BOISE – The rim has always looked big to Idaho sharpshooter Taylor Pierce.
It looks even bigger at CenturyLink Arena.
Pierce scored a game-high 31 points Tuesday, tying her career high, to help the top-seeded Vandals down No. 8 seed Northern Arizona 90-73 in the Big Sky Conference Tournament quarterfinals.
Pierce is four 3-pointers away from setting the single-season NCAA Division I record (141).
“I felt good today and I felt good in shootaround this morning, too,” said Pierce, who scored 29 points last season at CenturyLink Arena against Eastern Oregon. “My teammates did a great job of getting me looks. We were running in transition and that’s the way we love to play.
“The rim looked pretty massive to me today and I hope it looks the same tomorrow.”
Mikayla Ferenz, the conference’s Most Valuable Player and all-time leading scorer, added 24 points for Idaho (20-10), which faces fourth-seeded Portland State (23-7) in Wednesday’s semifinals.
The Vandals swept the Big Sky season series from Portland State this season.
The star tandem helped slow-starting Idaho shake off an early deficit by spearheading a 36-point second quarter.
Idaho shot 27 percent in the first quarter before the Vandals flipped the switch and put away the shorthanded Lumberjacks (13-18).
Pierce, who scored 25 points in the first half, hit six 3-pointers.
NAU was without Kaleigh Paplow, its scoring, rebounding and assists leader, who was injured during Monday’s win over Sacramento State.
True freshman guard Regan Schenck scored 11 of her team-high 24 points in the first quarter to give NAU a 21-20 edge heading into the second quarter.
“Once we got out of the first quarter, I thought we did a good job of defending better and started to making some shots,” Idaho coach Jon Newlee said.
NAU was held to 39 percent shooting from the field and was outrebounded 48-37.
Idaho freshman point guard Gina Marxen often found the hot hand, totaling nine assists. Idaho sisters Natalie and Lizzy Klinker combined for 23 rebounds and 18 points.
NAU coach Loree Payne, a former Washington standout, liked her team’s fight with its best player sidelined.
“We are super proud of the team and the resilience they showed with Kayleigh going down,” Payne said. “We battled together even though we were short on our lineup. The team played incredibly hard the entire game.”
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