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Idaho - Women's Basketball

Late troubles doom Vandal women

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by Univ. of Idaho Athletics

MOSCOW, Idaho - The Idaho women's basketball team once again found itself on the losing end of a hard-fought battle, this time falling to the hot-shooting visiting St. Mary's Gaels, 74-67 on Sunday afternoon.

It was a tale of two halves for Idaho (1-8), which played tight defense in the first half and held the visitors to 28 points, but could not slow the Gaels in the second half. St. Mary's (5-4) shot a blistering 14-of-17 (.824) en route to 46 second-half points.

Idaho head coach Jon Newlee attributed the great shooting percentage to lack of focus on the defensive end by the Vandals.

"We had some bad defensive breakdowns in a crucial stretch," Newlee said. "It seemed like they made just about every shot they took in the second half, but when you are shooting wide open shots, the basket gets pretty big."

The first half was a game of runs as the Vandals jumped out to 11-2 lead in the game behind stellar defense and hot shooting of their own in making four of their first six while forcing St. Mary's into five turnovers in the first five minutes.

Two steals by senior guard Charlotte Otero, coupled with 3-pointers by Bianca Cheever and Rachele Kloke, helped the Vandals to their best first-half start of the year.

"I thought we started out great, and got after it real good," said Coach Newlee.

After a media timeout, St. Mary's settled down and answered with a 9-2 run of its own to cut the deficit to two at 13-11. Cheever ended the run with five straight points, part of her team-high 11 first-half points. After the teams traded buckets, the Gael shooters got loose and closed the half with another 9-2 run to force a 28-28 halftime tie. The Vandals' tenacious defense harassed St. Mary's into 12 first half turnovers which Idaho turned into 10 points.

The second half did not mirror the first in any way for Idaho, as the Gaels kept up the pressure by pouring on seven straight points, which gave the visitors a 16-2 run spanning the end of the first and the beginning of the second half. The Vandals could not stick with the Gael shooters and they paid a heavy price for it.

"I thought we started the second half not competing and acted like the game was over," said Newlee.

The Vandals did finally wake up, as they cut the St. Mary's lead to four points at 36-40, but would not get any closer, as the Gaels seemed to always have an answer when the Vandals made a run.

Idaho had four players in double digits for the game with junior Rachele Kloke finishing with a game- high 19 points on 7-of-16 shooting. Bianca Cheever added 16, Shaena Kuehu had 12, and Yinka Olorunnife scored 10 points to go along with her team-high seven rebounds. The Vandals shot 23-of-56 (.411) for the game with a 9-26 (.346) mark from 3-point land.

St. Mary's came into the game with a serious height advantage and used it to hold a 33-23 rebounding edge. Senior guard Jontelle Smith led the Gaels with 16 points, attributed mainly to her 4-of-6 effort from beyond the arc. Another player that gave the Vandals fits was 6-4 junior post Louella Tomlinson, who finished with an impressive stat line consisting of 13 points, six rebounds, five assists, and six blocks.

Idaho had multiple opportunities to cut into the Gael lead during the second half, but could not seem to capitalize.

"I felt like we let this one slip away," Newlee said.

The Vandals will look to get their second win of the year as they will host the visiting Portland Pilots December 11. That game will tip off at 7 p.m. (PST) at Memorial Gym.

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