Idaho vs. SJSU
Entering Wednesday’s quarterfinal tilt, San Jose State looked to be a team battered, defeated and worn down by a demanding WAC regular season. It didn’t help the Spartans had suffered a 100-67 loss to eventual No. 10 seeded Texas State in their regular season finale, or that they only had one real option on the bench.
Four SJSU starters played 40 minutes apiece and Idaho managed to squeak out a 57-55 victory thanks to Krissy Karr’s buzzer beater.
The Vandals may have been the overwhelming favorite, but San Jose State drowned that theory after the first half when the sixth-seeded Spartans led 33-28.
But Idaho wore down its shorthanded opponent in the second half, when the Spartans didn’t utilize a single substitute.
Although San Jose State led by as many as 15 points in the first half, a relentless Idaho effort was headed by sophomore Stacey Barr, who collected 12 points and picked up six rebounds in the second period.
The Vandals’ first lead of the game came in the first three minutes but Idaho spent 33 minutes trailing SJSU. Not until the 4:16 mark in the second half did the Vandals reclaim the lead.
The teams were tied up at 55-55 for almost three minutes, a time span that saw the Spartans and Vandals combine to go 0-for-5 from the free throw line and 0-for-5 from the floor.
SJSU’s four missed free throw shots gave Idaho a chance to win it and Karr received the ball with about five seconds remaining. The sophomore found nothing on the left side of the key, dribbled to the right side and made a floater from about 10 feet out that made contact with just about every portion of the rim before falling in.
Idaho vs. Utah State
Utah State’s Devyn Christensen was easily the best player on the floor in Friday’s semifinal. With 37 points and a tournament record nine 3-pointers, it seemed a sure thing that the game-winner was hers to take, and make.
Trailing by two with 3.5 seconds left, the Aggies heaved in an inbound pass from the other side of the court, located Christensen, who couldn’t have been in a more ideal location to nail a dagger. The only problem — she couldn’t get the shot up. Utah State’s All-WAC first teamer bobbled the ball and heard the buzzer sound just seconds later.
It was confirmed — Idaho would play in its first-ever WAC Tournament championship game.
Though Christensen was the focal point, Stacey Barr played what was undoubtedly the best game of her Vandal career. One of five players to score in double digits for Idaho, the sophomore scored a career-high 26 points, grabbed six rebounds and had two more steals while making 3-of-6 from beyond the arc and converting seven of her eight free throw attempts.
After the Aggies pounded the Vandals in a 81-50 blowout Jan. 31 in Logan, Idaho coach Jon Newlee may have been a bit surprised to see his team lead by nine points with three minutes to play in the second half.
But then Christensen got going. The preseason WAC Player of the Year scored 10 points in the game’s final minutes and made Idaho earn the victory from the free throw line.
The Vandals sank five of their last six free throws, and junior Addie Schivo connected on the final two to give Idaho the two-point lead before Utah State’s final possession.
The Vandals poured in 84 points, the most they had scored in a game this season not counting exhibitions. Idaho cashed in 10 3-pointers and the teams combined to attempt 57 3s.
Theo Lawson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org