Just three games remain in the regular season for the Idaho women’s basketball team, and the Vandals will begin the final stretch at home when Texas-San Antonio comes to town Thursday night.
The WAC standings are close right now and Idaho, Louisiana Tech and UTSA are neck-and-neck, battling for third place. The Vandals enter the week just a half-game up on both teams.
Idaho coach Jon Newlee said he wants to see his team come out and defend its home court and said it is important to gain momentum heading into the tournament.
“I think it’s huge,” Newlee said. “You want to be playing your best basketball going into the tournament and I think we’ve been playing really good basketball over the last month. A couple of bad bounces on the road, but if not for that, we’d be one game out of first place.”
The Vandals are coming off of a tough road trip in which they fell to Texas-Arlington and La. Tech, losing consecutive WAC games for the first time this season. Both games came down to the last possession, but neither went Idaho’s way.
The Vandals have had a habit of responding well after losses this season, and Idaho sophomore Krissy Karr said the team is using the losses as a motivator to finish strong.
“If anything I think it motivates us,” Karr said. “Knowing that we have been close, beating La. Tech and then having it come down to a buzzer beater. So if anything, I just think it gives us confidence.”
The Vandals will be looking to complete the season sweep over UTSA after they beat the Roadrunners 64-45 earlier in the year. The Vandals had one of their best defensive performances of the year against UTSA, holding the Roadrunners to just a 27 percent shooting percentage and blocking 13 shots. Newlee said he hopes to see his team defend like that again, especially since UTSA is known for a good offense.
“They’re very athletic and a very physical basketball team,” Newlee said. “They got a lot of different weapons on offense. You can’t really concentrate on one. They spread the ball. They run the floor. They’re going to put a lot of pressure on us defensively. It’s going to be a dogfight.”
After UTSA, the Vandals will be at home for one more against Texas State on March 2 and then will finish things off on the road against Seattle U. on March 9. The WAC Tournament will begin March 12 at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
“I just think we need to play together, play hard, play smart and focus on the defensive end, getting the boards and making sure we don’t get outrebounded on the o-boards,” Karr said.
Kevin Bingaman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org