The No. 1 seed Lady Bears cruised past No. 16 seed Idaho on Friday at the Ferrell Center to advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
“We hoped to come out and do a little better job out of zone finding their shooters. Alexis made us pay, and then Kristy came in and did the same,” said Vandal head coach Jon Newlee. “You really have to pick your poison with them…In my mind there is no doubt in my mind that they can win a national championship.”
Winning the tipoff, junior guard Alexis Jones came down to drain a three to set the momentum for the Lady Bears.
With the Lady Bears going on a three minutes drought, freshman forward Kalani Brown came in to put in an offensive rebound to give the Lady Bears a much needed lift.
A three by Jones, followed by a lay-in by junior forward Nina Davis forced Newlee to call his first timeout with just under five minutes through the first quarter as the Lady Bears gained a 14-4 lead.
“Offensively I think we just had a good night, and we went on it from there,” Jones said. I” thought we shot the three ball really well. It’s just exciting to know that the whole team came out and had a lot of energy.”
Jones was the difference maker, scoring 23 points and bringing in eight rebounds throughout the game.
Alexis is just finally getting back to where she was before her knees was injured…realistically it takes time,” Mulkey said. “What a great time it is for her to start playing the way she is now, she just makes us a better basketball team.”
The timeout appeared to not help the Vandals, as sophomore guard Kristy Wallace hit two three’s to extend their lead, 22-7.
“Thanks to my teammates for getting me open and finding me on the baseline shot,” Wallace said. “I’m glad we were able to produce today.”
Junior guard Alexis Prince drained a three to end the quarter as the Lady Bears found themselves on fire from behind the arc, shooting at 75 percent to end the first.
With the Vandals coming out into the second making two threes within just over a minute into the second quarter, Mulkey was forced to call a timeout as the gap closed, 30-15.
Senior post Ali Forde was the spark for the Vandals, scoring eight points and bringing in nine rebounds through the first two quarters of play.
With the Vandals outscoring the Lady Bears in the second 21-17, they were able to close the gap to 17 going into the half.
With a comfortable 47-30 lead to start the third, the Lady Bears were able to use their size advantage to extend their lead.
“To come out and have everyone shooting well, it just makes it that much easier for us to have confidence later down the road,” Davis said.
However, the Vandals did not let down. They continued to shoot the three, but it was not enough to put a dent in the score.
Up, 69-46 with ten minutes of regulation remaining the Lady Bears had the win in their sight.
Two made threes by senior guard Christina Salvatore gave the Vandals a much needed lift, but they still found themselves down 77-52 with just under six minutes remaining in the fourth.
“The three ball is always the hardest to guard…we knew we had to come out with our hands up every time,” Jones said. “I think we did a great job of defending the three ball.”
With the crowd on their feet, the Lady Bears found themselves in the second round of the NCAA tournament as they decisively took care of the Vandals, 89-59.
“They know they’re good, they know we have depth, they know we are healthy,” Mulkey said. “We are just going to lace them up as see where they go.”
The Lady Bears next test will come Sunday at the Ferrell Center against either No. 8 seed St. John’s (23-9) or No. 9 seed Auburn (19-12).