Tag Archives: WAC Tournament

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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Women outworked in semifinals

9 Mar

Another season for the Idaho women’s basketball team is in the books after the Vandals fell to Fresno State 80-55 in the WAC Tournament semifinals on Friday at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.

Fresno State’s defensive pressure disrupted the Idaho offense all game and the Vandals were never able to mount a comeback after falling behind early.

Sophomore Alyssa Charlston said Idaho wasn’t able to adjust to Fresno State’s speed and pressure quick enough.

“We’ve played against it before, and I don’t know why we came out more tentative this time,” Charlston said. “We kind of lacked confidence in the beginning and it just seemed like their speed of the game was faster than us.”

The Bulldogs didn’t waste any time at the start and quickly established control of the game. Idaho was held scoreless through the first nine minutes of the game, allowing Fresno State to take a 20-0 lead. Things settled down a bit for Idaho in the second half of the period, but the Vandals still went into halftime with a 19-point deficit and down 33-14.

Idaho coach Jon Newlee said the first minutes of the game set a tone that Idaho was never able to break.

“I thought the tone was set early when we missed those layups early, point blank layups,” Newlee said. “I think it kind of fed their fire a little bit. We knew they were going to come out extremely aggressive.”

The second half didn’t get any better for the Vandals. Fresno State came out firing again and never allowed Idaho to mount a comeback. The Bulldogs lead by as many as 36 and were able to put the game in cruise control for the blowout victory.

Fresno State coach Adrian Wiggins said his team’s victory was due to their disruption of Idaho’s flow and the confidence his team played with. 

“We had a lot of respect for Idaho’s shooting ability. We didn’t want to let them catch and shoot,” Wiggins said. “…We didn’t make a lot of buckets in the first half, but I think we gained a lot of confidence with the lead we jumped out to.”

Fresno State’s Ki-Ki Moore led all scorers with 19 and was one of four Bulldogs players to reach double figures in the contest. Charlston lead Idaho with 14.

The Vandals were outrebounded 44-34 in the game and gave up 17 offensive boards. Newlee said his team gave up too many second chances to Fresno State.

“The offensive rebounds really hurt us. One of our keys to winning was not to give them second changes. I think they do a great job of chasing down the misses,” Newlee said. “We did not do a good job of blocking out tonight. We did an extremely poor job of blocking out tonight and it did end up costing us.

With the win the Bulldogs move on to the conference championship where they will play La. Tech in an attempt to win a second straight WAC title. It’s the second straight year the two teams have met in the final.

It was a season of ups and downs for a young Vandal squad that managed to come together toward the end of the season and claim the No. 4 seed in the tournament before winning the first round. The Vandals will say goodbye to seniors Keri Arendse, Adrie Shiels and Ganeaya Rogers.


WAC woes find men, again

8 Mar

Theo Lawson


Optimism became contagious for the Vandal men’s basketball team late in the second half, but a second half surge wasn’t enough to save No. 3 Idaho from crashing out if its second consecutive WAC Tournament, falling to No. 6 Hawaii 72-70 in the first round.

A Zane Johnson-less Warrior team faced further despair midway through the second half when second-leading scorer Joston Thomas earned a technical foul and fouled out of the game. Only minutes later, coach Gib Arnold drew the team’s second technical, helping Idaho take a seven-point lead, its largest of the game.

But it was a Warrior team that made all the right plays at all the right rimes. Johnson’s replacement, freshman Shaquille Stokes, netted a crucial three-point shot to tie the game at 64-64 with three minutes to play.

“Obviously losing Zane was a big deal and I just felt good about this team, I felt like they deserved it,” Hawaii coach Gib Arnold said. “We’ve been a team that’s battled, we’ve been a team that’s done some really good things this year… We’ve struggled the past three weeks and the team and the university needed it.”

At 68-68 and with less than one minute remaining, Vander Joaquim stole an offensive rebound away from the Vandals, tipping it back in to earn a two-point lead. Kyle Barone’s lay in on the other end set the score level once more but Hawaii’s Hauns Brereton knocked down a baseline jumper, leaving the Vandals three seconds to pull out a miracle. Stephen Madison’s inbounds pass fell into the hands of Joaquim and the Warriors had every right to celebrate their first conference tournament victory since 2005.

“We made a couple of tough decisions but that’s basketball and it came down to a one-possession game,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said. “I thought they did things they usually do to stop our run and get themselves back in, Stokes hit a big three.”

At the helm for four years now, Verlin has experienced his fair share of tournament woes.

“It was a tough one, there’s no question about it,” Verlin said. “You’ve got to give Hawaii credit, the way they played down the stretch, Vander Joaquim had a couple key rebounds down the stretch there… I couldn’t be prouder of our team; I thought we played extremely hard.”

Idaho’s offensive success was limited in the first half, when the Vandals shot a dismal 34 percent from the field and 12 percent from three-point range. Both teams concluded the game shooting 44 percent from the field.

Stokes played Johnson’s role almost to perfection and the Harlem native, who didn’t log one minute against the Vandals in Moscow earlier this season, tallied 17 points Thursday.

Arnold praised the play of his two guards.

“I mean you’ve got two point guards who have combined for 12 and 1 (12 assists, one turnover), you’re going to be in every game and we’ve kind of seen that translate, which is nice,” he said.

It was Brereton who was the Warriors’ surprise hero though. In addition to his game-winning jumper, the junior forward was 6 of 8 from the field and also finished with 17 points. Brereton averaged just seven points-per-game during the regular season.

The dominant inside play of Joaquim and Barone, the conference’s top two centers, caused 42 fouls between the teams. Joaquim’s double-double saw him drop 20 points and grab 13 rebounds while Barone added 19 points. Senior forward Djim Bandoumel snatched a career-high 16 rebounds.

Idaho’s chances at a postseason tournament, likely the CIT or CBI, are high and will be announced as early as Sunday.

The Warriors will advance to the semifinals and play the winner of No. 2 New Mexico State and No. 7 Fresno State.

Vandals survive, advance to semi-finals

7 Mar

Kevin Bingaman


After seeing a 19-point first half lead evaporate, the Vandal women’s basketball team was able to hang on and beat San Jose State 67-63 Wednesday night at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas and advance to the semi-finals of the WAC Tournament.

The Spartans surged in the second half and got within three points of Idaho with less than a minute to go, but freshman Krissy Karr hit two free throws to give the Vandals a four-point lead that would hold.

Idaho sophomore Alyssa Charlston said it’s an amazing feeling to get the first round win.

“It’s huge for us. We’re a team that’s been improving all along,” Charlston said. “… We have a lot of threats on our team and I think just getting this game is going to get a lot of confidence.”

Next up for Idaho will be the No. 1 seeded Fresno State Bulldogs. The game is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on Friday.

The Vandals started the game on a 5-0 run, but it was quickly countered by the Spartans. Over the next 10 minutes the Vandals slowly extended their lead, and after an 8-0 run and barrage of 3-pointers, Idaho cemented the lead. Idaho led by as many as 19 and went in to the break with a 41-24 lead.  The Vandals hit nine 3-pointers in the first half.

Idaho coach Jon Newlee said it was all about getting stops in the first half.

“We came out on fire. I thought we’re playing well,” Newlee said. “I thought we defended extremely well in the first half.”

The score may have been lopsided at halftime, but the game was far from over. The Spartans came out of the locker room and went on a 10-2 run to cut the deficit to single digits. Throughout the half the teams played a counter punch game, but slowly the Spartans climbed back into it, led by all-WAC senior Brittany Johnson.

The Spartans cut the deficit to three in the last minute but Johnson was forced to give up her fifth and final foul, sending Karr to the line with 3.9 seconds remaining. Karr made both free throws to make it a two possession game, sealing the Idaho victory.

Newlee said he wasn’t happy with his team’s energy in the second period.

“In the second half, I thought defensively we broke down as some point, but you have to give a lot of credit to Brittany (Johnson),” Newlee said. “I thought in the second half we got tentative with the basketball and tentative in our shot selection and it almost cost us, but I’m proud of the way we hung tough.”

Johnson led all scorers with 31 points. Karr led Idaho with 17 while Charlston had 16 and 15 rebounds.

Newlee said the Vandals will practice at a local high school on Thursday to prepare for Fresno State on Friday.

For San Jose State, the loss ends another season and the career of Johnson, who was the second-leading scorer in the conference this season. It was a breakout year for the Spartans, who won nine more games this year than last year. First-year coach Tim La Kose was named WAC coach of the year for his efforts.

La Kose said despite losing Johnson, this year should serve as a building block for San Jose State’s future.

“Going into the future now, I think the expectations have been laid,” La Kose said. “It’s a tribute to what this group did.”





WAC Tournament: Vandal women optimistic for first round

6 Mar

Kevin Bingaman


Tournament time is finally here and the Idaho women’s basketball team will get things going when they take on San Jose State in the first round of the WAC Tournament Wednesday night.

The Vandals finished the regular season with a 6-8 conference record and are the No. 4 seeded team in the tournament. Idaho started conference play 0-5, but put it together in the second half of the season.

Sophomore Alyssa Charlston said the team is ecstatic for tournament play.

“We’re super excited,” Charlston said. “Everything starts off 0-0 from here on out, so we’re looking to play a whole new brand of basketball.”

It will be the third meeting between the Vandals and Spartans this season. Idaho won both meetings this year, but by a narrow margin.  Charlston said Idaho isn’t taking anything for granted.

“It shows that we can finish games, but the WAC tournament is a whole different thing,” Charlston said. “It’s a clean slate. It’s hard to beat a team three times. It’s been two close games. We have the confidence and know we are capable of it, but it’s no guarantee whatsoever.”

The Spartans are led by all-WAC selection Brittany Johnson, who is the second-leading scorer in the conference and played a big role in SJSU’s resurrection this season. Johnson set a new Spartan record for points in a season.

SJSU coach Tim La Kose was named WAC coach of the year this season in his first year with the Spartans. Under La Kose, the Spartans won nine more games than they did last season.

The Vandals won their last two games of the season, largely because they were able to take care of the ball. In their last two games the Vandals turned the ball over just 16 times. Idaho coach Jon Newlee said his team has to continue to cut turnovers if the wins are going to keep coming.

“We’re going to have to make good decisions with the basketball,” Newlee said. “I think we’re going to have to rebound and match their physicality. Defensively, they’re extremely talented and athletic offensively, so we’re going to have to get out there. I think we’re going to have to come focused defensively.”

Leading the Vandals is Charlston, who was also named to the all-WAC first team. Charlston was the fourth-leading scorer in the conference and the second-leading rebounder.

The Vandals are a young squad and the experience of a conference tournament will be a new experience to multiple players on the roster. Nevertheless, Newlee said his team is focused and ready to go.

“I think we’re focused,” Newlee said. “They know what’s at stake. It’s the best time of the year. It’s postseason tournament time, a lot riding on it. There’ll be a lot of emotion out there.”

“I think we’re excited to get out there,” Charlston said. “We just have to bring the energy that we brought the last five or eight games.”

Tipoff is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. at Las Vegas’ Orleans Arena. The winner of the contest will advance to the semifinals and play on Friday.



WAC Tournament brackets- Men’s and women’s

4 Mar

WAC Soccer Tournament Preview

2 Nov

Sean Kramer


After a long season of highs and lows for the Idaho soccer program, it’s all come down to one thing – A  shot at the WAC conference championship.

The team is on its way to Fresno, Calif. to participate in the Conference tournament for a second consecutive season, a goal that they set for themselves at the very start of the year. While simply qualifying for the tournament for just the second time in program history could be considered a success for Idaho, this year the only aim is to come home after winning the whole thing.

“We’ve got a chip on our shoulder,” coach Pete Showler said. “It’s a chance for us to go and prove where we’re at. The girls are very well mentally prepared, very well organized. They’re up for this.”

The Vandals are seeded into the quarterfinals of the tournament. In order to be crowned WAC champions, the Vandals need to win three consecutive matches throughout the weekend. The champion gets an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Standing in their way to the finals are San Jose State and Utah State, two teams the Vandals weren’t able to beat in the regular season.

“We didn’t come out with the right mindset for those games,” starting goalkeeper Caroline Towles said. “We were a little bit off all around the field. The time around it’s gonna be a different focus. We’re focused on winning, we’re not distracted, we know what to expect this time.”

The attitude around the team is that the conference tournament is a new season, and things that have happened earlier in the year do not matter.

“Conference tournament is completely different. It’s starting fresh, every game is a must win. The attitude and approach will be that much more focused, “ Showler said. “The girls know what they’ve got to do. Things that have gone before us is the past. It’s win or go home.”

“It’s a clean slate,” Towles said. “Conference is now irrelevant at this point. Our goal was to get here, and we did that. Now it’s to win it.”

Last season the Vandals entered the tournament with momentum as the number the seed, facing a Fresno State team that qualified as the last seed. Idaho conceded early goals and never recovered, as the Bulldogs went on not only to win that game, but the entire tournament.

This year the team believes it’s more prepared for the challenges that await them.

“Last year we were really excited but really nervous and didn’t know what to think coming out for it. We didn’t really understand how important each game was” Chelsea Small said, the team’s leading goal scorer. “We want to win, because it wasn’t a fun trip home last year. This year we’re going to go into that first game knowing either we win or we go home. We really realize how important it is to take it one game at a time.”

“Last year we learned that anything could happen,” Towles added. “Going in there and knowing that we can go in and compete with every single team we play and that anything is possible.”

The message of confidence and to play within themselves is a constant one from Showler to his girls as they approach what could be a potentially program defining weekend.

“On our day we can compete with anybody and we just have to go and show that,” he said. “There’s only one thing that’s in mind and that’s to win.”


Video story: Vandal Soccer heads to WAC championship

2 Nov

Whew, talk about updates galore. We’ve been slacking slightly on the video stories, but these babies are back in full swing. Front and center — a recap of Idaho’s weekend and looking ahead to the WAC tournament. Excitement abound.

Injury to JoJo Dickson mars Vandal victory

25 Oct

The thunderous crowd at the Kibbie Dome had fallen silent and on the field, all that could be heard were the anguished cries of senior safety Shiloh Keo and junior linebacker Robert Siavii and a stream of verbal outbursts from Vandal defenders.

In the middle of it all lay senior Jo Jo Dickson, writhing in pain, clutching his fractured left leg.

On the previous play, Dickson had made a block for Idaho before being side-swiped by New Mexico State’s Kenny Turner on a late hit that sent Dickson to the turf.

Turner was whistled for a personal foul, but the damage had been done. Dickson was quickly attended by medical staff, put on a stretcher and rushed to Gritman Medical Hospital for surgery on an injury that will likely end the senior’s career as a Vandal.

Dickson’s final gesture in Vandal uniform – a wave to his teammates and the crowd in the Kibbie Dome, which erupted in cheers of ‘Jo Jo, Jo Jo’.

The single play overshadowed a huge night that saw Idaho’s offense build a 31-0 lead early on and, in large part due to the stifling play of Idaho’s defense, defeat the NMSU Aggies 37-14.

“It feels good, but it feels bad at the same time — it’s really hard to swallow,” said a visibly shaken Siavii, who is Dickson’s roommate. “He’s like my older brother. I’ve lived with him for two years. To see him out of the field really hurts me and just gave me an extra push to be even stronger.”

Following the play, Idaho coach Robb Akey knew of the dire situation of his teammates, calling them together and consoling Keo and Siavii.

“I saw some rage and a lot of hurt,” Akey said. “They lost one of their brothers during the course of the game today. You have no idea what kind of an impact that had. The guys overcame that and played hard and played well for the remainder of the game.”

The loss of Dickson is a staggering blow for Idaho. Not only did Dickson provide steady senior leadership on the field, he was Idaho’s fourth-leading defensemen, recording 34 total tackles and one interception in seven games.

“It’s really disheartening,” Siavii said. “But the whole defense — we’re strong. We have strong backup and we feel we are going to get our team back together again.”

For the third time this season, Idaho used strong-arm defense to clamp down on the opposition. The Vandals forced numerous three-and-out situations against the Aggies, who were looking for their first WAC win after entering the game with a woeful 1-5 record, and didn’t let the Aggies get on the board until the game was well out of reach.

“I think we got to comfortable,” said receiver Maurice Shaw. “We came out strong, but didn’t come out with the same desire and intensity after the half.”

NMSU got their first touchdown with seven second in the half on a 17-yard passing play, and struck late once again with 19 second remaining in the game.

“Defensively, I thought our guys continued to play pretty well,” Akey said. “I don’t like the score we gave up there at the end. We learned a lesson from that, but it’s an inexpensive one, ‘cause all it cost us was points on the board.”

Idaho’s offense was, once again, powered by Nate Enderle, who threw for 291 yards and three touchdowns. The Aggies came into the game being in the WAC cellar in regards to defense, and Idaho capitalized.


Idaho’s offensive cause was helped greatly by the return of Maurice Shaw, who returned from a one-game suspension and led the Vandal receivers with 73 yards and a touchdown reception. Shaw made the most of his six catches, including a Randy Moss impersonation in the end zone, as Shaw reached out and pulled in a one-handed pass for the score.

Idaho’s rushing game, however, is still lagging. Idaho brought up 88 rushing yards on 27 carries against New Mexico State. Several lapse in defense also cost the Vandals, who gave up a big NMSU touchdown pass that was waved off on an illegal formation on the part of the Aggies.

Akey said the squad will need to overcome the loss of Jo Jo and prepare for next weekend, when the Vandals travel to Hawaii to take on the Warriors.

Hawaii has been the surprise in the WAC, and are unbeaten in WAC play with a 4-0 record. Akey aknoladged it will be a tough battle, but said his squad will be ready for it when the time comes. For now, the focus is on another victory at home.

“We got our first WAC win today, and we are still undefeated in the Dome,” Akey said. “We’ve got another winning streak started.”



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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Vandal Nation Live in Reno: (4) Idaho vs. (1) Fresno State

12 Mar

RENO, Nev. — On Wednesday night, Idaho’s women made history, becoming the first Vandal basketball team to advance to a Western Athletic Conference Tournament semifinal game.

Today, they face that challenge — against a No. 1-seeded Fresno State squad that hasn’t lost a game in WAC play this year.

Powered by guard Jaleesa Ross’ unconscious shooting, the Bulldogs have been the class of the conference all season long, and destroyed the Vandals last time out in Fresno. Charlotte Otero, Yinka Olorunnife and the rest of the Vandals will no doubt be out for revenge.

Complete pregame coverage begins at 11:30 a.m., with tipoff at noon.

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

Idaho’s tournament dreams denied

11 Mar

RENO, Nev. — In four minutes and 39 seconds of the first half of Idaho’s Western Athletic Conference Tournament quarterfinal matchup against Nevada, the Vandals’ dreams of making it to the NCAA Tournament were shattered. The remaining 25 minutes of play were merely a formality.

After giving up a 13-2 run to open the game, Idaho clawed back in with red-hot outside shooting from Luciano de Souza, putting the Vandals within striking distance of Nevada midway through the first half. The homestanding Wolf Pack led, 27-21, with 9:43 remaining in the period, but all the momentum was with the black-clad Idaho squad.

Wolf Pack guard Brandon Fields, however, had other plans.

In a minute and 14 seconds, Fields drained back-to-back 3-pointers and slammed home a dunk, making for a personal 8-0 run. Add a pair of Luke Babbitt jumpers and all of a sudden, the Vandals trailed by 18 points with 5:04 to play in the first half. Nevada’s advantage would never be less than double digits the rest of the way.

Idaho fell to the Wolf Pack tonight, 87-71, ending a season that has been, for the Vandals, a frustrating campaign of unfulfilled potential.

“We had a lot of adversity this season, but we’ve kept fighting,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said. “We beat a Top 25 team, we went on the road and won in Utah and I can’t tell you how proud I am of my seniors. There’s so many positives, but it’s still tough to go out like this.”

The Vandals finish the season with a 15-16 record, 6-10 in WAC regular-season play. Nevada (20-11, 11-5 WAC) continues to the semifinals, where they’ll play New Mexico State tomorrow.

On the night, Nevada shot 55 percent from the floor and 55 percent from downtown, while holding Idaho to just 40 and 30 percent, respectively. The Vandals simply couldn’t get the ball in the basket.

The stat sheet tells the tale. After a red-hot 8-for-14 performance from downtown against Hawaii, Steffan Johnson went ice-cold, hitting just one of eight shots from the floor and missing all five attempts from beyond the arc. Mac Hopson shot just 4-for-16 and Shawn Henderson could convert only three of his 11 tries. Another double-double night from Marvin Jefferson — 14 points on 6-11 shooting to go with 10 rebounds — and a career-best 20 points from de Souza couldn’t make up for the lack of backcourt production.

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Vandal Nation Live in Reno: (7) Idaho at (2) Nevada

11 Mar

RENO, Nev. — It’s a tough challenge, being the No. 7 seed facing off against a No. 2 seed. It’s even tougher when you’re playing the No. 2 seed on their own home floor.

That’s the task facing the Idaho Vandals tonight in the Lawlor Events Center, as they square off against the Nevada Wolf Pack in a Western Athletic Conference Tournament quarterfinal. The winner goes on to the WAC Tournament semifinals tomorrow.

Don Verlin’s squad has struggled to find consistency this year, as chemistry and mental lapses cost the Vandals valuable victories. Idaho’s season, which started so promisingly with an upset of Utah in Salt Lake City, now comes down to this game. Win, and the dream is alive. Lose, and it’s back to Moscow for the long wait until November.

Can the Vandals pull off the improbable bracket upset? Join us, live from courtside, and find out.

Complete pregame coverage begins at 5:30 p.m., with tipoff at 6.

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

Good Afternoon Vandal Nation: WAC Tournament Day 2

11 Mar

RENO, Nev. — We’re back in the Lawlor Events Center for the second day of quarterfinal action in the 2010 Western Athletic Conference Basketball Tournament.

The bracket for the men’s quarterfinals looks like this:

(1) Utah State vs. (8) Boise State — noon

(4) Louisiana Tech vs. (5) Fresno State — 2:30 p.m.

(2) Nevada vs. (7) Idaho — 6 p.m.

(3) New Mexico State vs. (6) San Jose State — 8:30 p.m.

We’ll have complete liveblog coverage of the Vandals/Wolf Pack showdown, with pregame analysis starting at 5:30 p.m., tip at 6.

The winners will play Friday in the semifinals, with the 1/8 and 4/5 winners squaring off in one matchup, the 2/7 and 3/6 winners in the other.

Yesterday, Idaho’s women made history, becoming the first Vandal team 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 noon.

Men’s basketball

  • Follow us on Twitter — @VandalNation — for live courtside scoring updates throughout the WAC Tournament.
  • The Spokesman-Review’s Josh Wright has a game preview of this evening’s Idaho/Nevada showdown.
  • Idaho’s “sneaky” squad could pose a threat to the Wolf Pack’s NCAA Tournament hopes — at least, so says the Reno Gazette-Journal’s Chris Murray.

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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