The University Idaho, located in Moscow (Idaho), the third seed in the Western Athletic Conference, beat Seattle University, 67-64, on Saturday to win its first Western Athletic Conference championship and first NCAA tournament berth since 1985,
“Survive and advance has certainly been our motto in this tournament and we did it all the way till the end, and it’s a great feeling,” Idaho coach Jon Newlee told reporters after the game. “I’m so happy for my players and I’m so happy for my staff. I feel that I have the greatest staff in America and our players have just worked their tails off to get to this moment and it’s fantastic, it’s a great feeling.”
Idaho sophomore Stacey Barr, who had 16 points and 11 rebounds Saturday, was the tournament MVP. Junior Alyssa Charlston, who had 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting, also earned a spot on the all-tournament team.
All three Idaho (17-15) victories during the tournament came by just one possession.
“It was a pretty difficult start [3-9] to the season, but to our credit we picked it up towards the end of the season and started playing as a team and getting those wins,” Barr said. “To go to the tournament is huge and to win this one is unbelievable. There are no words for it.”
Freshman Ali Forde finished with 11 points, seven rebounds, six blocks, two steals and two assists for the Vandals.Freshman Connie Ballestero had 10 points and three assists. That pair, along with freshman Christina Salvatore, have started a combined 78 games this season for Idaho.
“I’m going to tell you, our freshmen, our younger players are very even-keeled on the basketball floor,” Newlee said. “I’ve never seen a younger group that was like that. They don’t panic. Very rarely have I seen panic on the faces of our young players.”
The Vandals outscored their opponents by one point (2102 to 2101) this season. Charlston led them in scoring (13.7). Forde (7.5) is the leading rebounder. Salvatore (264) and Barr (168) led the team in three-point attempts. They averaged 402 fans to their 12 home games.
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