BOISE – It didn’t seem real.
The country’s top long-range shooter – an Idaho senior guard on the cusp of breaking the NCAA Division I single-season 3-point mark – couldn’t buy one.
Taylor Pierce hoisted 3 after 3 to try to help the Vandals chip away at Portland State’s lead Wednesday in the Big Sky Conference Tournament semifinals, hoping to keep the top-seeded Vandals’ NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
Pierce hit 137 treys this season – but none of the 12 she attempted in a 75-59 loss to the Vikings at CenturyLink Arena.
The Vandals weren’t a whole lot better, collectively shooting 35 percent from the field.
Fourth-seeded Portland State (24-7) stunned the Big Sky regular-season champion Vandals, advancing to Friday’s championship game. The Vikings will face No. 6 seed Eastern Washington.
Idaho (20-11) heads to the Women’s NIT and will learn its first-round opponent and destination next week.
Pierce lauded Portland State’s defense but also blamed herself for her unusually chilly performance.
“They did a good job of not losing me, but there were times that they did, and I got some good looks at the rim today,” said Pierce, who hit a combined 13 3-pointers in her last two games at CenturyLink Arena. “They weren’t falling for me, and that’s on me.”
Idaho senior guard Mikayla Ferenz, the Big Sky Conference’s all-time leading scorer and among the country’s top 3-point shooters, was also held to a modest 13 points (5 for 16 from the field).
Best friends and arguably the best backcourt duo in the history of the Big Sky, Pierce and Ferenz emotionally embraced each other as the final horn sounded.
Portland State, which led nearly the entire game, was paced by guard Kylie Jimenez, who had a game-high 22 points and nine assists
After losing twice to Idaho during the regular season and yielding a combined 28 3-pointers, Portland State emphasized using its length to guard the perimeter.
“At our place, they were launching from 10 feet from behind the line, so we knew we had to take that away,” Portland State coach Lynn Kennedy said. “We were quicker on our rotations tonight and our angles were great.”
Portland State shot nearly 45 percent from the field.
The Vandals, who were outrebounded 44-33, were led by forward Lizzy Klinker’s 21 points and nine rebounds.
“It sucks, and I really feel for these guys,” Idaho coach Jon Newlee said. “But it doesn’t take away from what we’ve done to win the league. In my mind, that’s a harder thing to do than get hot in a conference tournament and go to the NCAA Tournament.”
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