Posted on January 17, 2014 at 12:57 AM
OREM, Utah — Five games into the Western Athletic Conference season and the University of Idaho women’s basketball team is making it look easy on the hardwood. The Vandals moved to 5-0 in conference play for the first time since the 1981-82 season with a 96-55 triumph over Utah Valley at the UCCU Center.
Idaho (12-7, 5-0 WAC) used a heavy dose of three-pointers on Thursday, tying its season-high with 13 on the night. The Vandals shot a season-high 52.0 percent (13-of-25) from long range, including 7-of-12 (58.3 percent) in the final 20 minutes. Sophomore Christina Salvatore led the Vandals with a game-high four darts from beyond the arch, giving the team its first five game-winnings streak since the 2004-05 season.
“From an offensive standpoint, we were just rolling,” head coach Jon Newlee exclaimed after his 80th career win at Idaho. “We were moving the basketball. Ali [Forde] and Alyssa [Charslton] got their touches inside, which really opened the outside game. We shot so well in shoot around today I joked with my assistants saying, ‘Geez I hope we keep some of these for tonight,’ it was unbelievable. It was good to see it translate over to tonight.”
The Silver and Gold have established a strong defensive since from the beginning of WAC play and Thursday was no different. The Vandals held the Wolverines to 10-of-29 (34.5 percent) from the floor in the opening 20 minutes of play. Idaho opened the first half with a 22-7 run in the first 8:18 of the game. Sophomore Connie Ballestero’s three-point shot at the 5:31 mark gave the Vandals a 35-14 lead, their largest of the first half. When the first- half buzzer sounded, Idaho took a 45-25 lead into the locker-room.
“I loved our defensive effort, especially in the first half,” Newlee said. “I thought we executed the game plan perfectly. I thought Jordan [Green] had us ready to go. I thought our help defense was fantastic inside with Ali and Alyssa, getting some blocks to set the tone early on.”
Utah Valley (3-13, 0-3 WAC) narrowed the lead to 18 points with 18:50 remaining in the second half, but that was as close as they would get for the remainder of the contest. The Vandals held the Wolverines to 20-of-62 (32.3 percent) shooting on the night. Idaho outrebounded UVU, 40-34. In the defensive zone the Vandals snagged 30 rebounds, limiting the Wolverines to 13 offensive boards.
Junior Stacey Barr paced the Vandals with a game-high 21 points. Senior Alyssa Charlston posted 20 points on the night, moving into sixth all-time on the Idaho scoring list with 1,392. Charlston reached another milestone following the opening tip. She has now played in 115 consecutive games, appearing in the most consecutive games in an Idaho uniform in school history.
The Vandals saw a plethora of scoring on Thursday. Salvatore finished the night with 12 points and eight rebounds. Freshman Brooke Reilly notched her first double-double of the season, totaling 10 points and 11 boards off the bench. Ali Forde recorded nine points, shooting 4-of-5. Ballestero added seven points and four assists.
Being the first of two games on the road trip, Idaho used its game-high 43-point advantage as a chance to rest the starters and get the bench some experience. The Vandals bench outscored the Wolverines, 27-13. Addie Schivo and Agueda Trujillo Fernandez both scored seven points and Maren Austgulen netted three points in 13 minutes.
“Offensively, this performance ranks right up there [since I’ve been at Idaho],” Newlee added. “I was really happy with our balance. Our bigs were scoring inside. We did not have the height advantage, they did. I thought we did a great job of attacking and running the floor. We shot the ball well and made great decisions. We just took great shots tonight.”
Idaho will next travel to CSU Bakersfield on Saturday. The WAC leading Vandals will take on the Roadrunners at 3 p.m. PT.