Vandals put men's and women's teams in WAC finals

STAFF AND WIRE REPORTSMarch 15, 2014 

Idaho's Glen Dean and Utah Valley's Holton Hunsaker go for the ball during the second half of their WAC Tournament semifinal game Friday in Las Vegas. Idaho won 74-69.

DAVID BECKER — The Associated Press

LAS VEGAS - Idaho basketball produced a double-dose of good fortune Friday in Sin City.

The top-seeded women's team came from behind to defeat No. 5 New Mexico State 75-65 in their semifinal of the WAC Tournament at the Orleans Arena.

A few hours later, in the same building, Stephen Madison scored 25 points to help the No. 5 men upset top-seeded Utah Valley State 74-69.

The women (24-8) will play No. 3 Seattle (16-15) at 2 p.m. Saturday on ESPNU, with a berth to the NCAA Tournament up for grabs.

The men (16-17) will play No. 2 New Mexico State (25-9) at 8 p.m. Saturday on ESPNU. The winner advances to the NCAA Tournament - something the Vandals haven't done since their Big Sky days in 1990.

The Vandals trailed for only 46 seconds of the 40 minutes and led by as many as 10 points midway through the second half.

"What a great win for our program tonight," Idaho coach Verlin said. "I couldn't be happier for all the guys in the locker room and all the veterans who have waited so long for this. It's a little bitter-sweet because we're leaving the WAC (for the Big Sky next season), but I couldn't be more proud of what we've been able to accomplish the last six weeks of the season."

Mike Scott had 14 points and Connor Hill added 12 for the Idaho men. Utah Valley (20-11) was led by Mitch Bruneel (Eagle High) with 18 points.

Idaho used an 8-0 run in the second half to push its lead to 10, but the Wolverines climbed back within one with 4:04 remaining. The Vandals responded as Madison hit a jumper, Hill drained a 3-pointer and Sekou Wiggs added a layup to make it 70-64. Keawe Enos hit a 3-pointer and Hunsaker followed with a steal, but Bruneel couldn't connect on a 3-pointer with 10 seconds left. Madison hit two free throws to ice it.

In the women's game, junior Stacey Barr scored a career-high 35 points against the Aggies (11-20). The Vandals started 2-for-14 from the field and trailed 41-35 at the half. Barr helped the comeback by hitting 9-of-10 free throws.

"To come back the way we did and play with all that excitement and keep the foot on the pedal was awesome for our team," Barr said. "It shows we have a lot of leadership and that our younger players can really work.''

The Idaho women went to the NCAA Tournament last season and lost to top-seeded Connecticut.

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