TWIN FALLS — The College of Southern Idaho women’s basketball team gave itself a chance for the top seed in the Scenic West Athletic Conference with a win against Utah State University Eastern at home on Saturday.
With the 76-72 win, CSI moved to 5-4 in the conference. Add that to Snow’s win against Salt Lake CC on Saturday, and the Golden Eagles are now only two games out of first place.
CSI head coach Randy Rogers said that could be a big push for his team.
“We have an outside shot now,” he said. “If we can get these next few wins, we’ll come into the tournament in great shape.”
First, CSI had to handle business against the Eagles, who beat CSI 93-90 in overtime on Feb. 3. The Golden Eagles started their vengeance early in the game, jumping out to a 13-4 lead.
USU Eastern got as close as four points early in the second quarter, but a big sequence by Sydney Clark — a 3-pointer followed by a converted and-one — helped stretch the lead to 10 points. The Golden Eagles held a halftime lead of 40-28.
Then, the third quarter happened, which Afu and Rogers said hasn’t been the strongest for CSI all season.
“The third quarter has been our nemesis,” Rogers said. “We just come out and foul, and I don’t know why.”
USU Eastern outscored CSI in the quarter 21-16, but it wasn’t with the help of 3-point shooting, a strong suit for the Eagles all season long. USU Eastern shot 1-of-15 from 3-point range through about the last minute of the third quarter.
But Afu and CSI knew what the Eagles could do from deep.
“We knew they had a couple of players who were capable of hitting clutch 3s,” she said. “So during the game, coach emphasized how we can’t give them open looks.”
USU Eastern began to hit a few of those shots, nailing four 3-pointers and scoring 23 points in the fourth quarter to make it a close game.
“Our defense, midway through the fourth quarter, completely went back to doing what we’ve been doing wrong,” Rogers said. “At the end, I know we didn’t want to foul, so we gave them some shots, but we let them hang around, and they’ve got some shooters.”
The biggest difference between this game and the last became the biggest difference-maker late in the game: free throws.
In the last matchup, USU Eastern shot 25-of-30 from the free-throw line compared to CSI’s 12-of-19. This time, the Golden Eagles shot 22-of-25 from the line. More importantly, CSI finished the game 11-of-12 on its free throws in the fourth quarter.
“We were expecting them to foul,” Afu said, “so we knew we had to be clutch and put those in.”
Afu was the most clutch of all the Golden Eagles at the line, shooting 9-for-9 en route to a double-double of 23 points and 14 rebounds.
“She’s consistent every game,” Rogers said. “You look at the stat sheet and she’s always got 10-plus rebounds, 14-plus points. I thought tonight she was more patient and took the shots they were giving her.”
Afu is now 32 rebounds away from the women’s career rebounding record at CSI, currently held by Soana Lucet (2007-2009).
Blackfoot native Alyssa Crumley led USU Eastern with 21 points.
The Golden Eagles have three more SWAC games to close out the regular season, and Afu said the things that will make them competitive won’t be major changes.
“The little things in practice are what made us pull out this win,” she said. “So we’ll continue to keep working on those things in practice.”