before heading to California with a showdown against unbeaten Fresno State, which sits firmly in first place in the WAC.

Women fight back, tie game, but lose heartbreaker to Utah State

27 Jan

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.

Vandal Nation Live: Idaho vs. Utah State

27 Jan

The Idaho women are back in action tonight against the Utah State Aggies, and Jon Newlee’s squad will be looking to build momentum off a road split last week.

We’ll have all the action from courtside in the Cowan Spectrum. Join us for pregame coverage at 6:30 p.m., tip at 7.

Click here for Vandal Nation Live commentary, analysis and chat!


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