The Idaho women’s basketball team recieved no love on Valentine’s Day from the Mavericks when the Vandals lost to last-place Texas-Arlington 60-58 Thursday night on the road.
It was the first game for the Mavericks without coach Samantha Morrow, who stepped down earlier in the week after learning her contract was not going to be renewed. Morrow had coached the program for six years. Assistant coach Karen Blair took over for the Mavericks on an interim basis, and started her term out with a win. It’s just the third WAC win for UTA this season.
It’s a tough loss for Idaho, especially considering the Vandals’ standing in the conference. Idaho coach Jon Newlee said the Mavericks looked as good as they have all season.
“I think the coaching change right there this week, I thought there kids came out and played their hearts out,” Newlee said. “They played with a huge sense of urgency and hats off to them. I thought that was the best, by far, game I’ve seen them play this year.”
Idaho and UTA stayed close throughout the first half with neither team able to build a decisive lead. The Vandals started to build a lead midway through the first half, but UTA responded and closed the gap. The game was tied at 27, but UTA’s Aron Garcia hit a buzzer-beating layup that put the Mavericks up as they took a 29-27 lead into the locker room. The Mavericks owned the paint in the first half, scoring 18 of their points inside.
The Mavericks kept up the pace in the second half and built a lead on Idaho, leading by as many as eight at various times. The Vandals kept pushing back, but UTA responded each time to build the lead back up.
Trailing by four with just six seconds on the clock Idaho’s Krissy Karr hit a three to bring the deficit down to one. Idaho fouled and the Mavericks made one of their free throws to give the Vandals a chance, but Christina Salvatore missed a potential game-winner from beyond the arc to hand the visitors a two-point loss.
“The play at the end, we ran that to perfection,” Newlee said. “It was wide open. It was a great look. We just didn’t knock it down, but like I said to them, it shouldn’t come down to that. I don’t care who you’re playing, it shouldn’t come down to that last shot.”
The Vandals had three players in double figures, led by junior Alyssa Charlston’s 17 points. With that, Charlston reached 1,000 points for her career. Salvatore and Karr were the other players to have more than 10 for Idaho.
The Vandals will continue the road trip when they travel to Louisiana Tech on Saturday. Idaho lost to the Techsters 67-58 earlier in the season, giving up a late lead. It will be an important game for Idaho as the Techsters have a chance to jump Idaho in the standings. The Vandals have never beaten La. Tech in their history.
Newlee said his players will have to adjust quickly, especially with the playing atmosphere in Ruston.
“Those newcomers and the freshman are really going to see what an atmosphere is like on Saturday,” Newlee said. “As disappointing as this loss was to us, we have to regroup.”
Kevin Bingaman can be reached at email@example.com