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Women’s basketballers drop heartbreaker in final 2 seconds

February 28th, 2010 Posted in Sports

By Dan Fawson

Same teams.

Same ending.

Different winner.

For the fourth straight time, Utah State’s women’s basketball team lost Saturday, this time in a last-second heartbreaker at home to Idaho. The loss drops the Aggies to 12-15 overall and 4-10 in Western Athletic Conference play.

With 2.1 seconds left to play, the Aggies were ahead 53-51 on a pair of free-throws from junior guard Alice Coddington. But Idaho sophomore guard Shaena Kuehu threw the ball from under her own basket across midcourt to forward Yinka Olorunnife, who passed it ahead to junior forward Rachele Kloke, whose winning 3-pointer went in as time expired.

Kloke’s clutch game-winner helped the Vandals exact revenge against an Aggie team that beat them in similar fashion exactly one month ago, when Aggie guard Tahara Williams hit a jumper with one second remaining to give the Aggies a 57-55 win at Idaho on Jan. 27.

“It’s really frustrating,” Coddington said. “It’s a tough loss, and it’s just something we’ve got to take on our chin, and move past it and get on to Boise State. But it’s definitely hard.”

The Aggies were up by five at 47-42 with less than three minutes to play and were threatening to put the Vandals away, but a Kuehu steal and Kloke’s put-back layup kept Idaho in the game. With her team trailing 51-48, Kloke missed a three with 16 seconds left, but 5-foot, 3-inch senior guard Charlotte Otero grabbed the offensive board, kicking the ball back out to Kloke to tie the score with 11 seconds left.

“They got some great offensive rebounds that gave them additional opportunities in those last two-three minutes,” USU head coach Raegan Pebley said. “We had a couple of crucial offensive mistakes—turnovers that we should not be committing, carelessness with the ball. Those type of mistakes are going to cause you to lose tight basketball games like that.”

Missed opportunities became the theme of Pebley’s postgame thoughts, as she also bemoaned her team’s inability to take advantage of Idaho’s woeful first-half shooting. The Vandals were 6 of 33 from the field in the first half, including 0 for 11 from three-point range, but the Aggies could manage only a 22-18 lead going at halftime. Leading 20-12, USU turned the ball over seven times in the last five minutes of the first half, helping the Vandals close the gap and regroup during halftime.

“We had an opportunity to kind of put the game away, and we squandered that opportunity with turnovers, and giving them eight offensive rebounds,” Pebley said.

The Vandals’ Kloke was relatively quiet in the first half, scoring only six points, but came alive in the second. She scored 22 points on 8-of-10 shooting, including Idaho’s final 12 points down the stretch.

“She’s a very good player,” Pebley said. “She has these type of performances against everyone in the league. We weren’t applying as much ball pressure as we needed to, and that’s where a couple of her three’s came from.”

Pebley said the Aggies came into the game with an aggressive plan to stop Kloke, but couldn’t contain her.

“She’s consistent in her scoring,” Pebley said. “You can’t do it one-on-one. You have to do it with your team defense, and we made some mistakes.”

The Aggies were paced by Coddington’s 14 points, all of which came in the second half.

“We really needed someone to step up and start making plays defensively and offensively, and it didn’t matter who it was as long as someone did it,” Coddington said. “The job had to get done, and I just happened to do that.”

After opening WAC play with wins over Louisiana Tech and San Jose State, USU has now dropped 10 of its last 12. With a pair of home games next week against Boise State and Hawai’i to close out the regular season, the Aggies will need a major turnaround before the WAC Tournament, held March 10-13.

“I’m just going to continue to challenge this team’s heart, right now,” Pebley said. “We started so well in the preseason, went on that seven-game win streak, and started conference play with a great high . . . beating La. Tech at La. Tech,” Pebley said. “And then we stopped getting better.

“This is a time where a team can start to checkout, or they can dig down and really, really fight,” she said. “Idaho’s doing the exact same thing. You’ve got to find ways to make sure that we’re fighting, and we’re not getting ready for spring break.”


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