PHOENIX—On the heels of being voted a Capital One Academic All-American, Idaho senior Alyssa Charlston posted 17 points as the Vandals handed Grand Canyon its first home loss of the season. Idaho shot 49.1 percent (27-of-55) on its way to a 68-54 triumph at GCU Arena.
Charlston and junior Stacey Barr both posted game-highs of 17 points. Charlston’s total pushed her career scoring numbers to 1,483, placing her fifth all-time in the Idaho record books.
Idaho (19-8, 12-1 WAC) played two very consistent halves on Saturday, scoring 34 points in each 20 minute period. Charlston totaled 12 points at the break, shooting 5-of-6 from the floor in the first half. Not to be outdone, Barr put in 12 points in the second half, aided by shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc.
“I thought our intensity level was great coming in here today,” head coach Jon Newlee noted. “We knew about their streak and we talked about ending it just like our streak got ended. Our players were just ready to play tonight. I thought we had a good start and I thought we had a great start to the second half.”
With a five-point lead to open the second half, Idaho put together an 8-0 run to silence GCU Arena. Barr pushed the issue early on in the half scoring five straight points to extend Idaho’s lead to 39-29. Sophomore Christina Salvatore continued to pile on with an old fashioned three-point play to give the Vandals a 42-29 lead 2:35 into the second half.
GCU (17-8, 6-6 WAC) would get within eight points off an August Touchard jumper, making it 42-34 with 14:47 to play. Sophomore Connie Ballestero eliminated any hope of a GCU comeback, hitting one of her four three-pointers on the night to give Idaho an 11-point lead with 13:47 to play. Ballestero finished the day with 14 points and five assists.
“I think we ran the floor great to start the second half,” Newlee said. “We made a couple of quick shots. Our post guys were running the floor and that opened up the outside. We hit a couple of three’s to get us moving. Defensively, we were getting the stops. We finally got some block-outs, they were killing us on the offensive boards the entire game. I thought Stacey and Christina did a fantastic job of flying in and getting rebounds during that run.”
Grand Canyon came into Saturday shooting 42 percent on the season, fourth best in the Western Athletic Conference. Idaho held GCU to a 31.4 shooting performance, well below the ‘Lopes season average.
“Overall aggression was the key defensively,” Newlee added. “We did not sit back. I thought we came with a lot of hands and executed that game-plan perfectly.”
An Ali Forde layup with 3:44 to play gave the Vandals a 17-point lead, their biggest of the day to ensure the Idaho victory.
The Vandals had four players finish in double figures for the second consecutive game and the 16th time this season. Salvatore contributed 10 points, joining Barr, Charlston and Ballestero.
Idaho will return home for its final three games of the season. The Silver and Gold will start its final homestand with a matchup against rival Seattle U on Saturday, Mar. 1 at Memorial Gym.