Courtesy Idaho athletics
SEATTLE – The Idaho women's basketball team dug itself out of a 14-point second half deficit to take a brief lead late, but Seattle U's Ashley Ward hit 15-foot jumper with 1.2 seconds left to give the Redhawks a 55-53 win in the regular-season finale for both teams.
The Vandals missed their first 12 shots in the second half and trailed 44-31 before they got things going on both ends of the floor. Idaho cut the deficit to 11 twice before using a 15-2 run that lasted six minutes to take a 51-49 lead with 4:28 to play. Stacey Barr scored eight points during the run and Idaho forced Seattle U into four turnovers in that stretch.
"Our intensity level at the defensive end really picked up," Newlee said of Idaho's run. "We challenged them at halftime to defend like the last eight minutes of the first half when they didn't have field goal."
After Idaho took its lead, however, it went four minutes without scoring, allowing the Redhawks to regain the momentum. Seattle U tied the game at 51-51 with a pair of free throws form Ward with 2:07 to play. A layup 40 seconds later put the Redhawks up a by pair, but on the next possession Barr earned a trip to the free throw line where she sank both to tie the game at 53-all with 26 seconds left. Daidra Brown's layup attempt was rejected by Jessica Graham and a held-ball call on the rebound gave the Redhawks one last chance with 3.8 seconds on the clock. That's when Ward connected on her game-winning jumper.
Idaho's last three losses have each come by two points with last-second lead-changing baskets dooming the Vandals in the last two.
"I told them we've been on the wrong end all year of last-second shots," Idaho coach Jon Newlee said. "To their credit they executed. We executed pretty well on our end and had a great look and it didn't go down. I was proud of our players for fighting back like we did. In the second half we did a good job of finally defending. The game was a war. Extremely physical basketball game out there and we'll see what happens in Vegas.
Stacey Barr led Idaho with 17 points and six rebounds. Ali Forde added nine points and six boards for Idaho and Christina Salvatore finished with eight points and six rebounds. Connie Ballestero had seven points, four rebounds and three assists for Idaho.
The Vandals shot 35.1 percent from the field in the game and 25.0 percent from 3-point range. Also working against the Vandals was its 6-of-12 performance at the free throw line. The Redhawks out-rebounded Idaho 48-34 and owned a 16-4 advantage in second-chance points. Seattle U shot 37.7 percent from the field and hit 3-of-10 3-pointers. Both teams turned the ball over 19 times and Seattle U led 19-17 in points off turnovers.
"Some of our turnovers were just our own fault," Newlee said. "We've got to do a better job of handling pressure and not panicking. It's a great game to play before we hit Las Vegas when the real pressure is going to hit. We handled it well at times and other times we didn't."
Seattle U clinches the outright regular season Western Athletic Conference championship with the win, as it improves to 18-9 on the season and 15-3 in the WAC. The loss drops Idaho to 14-15 overall and 11-7 in WAC play. The Vandals will be the league's No. 3 seed in next week's WAC tournament in Las Vegas, Nev., and will face No.6 San Jose State in the quarterfinals at noon on March 13.