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Univ. of Idaho - Basketball

Vandal women fall to Utah St. in heartbreaker

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(Photo: Univ. of Idaho Athletics) (Photo: Univ. of Idaho Athletics)

By Univ. of Idaho Athletics

MOSCOW, Idaho - TaHara Williams, literally in the blink of an eye, dashed Idaho's hopes of a comeback with her 15-foot jumper as time expired to give Utah State University a hard-fought 57-55 Western Athletic Conference victory over the Vandals Wednesday night.

The Vandals, who trailed early but battled back and took turns with the lead in the second half, forged a tie on Shaena Kuehu's layup with 10 seconds to play. A timeout to determine exactly how much time was left ended with 9.2 seconds showing and the Aggies with the ball. They quickly moved past midcourt and the ball went to Williams, who shook her defender with a fake and drilled the game winner.

"She made the big shot," Idaho coach Jon Newlee said. "More credit to her. It wasn't a layup. She put it down at the buzzer."

While Williams shot indeed was the game winner, there were points throughout the 40 minutes where Newlee saw inconsistencies and unsteadiness.

"We did have some points in the game where we did do well but we need to do that for the full 40 minutes," said junior post Yinka Olorunnife, who had nine points and nine rebounds for the Vandals. "We had breakdowns in the game where it didn't need to come down to that last shot."

The Vandals trailed early and were facing a 10-2 deficit just three minutes into the game. They found their stride as the game wore on and used a 16-9 run to close to within 27-25 on Olorunnife's layup with just over two minutes left in the half.

They continued with the same tenacity to start the second half and took their first lead of the game when Kuehu first scored on a fast-break layup off her own steal then followed in rapid succession with a layup off a rebound scramble for a 32-30 edge with 19 minutes to play. The game teetered around a two-point margin for the next five minutes before an eight-point spurt gave the Aggies the lead and the momentum for the next 10 minutes.

After the Aggies built a nine-point lead, 55-46, with 4:17 to go, the Vandals came back to life and didn't allow another field goal by USU until Williams' game-ender, while scoring nine points of their own to reach the 55-55 tie.

"We can't keep putting ourselves in that position and expect to come out on top all the time," Newlee said. "We need to learn how to finish our plays. The really good teams make the plays at the end. You have to make your own luck. We didn't make our own luck."

Kuehu and senior Rachele Kloke led the Vandals (4-14, 2-3) led the all scorers with 14 points each. Williams was high for the Aggies (11-9, 3-4) with 12.

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