CANCUN, Mexico—Freshman Taylor Pierce caught a hot hand from 3-point range on Saturday, setting a school-record for most 3's in a game with nine. Her team-high 27 points helped the Idaho women to its highest-profile win of the Jon Newlee era to close the Cancun Challenge. The Vandals blew past Iowa State, a perennial NCAA Tournament team, 97-65 at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya.
“To be able to do this against such a fantastically coached team that has continuously been in the NCAA Tournament is fantastic for us,” Newlee stated. “To come out and compete like we did in this tournament was amazing.”
Idaho (5-1) matched the school-record for 3's in a game with 17, set earlier this season against CSUN. The Vandals caught fire in the second half, outscoring the Cyclones 65-35. 13 of Idaho's 17 treys came in the final 20 minutes of the contest. Pierce was 7-for-8 in 10 minutes of play in the second half. Overall six different players hit 3's over the course of the game for Idaho.
“My teammates and coaches kept telling me to keep shooting,” Pierce said following the win. “Most of them were pretty open so they were not too difficult to knock down. My teammates did a good job getting me open.”
Iowa State (2-3) began the game shooting 4-for-4, opening a 9-2 lead in the first two minutes of play. Newlee took a timeout to regroup and a different Vandal team emerged. Idaho answered back with a 7-0 run to tie the game at nine. The Vandals gained the lead off a Geraldine McCorkell 3-pointer, 16-14, with 2:01 to play in the first and never trailed again.
The Silver and Gold held a six-point advantage three times in the second quarter, the latter off a McCorkell jumper with 2:37 to play in the half. The Cyclones closed the period on a 4-0 run to slim the Idaho lead to two at the break, 32-30.
“We started off really slow,” Newlee added. “I took the timeout and said 'look wake up.' We battled back from that early deficit which was great. Then we talked at the half about how the second half has been our half.”
McCorkell opened the half for Idaho with five consecutive points, pushing Idaho ahead by seven. A long jumper from Christina Salvatore gave the Vandals their second 10-point lead, 46-36, midway through the third. Pierce began her 3-point streak in the final minute of the quarter. She hit two from long range, including a buzzer beater to end the quarter, putting the Vandals ahead 61-45.
Pierce started the fourth the same way she ended the previous quarter, hitting her fifth 3 of the game 12 seconds in the quarter. She gave Idaho a 29 point lead with her seventh trey, tying the previous school record held by Susan Woolf. She passed Woolf with 4:37 to play and added to her record on Idaho's next possession, giving the Vandals the 85-54 lead.
McCorkell, not to be overlooked, closed the day 9-of-12 from the floor, netting a career-high 24-points. She was a perfect 2-for-2 from long range adding 12 rebounds for her second double-double of the season. Senior guard Connie Ballestero was two assists shy from a double-double of her own. She finished with 12 points and eight assists in 39 minutes.
“Our focus was there in the second half,” Newlee said. “Defensively, we locked down in that third quarter. Ali [Forde] played great defense against [Bryanna] Fernstrom. Renae [Mokzrycki] battled her. We did a good job of taking her out of the game.”
Iowa State shot 36.2 percent from the floor and just 20.0 percent from 3-point range. Seanna Johnson led all scorers with 28 points to go with her 12 rebounds. Fernstrom was held to just three points, well below her season average of 12.5 points per game.
Idaho shot 46.7 percent on the day and a season-best 47.2 percent from beyond the arc. Idaho handed out 21 assists on Saturday and forced 12 turnovers. The Vandal bench out-scored ISU, 46-13.
The Vandals closed their stay in Cancun with a 2-1 record. The lone loss was by six points against No. 12/15 Duke.
For more information on Idaho Athletics, visit GoVandals.com. Fans can also follow Idaho women's basketball on Twitter, @VandalsWBB.
Career win No. 205 for Newlee…Ali Forde recorded one block on Saturday, now two shy of tying Mary Westerwelle for second in Idaho history…Pierce is averaging 3.3 3FGM this season, on pace to break the Idaho single-season record (91, Christina Salvatore 2013-14)…Salvatore was 0-for-11 from 3 today, breaking a 20-game streak with at least one 3FGM…the Vandals have now played 233 consecutive games with at least one 3FGM…Idaho improves to 2-0 on the season in white uniforms...Idaho is 5-1 for the first time since 2010-11.