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Univ. of Idaho - Basketball

Vandals lose close contest in San Jose

(Photo: San Jose St. Athletics) (Photo: San Jose St. Athletics)

by Univ. of Idaho Athletics

SAN JOSE, Calif. – In a tight game that featured 28 lead changes and 12 ties, Idaho wasn't able to respond to a late San Jose State run in a 78-75 loss on Monday at The Event Center.

Idaho fell to 8-5 overall and 1-1 in Western Athletic Conference play, while San Jose State moved to 8-5 and 1-0 in the WAC.

"When it came time to make the plays tonight, they made the plays, we didn't," Idaho head coach Don Verlin said. "We didn't come up with the big stops, and when we did come up with the big stops, we didn't come up with the big rebounds."

Idaho senior Mac Hopson led the team in scoring for the fifth game in a row, as he tallied 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting, dished seven assists and also led the team with eight rebounds. Senior Steffan Johnson added 15 points, all on 3-pointers, as well as four assists and two steals.

Both teams shot particularly well from the field, with Idaho hitting 50.9 percent of its shots and San Jose State going 52.5 percent from the field. Idaho went 7-of-21 (.333) from 3-point range, while SJSU hit five of its 12 attempts for a .417 clip.

The WAC's second-leading scorer, Adrian Oliver of San Jose State, scored 22 points on 8-of-17 shooting, while teammate C.J. Webster hit 10 of his 14 attempts for 21 points, along with 11 rebounds. SJSU center Chris Oakes went 8-of-10 from the field and contributed 18 points for the Spartans.

"Defense, rebounding, and free throw shooting are areas we concentrate and work on," Verlin said. "I don't think we defended well enough tonight, and I don't think we rebounded it well enough in the second half. Third, and probably the most important, we didn't make our (free) throws."

After a dead-even first half, the difference in the second half was two areas for Idaho – rebounds and free throws. The Vandals went 8-of-14 (.571) from the charity stripe in the period and sent SJSU to the line just three times. Idaho was out-rebounded by an 18-8 margin, including an 8-3 difference in offensive boards. The Spartans put in 14 second-chance points in the half, while Idaho had just four.

"Early in the second half we couldn't get stops, so we went to the zone and we got them to miss, but we couldn't rebound," Verlin said. "They out-rebounded us 18-8 in the second half and that was really the difference in the game."

The game featured a 22-minute, 31-second period during which neither team led by more than three points and the lead changed hands 27 times.

Idaho appeared to break free when a three-ball by Johnson capped off an 8-0 run to put the Vandals up 56-50 at the 12:59 mark of the second half, but SJSU scored the game's next nine points to go back up by three. Idaho forced one more tie a few minutes later, but the defense couldn't get the stop it needed over the final eight minutes of the game and the Spartans held the Vandals at bay.

"We got Johnson some wide-open looks and he made them and we got a little bit of a lead, and then momentum changed and we let this one slip away," Verlin said.

Idaho will now head home for the weekend to open its home slate in the conference with a tough test on Saturday against Louisiana Tech, which opened its weekend with home wins over Nevada and Utah State. Idaho will then host New Mexico State on Monday.

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