Coming off its biggest win of the season, a 67-39 thumping of Carroll College, the Idaho women’s basketball team is back on the road — a place its been six times in eight games already this season. The Vandals travel Friday to Missoula, Mont., to compete in the 33rd Lady Griz Classic.
Idaho (5-3) has had a brutal schedule so far this season. In addition to six road games, the Vandals have faced two top 25 opponents — Gonzaga and Cal — and five opponents with winning records. That tough schedule continues this week with a matchup against a 4-1 Montana team.
Idaho will play on back-to-back days with a game against either UC Irvine, a team the Vandals have already beat this season, or Appalachian State on Saturday.
The game against Montana is the 45th matchup between the teams. The Vandals and Grizzlies used to play regularly back when Idaho was in the Big Sky Conference. Starting in 2014, Idaho and Montana will meet as conference opponents again. Idaho is leaving the WAC after this season and joining the Big Sky next year.
“We are going to see a typical Robin Selvig type team,” Idaho coach Jon Newlee said of Montana. “They are very long inside and long at the guard. They like to post everybody up and are very physical defensively. They are going to work their offense and try to get a great shot every time down. It is going to be a great environment here.”
The trip to Montana comes after Idaho got the rare home matchup against NAIA Carroll College on Tuesday. It was an exhibition game for Carroll College, but a regular nonconference game for Idaho.
“It was great to be home back in Mem Gym,” Idaho coach Jon Newlee said following the win. “It feels like we’ve been on the road forever, the road trip was long. To come home and play with the energy we played with in the first half, I was really pleased with that effort.”
The Vandals dismantled Carroll College with ease. They led 20-6 at 12:57 left in the first period and increased the lead to 39-12 at halftime. The 39 first half points matched a season high for Idaho while its 12 points allowed were the lowest in a half for the Vandals since a Dec. 29, 2011, game against North Dakota.
“I thought we executed our offense, especially in the first half,” Newlee said.
“We were moving the basketball, everybody was getting their looks, sharing the basketball … I was really happy with the first half.”
Carroll College had a brief 7-0 scoring run in the second half, before Idaho put things away en route to the 67-39 victory. The large lead margin allowed Newlee to put all of his bench players in the game late in the second half and rest his starters.
“I thought it was critical for us to be able to play everybody and give those people that have logged big minutes on the road trip rest,” Newlee said. “Especially with two big games coming up this weekend back-to-back again. I wanted to get some rest for them and get some experience minutes for our freshmen and some of the players that hadn’t played as many minutes.”
If recent history is any indication, Idaho will look to junior guard Stacey Barr to score points this weekend. She led the Vandals in scoring with 20 points against Carroll College and has led the team in five of eight games, so far this season. Barr leads the Vandals with 16.5 points per game and 19 3-pointers made on the year.
“We came out with a lot of energy from the start and I think that’s what we have to do,” Barr said following the victory over Carroll College. “The home game really helped us but we need to do it on the road as well, so it was good to that win.”
Stephan Wiebe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org