ISU WBB: Bengals suffer season-worst defensive performance in 86-72 loss to Idaho
POCATELLO – Idaho State endured the full wrath of an explosive and talented Idaho team in an 86-72 loss Saturday at Reed Gym.
It was the Bengals’ worst defensive performance of the season, allowing a season-high in points and field-goal percentage at 49.1. Plus, Idaho State shot 33.3 percent, its second-lowest of the season.
The first question after the game was obvious: Did Idaho State’s 21-day hiatus from games cost the Bengals in their Big Sky Conference opener?
“I knew that was coming,” said Bengals coach Seton Sobolewski, chucking about the question before answering “Potentially. It’s hard to say. I think it could. I think the biggest thing you could point to is conditioning. You can practice and you can practice hard, but it’s different when you’re playing a couple games a week and practicing. … There were times in the first half where we looked really tired.”
Sobolewski had an opportunity to schedule a home game against Seattle on Dec. 22, seven days before Saturday’s tilt, but he said time off for the players during Christmastime was of higher value and he did not regret the decision. He did say “maybe we need to shorten our Christmas layoff,” as Idaho State didn’t practice for five days from Dec. 21-25.
The Bengals (5-5, 0-1 Big Sky Conference) did not gain their shooting touch against Idaho until the game was decided in the fourth quarter. After having three of their four best shooting performances of the season to end nonconference play, Idaho State shot 25 percent over the first three quarters Saturday before making 58.8 percent of its shots in the fourth.
Despite the offensive struggles, Idaho State was within four points at halftime, 34-30. The Bengals sustained themselves that long by having seven fewer first-half turnovers than Idaho and scoring 12 points off turnovers.
But the Vandals (4-6, 1-0 Big Sky) terrorized Idaho State’s defense in the third quarter, making 75 percent of their shots and 66.7 percent from 3-point range to outscore the Bengals 32-9 in the first eight minutes of the second half.
Idaho went ahead by double digits for the first time, 46-35, after Taylor Pierce threaded a one-handed pass through traffic to Natalie Klinker with 7:04 left in the third quarter. Big Sky leading scorer Mikayla Ferenz, who tallied a game-high 29 points, knocked down two triples in about a minute span near the end of the third quarter to increase the Vandals’ lead to 62-37.
“We didn’t execute the scouting report very well,” Sobolewski said. “We didn’t get out on the shooters very good, and we didn’t rotate well. And then, when we did get out, we didn’t contain after that. And we broke down every piece of their offense and the things they do. Mentally, we couldn’t keep it together because we’re tired.”
The Vandals, angling to get transfer Juliet Jones involved, set up a corner 3-pointer for the two-year Idaho State player at the end of the third quarter, but she missed to their chagrin. The senior eventually got her first basket of the game in the fourth quarter on a triple and finished with three points, three assists and four turnovers in 24 minutes off the bench.
“It’s really cool,” Sobolewski said of Jones playing for his in-state rival. “It was fun to see. It makes the game more interesting. It builds the drama a little bit more, and I’m sincerely happy for her. I hope that she’s happy there and found a good fit.”
Bengals forward Grace Kenyon scored 14 of her career-high-tying 27 points in the fourth quarter to avoid one the ISU’s worst-ever margins of defeat against Idaho, which led by as many as 29 points with 9:31 left in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game.
“We’ve been down big before, and we used our energy and teamwork to come back,” Kenyon said. “We tried our best, and we fell short today.”
Kenyon and the rest of the major contributors had to carry more responsibilities as starting point guard Madison Hinrichs was out with a foot issue, according to Sobolewski who said he does not know when she will be back.
With Idaho State’s loss to the Vandals, its three-game winning streak ends as well as its three-game winning streak in the rivalry. Most alarming on Saturday was that the Vandals were the seventh team this season to shoot at least 40 percent from 3-point range against the Big Sky’s worst 3-point defense.
“Right now, you have to say we don’t defend the 3 well. You have to, especially after this.” said Sobolewski, who said earlier this week that the defensive struggles could have been partly because of ISU’s nonconference competition. “We’ve got to recognize it, we’ve got to watch some film, we’ve got to break it down and there’s got to be individual accountability on everybody’s part to do better.”
Idaho State hosts Eastern Washington on Monday.