MOSCOW - The Idaho women's basketball team spent the first 23 minutes of its home-opener against Portland building a big lead, and the final 17 giving it away in a 62-56 loss in Memorial Gym on Friday night.
In Idaho coach Jon Newlee's opinion, the meltdown boiled down to just a couple things.
"We fouled and we fouled and we fouled, and then we didn't rebound and we didn't rebound and we didn't rebound," Newlee said. "We're giving them two, three four shots each time down. Then we don't move our feet, we start reaching, we start fouling inside and giving them either easy buckets inside or free throws."
Idaho (0-3) led by 10 points, 31-21, at halftime and expanded that lead to 18 with a 10-2 run to open the second half. Portland's physical play helped the Pilots (1-2) start chipping away, getting Idaho's lead down to 14 points before a 14-2 run gave them all the momentum in a tight game down the stretch. Idaho went up by four, 47-43 with just under nine minutes to play, but Portland stuck to its guns, going on another 9-2 run to lead 54-49 with 5:50 to play. The Vandals scored the next five points to tie the game at 54-all, but never regained the lead.
"That's the word, play us physical. They got the Wyoming tape," Newlee said, referencing his team's loss in the season-opener. "That second half right there was exactly what happened in Wyoming. They get after Alyssa physically and she's got to battle back, Ali's got to do the same. We got abused inside, we got absolutely abused inside, and that's got to change because every team is going to come in here and try to do the same thing. We've got to find someone who is tough enough to go in there and rebound and fight through that."
The Vandals shot 29.4 percent from the field in the first half, but did most of their damage from beyond the arc, hitting 5-of-12 first-half 3-point attempts. Meanwhile, Portland was even colder, hitting just 25.0 of its shots in the first half and just 1-of-10 3-pointers. But the Pilots hit 53.3 percent of their shots in the second half, mostly from inside, while the Vandals shot 25.7 percent after the break.
Portland out-rebounded Idaho 60-44, and outscored the Vandals 32-18 in the paint and 20-6 in second-chance points.
"They were physical but we should be able to handle that," Idaho junior Alyssa Charlston said. "We were prepared and we had the lead, in the end it was a physical battle that we lost because they were getting so many O-boards. It doesn't feel good."
Charlston finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds, her first double-double of the season. Freshman Christina Salvatore scored 12 points on 4-of-10 shooting from 3-point range, and added five rebounds. Sophomore Maren Austgulen, who made her Vandal debut after serving an NCAA-mandated 34-game suspension, scored nine points and added five rebounds and a steal in 14 minutes of play off the bench.
"Maren was solid tonight," Newlee said. That's what she gives us in practice. She did a good job, she was a bright spot tonight. She hasn't played a game in a couple years and she came in and was poised and took the shots that she needed to take. She was trying to rebound and get physical in there. She definitely was a positive tonight for us."
Freshman Ali Forde had eight rebounds in the game, but went 0-for-5 from the field and didn't score. Junior Janelle Weiss scored eight points and had two assists in nine minutes off the bench, and senior Jessica Graham had six points and two rebounds.
Kari Luttinen scored a game-high 18 points for Portland, and added 10 rebounds, while Amy Pupa also had a double-double for the Pilots, finishing with 12 points and 14 rebounds. Pupa also blocked four shots, and Portland had seven blocks in the game.
Idaho returns to action when it hosts Montana at 2 p.m. on Nov. 18 in Memorial Gym.