POCATELLO — There was a reason why former Clarkston girls basketball standout Ashlyn Wallace was a three-time most valuable player in the Great Northern League. She could score at will, was deadly from distance and was a shutdown defender.
Now a sophomore on the Idaho women’s basketball team, she’s starting to live up to her potential at the next level.
The two-time Adidas All-American put up a career-high 25 points Saturday as she led the Vandals to a 68-61 Big Sky Conference victory against in-state foe Idaho State at Reed Gym.
“She was on fire, in rhythm, playing good defense as well,” Idaho coach Jon Newlee said. “Looking really comfortable out there, for the first time quite honestly, like she does in practice. I could see the stroke was going. We ran some stuff for her when she got hot, and she just kept delivering.”
The former McDonald’s All-American nominee had the best game of her young collegiate career. She went 7-for-10 shooting, including 6-of-8 from 3-point range, and was 5-of-6 at the free throw line. Wallace added three rebounds and two steals.
This, a little more than 48 hours after she was pivotal on defense in helping to jump-start a 66-52 victory at Weber State. In that game Thursday, her first start of the season, she scored just six points but had a career-high seven rebounds and added five assists.
“I came out confident, and I just kept shooting the whole time,” Wallace said. “I didn’t think about what I was making, I just kept letting it fly.”
Senior forward Beyonce Bea contributed 12 points, five rebounds and four assists for the Vandals (8-13, 4-6), who had lost six in a row before the weekend sweep. Freshman guard Rosa Smith chipped in 11 points. Senior guard Tiana Johnson had 10 points and four rebounds.
Calllie Bourne paced the Bengals (8-12, 3-6) with 15 points, six rebounds and four assists before fouling out. Sophia Covello, who also fouled out, added 13 points.
With a tie game at 17 seven minutes into the first quarter, Idaho tallied the final eight points of the quarter, including a 3-pointer and a free throw by Wallace, to take a 25-17 edge.
“It was great first quarter, especially offensively,” Newlee said. “We really got going. Putting up 25 against the best defensive team in the conference in that quarter really set the tone for us.”
Smith’s shot from distance at the 8:18 mark of the second gave the Vandals a 10-point advantage. Idaho State whittled it down to a 30-25 Idaho lead with 4:56 left before halftime, but once again the Vandals used a 10-point spurt late to take control. Wallace hit a pair of 3s and Smith had two layups as Idaho went up by 15. The teams went to the locker room with the Vandals ahead 40-28. Wallace had 18 points at intermission.
An 8-0 run midway through the third quarter saw Idaho take a 50-32 lead with 4:58 to go. Wallace canned another 3 just before the buzzer as the Vandals held a 56-42 advantage.
But the Bengals did not go away. By the halfway point of the fourth, Idaho State whittled the Idaho advantage to 61-57 after a pair of free throws by Carsyn Boswell. However, the Vandals stopped the bleeding with a pair of baskets from Bea, including a putback, to increase their lead to eight with 2:24 left. The Bengals never could get any closer than six.
Idaho was 22-for-51 (43.1%) shooting, including 12-of-29 (41.4%) from beyond the arc.
The Vandals next play at 6 p.m. Thursday at home against Portland State.