The Idaho women’s basketball team already has some bragging rights in the Big Sky Conference.
The Vandals were the only team to land two players on the league’s preseason all-conference team with junior guard Gina Marxen and sophomore guard/post Beyonce Bea making the cut Tuesday in a vote by coaches and media members.
The pair is part of four returning starters from an Idaho team that went 22-9 last season and was set to play Montana State in the Big Sky championship when the season abruptly ended because of the coronavirus.
No Vandals made the team on the men’s side.
“I think it is great and well deserved for the years they had last season,” Idaho coach Jon Newlee said. “You still have to live up to it. It’s all talk right now so they have a lot to go out and prove on the floor, but I think they are both up for that challenge.”
Marxen, a Sammamish, Wash., product, lodged herself as a mainstay among Big Sky honorees after earning freshman of the year honors in 2018-19.
The savvy guard led the Vandals with 13.3 points and 4.4 assists per game last season, playing a conference-high 37.5 minutes per contest.
A solid 3-point shooter as a freshman, Marxen’s rate from long distance took a slight dip in her second year to 34.6 percent compared to 41.1 percent.
But Marxen flashed her 3-point shooting several times throughout the season, including hitting a career-high seven from outside in a 30-point performance in a double-overtime win Nov. 20, 2019, against Seattle U. She made a league-high 89 3s on the season.
Marxen was the only sophomore to be picked to the preseason all-conference team a year ago, and she was named first-team all-conference in the spring.
“She certainly puts in the work,” Newlee said. “She’s earned Freshman of the Year, first-team all-league last year, and I think she’s gained respect from the coaches in the league for what she has done so far.
“I still think there’s a lot for her to do and she has a very high ceiling. The combination of her being able to score in different ways, but also be our best defender has really put her in a place where she’s gained the respect.”
Like Marxen two years ago, Bea shined in her first season in black and gold.
The Washougal, Wash., native finished third on the team in scoring (12.6 points) and earned third-team all-conference honors.
Bea’s big breakout also came against Seattle U, when she garnered a 27-point, 12-rebound double-double. Bea drained a clutch 3 with 21 seconds left to force overtime as Idaho went on to win 90-84 in double overtime.
“She really had a great freshman year,” Newlee said. “I expect a lot out of Beyonce. I think she is unbelievably talented for her size and the things she can do.
“I think she came back quicker and has gotten stronger. There’s a lot of good left for Beyonce to accomplish at our program and in our league. The coaches understand that, see the kind of year she had and potentially what she could do in the future.”
Marxen, Bea and the Vandals open Big Sky play Dec. 3 against Sacramento State at Memorial Gym.
Big Sky preseason teams
MVP: G Khiarica Rasheed, sr., Northern Arizona
G: Gina Marxen, jr., Idaho
G/P: Beyonce Bea, so., Idaho
G: Darian White, so., Montana State,
G: Dora Goles, sr., Idaho State
F: Alisha Davis, so., Northern Colorado
MVP: G Jacob Davison, sr., Eastern Washington
G/F: Kim Aiken, jr., Eastern Washington
G: Bodie Hume, jr., Northern Colorado
G: Cameron Shelton, jr., Northern Arizona
F: Jubrile Belo, jr., Montana State
F: Michael Steadman, sr., Montana
Stephan Wiebe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, (208) 883-4624 and on Twitter @StephanSports.