IOWA CITY—The University of Idaho’s time at the Big Dance got cut a bit short on Sunday. The third-seeded Louisville Cardinals dashed Idaho’s hopes of Cinderella run, defeating Idaho 88-42 at the Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The Vandals were led offensively throughout the game by sophomore Ali Forde. Forde finished the game tied with Louisville’s Sara Hammond for a game-high 16 points. Forde shot 7-of-9 (77.8 percent) from the field to match her season-ghigh point total. Senior Alyssa Charlston closed out her Idaho-career with 11 points.
“It's a tough way to end what for us was a great season,” head coach Jon Newlee commented. “We talked about our goals of winning the regular season WAC title, winning the tourney title and getting back‑to‑back in the NCAA tournament. The only goal we did not achieve was going further in the NCAA tournament.”
Idaho jumped out to a 6-2 lead 4:32 into the contest. Forde scored all six of Idaho’s opening points. Louisville cut the lead to 6-5 with 14:14 to play and a Jude Schimmel three-pointer put the Cardinals ahead 8-6 with 13:26 to play in the first half. A Charlston deep-ball would bring Idaho within one at 10-9 at the 12:31 mark, but the Vandals would not be able to regain the lead.
“They put on a lot of pressure,” Forde said. “We handled it really well at the beginning of the game. We drifted away from that towards the middle.”
Idaho’s Achilles’ heel turned out to be its ball control. Idaho entered the game ranked seventh in the nation averaging just 12.1 turnovers per game. The Vandals turned the ball over nine times in the first half, totaling 18 turnovers by the final whistle. Louisville, the fourth ranked team in the nation, capitalized on Idaho’s mistakes finishing with 32 points off of turnovers.
“They were pushing the ball in transition really well and we were not stopping it or getting the stops we needed.” Charlston added.
Louisville (31-4) recovered from a 0-for-7 start to shoot 57.4 percent from the field, the best shooting performance the Vandals have witnessed this season. The Cardinals had five players score in double-figures. Jude Schimmel (14), Asia Tayolr (13), Antonita Slaughter (11) and Shoni Schimmel (10) all joined Hammond.
Idaho (25-9) also got production from sophomores Christina Salvatore (6) and Connie Ballestero (5). Junior Stacey Barr had an off night finishing with just four-points, playing through vicious elbow to the head in the first half.
The Silver and Gold closed out the 2013-14 season as the best women’s basketball team the program has seen since the mid-1980s. Sunday’s loss marked the final game in the careers of Charlston and fellow senior Addie Schivo.
Schivo, a junior college transfer, played in 67 games for Idaho in her two seasons. She finished her career with a 4.5 scoring average. This season, Schivo played a career high 20.4 minutes per game and led the team with an 85.7 free-throw percentage. The San Francisco native, finishes her career with an 83.6 free-throw percentage, good for third all-time in Idaho history.
Charlston finishes her career at Idaho as one of the best to ever step onto the court. She appeared in a record 130 consecutive games, playing in every game over the past four seasons. She finishes fifth all-time in scoring with 1,587 career-points. Charlston’s name is cemented in the Idaho record books with 128 blocks (fourth), 855 rebounds (fourth), 601 field goals (fifth), 429 free-throws attempted (seventh), 290 free-throws (ninth), a 36 percent three-point field goal percentage (ninth) and 95 three-pointers (t-10th).
“It has been the best decision I ever made [to play at Idaho],” Charlston emotionally stated. “It has made me so much stronger. This is not the way we want to go out, but I have become who I am through the coaches and my teammates. It has been incredible and I am excited to see what they [the team] can do in the future.”
The Vandals return four starters for the 2014-15 season. The team will remain relatively young, returning nine of the 11 players from the current roster as Idaho moves into the Big Sky Conference.
“Next year hopefully we will have a higher seed and be able to come out stronger,” Forde said. “Playing a team like Louisville, they are obviously a great team. It makes us better. It allows us to push farther. We know what we need to work on now.”