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Idaho women beat Utah State

DARRELL MOODY
Appeal Sports Writer

RENO – Emily Faurholt and Leilani Mitchell have been Idaho’s biggest offensive weapons all season, and the duo obviously wasn’t ready to call it a season quite yet.

The duo ignited a 16-7 run to open the second half, leading No. 8 Idaho to a 70-59 win over No. 9 Utah State in the opening round of the Western Athletic Conference’s women’s tournament Tuesday night at Lawlor Events Center.

Idaho’s (10-18) reward for its opening-round win is a game against 17th-ranked and top-seeded Louisiana Tech tonight at 8:30. It was the first time this season that Idaho has come from a halftime deficit to win a game.

“Our team really came together in the second half,” said Mitchell, who scored 14 of her game-high 24 in the second half. “We lose now and we’re done. We are not ready to be done.”

Utah State (3-24), started fast, scoring 12 of the game’s first 16 points. Despite a late run by the Vandals, Utah State led 35-33 at the half as centers Jessica Freeman scored 12 points on 6-for-7 shooting, and Ali Marchant scored eight points on 4-for-4 shooting.

“We started very slow,” Idaho coach Mike Divilbiss said. “It looked like we didn’t have our legs. We gave up four offensive rebounds; four baskets that they scored on putbacks.

“In the second half, our team had to really dig down. I’m pleased with the way our team dug down. Our defensive intensity picked up and we started dictating a little more in the second half.”

Jessica Summers (12 points) tied the game at 35 with 19:49 left in the game, and Karly Felton gave the Vandals their first lead of the game, 37-35, when she penetrated inside for a layup. The game was tied at 37 and 39 before Idaho went on a 10-3 run to take a 49-42 lead with 15:09 left. Faurholt snapped the 39-all tie with a field goal and the Aggies briefly re-took the lead on a 3-pointer by Ashley Rutledge (10 points) 42-41. Faurholt scored on a layup, Jordyn Bowen drained a 3-pointer, Mitchell drove the lane for a bucket and Faurholt added a free throw.

Utah State, which has had problems with turnovers, only managed to trim one point off the deficit over the next five minutes, as it went 0-for-4 from the field and turned the ball over four times.

Leading 52-46, Idaho went on a 7-0 run to increase its lead to 13, as Summers scored in the key, Mitchell drained a 3-pointer and Faurholt scored from close range. Utah State did close to eight, but the game for all intent was over.

“Turnovers have been a problem all year,” Rutledge said. “Our goal is to have 15 or less (they had 18) because we run if we get more. A lot of our losses have been because of it (turnovers).”

USU coach Raegen Pebley has seen it all before. She’s used to the fast starts and the inability of her team to carry that over to the second half.

“We came out flat in the second half,” Pebley said. “We’ve been able to do that (start fast) a lot of times in conference. We hit a wall offensively and have a hard time breaking through that.

“They (Idaho) played a great game. Leilani (Mitchell) played great. Idaho found a way to get her the ball in scoring positions the second half. I think Mitchell makes that team as good as they are. She’s one of the best point guards in the country.”

Mitchell would score Idaho’s last nine points including a layup and two free throws after Idaho closed to 66-59 with 1:11 left.

And, now it’s on to face the Bulldogs.

“This is why you play college basketball,” Farhoult said. “We love playing and we love to play Louisiana tech. We’ll play as hard as we can. It’s a great challenge for us.

“Not many players get to play a Top 25 team. They’re a solid team and we’re excited about playing them.”

Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281

Today’s schedule

Noon – No. 3 Hawai’i vs No. 6 Boise State

2:30 p.m. – No. 2 Fresno State vs. No. 7 New Mexico State

6 p.m. – No. 4 San Jose State vs. No. 5 Nevada

8:30 p.m. – No. 1 Louisiana Tech vs. No. 8 Idaho