Vandals get whacked in WAC Tournament - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

Vandals get whacked in WAC Tournament

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By University of Idaho athletics

RENO, Nev. - Idaho senior Luciano de Souza scored a career-high 20 points, but the Vandal men couldn't slow down a red-hot Nevada team in the quarterfinal round of the Western Athletic Conference Tournament and Idaho's season ended Thursday with a 87-71 loss to the Wolf Pack.

With the loss, Idaho finishes the season with a 15-16 overall record, a 6-10 WAC record and sixth-place tie in the conference. Nevada (20-11, 11-5 WAC) moves on to the semifinal round to face the winner of the late game between San Jose State and New Mexico State.

Nevada opened the game with a 26-foot 3-pointer by WAC Player of the Year Luke Babbitt and never slowed down in shooting 55.4 percent from the floor and hitting 55.6 percent of its 3-point attempts. The Wolf Pack went 7-of-13 from long range in the first half to create a double-digit lead, then held off every Idaho advance.

"You've got to give Nevada a lot of credit tonight. I thought they played extremely well," Idaho head coach Don Verlin said. "They started right from the get-go tonight. Luke Babbitt hit a big three to open the game and away they went."

The Vandals hit 39.7 percent of their shots and committed just seven turnovers, but went just 6-of-20 from the 3-point line and made just 11 of 19 free throw attempts.

De Souza had a career game, as he nailed eight of his 12 attempts, including 4-of-7 from 3-point range, for 20 points, with one steal, one rebound, and one assist. Fellow senior Marvin Jefferson also went big in his final game with 14 points, 10 rebounds, and four blocks for his fourth career double-double.

Senior Mac Hopson scored 15 points with six assists, five rebounds, and two steals in his final game as a Vandal. Junior Shawn Henderson added eight points and a career-high eight rebounds, while freshman Kyle Barone put in seven points with seven boards.

"I thought offensively, especially in the first half, we got some wide open looks, but we just didn't knock them down, and if you're going to beat a team on their home court in a game this big, you've got to play very, very well and you've got to have things go your way," Verlin said. "I thought we missed some open shots and I thought they (Nevada) did a good job of taking all their opportunities."

Nevada made its move at the 11:22 mark when the Wolf Pack ran off a 20-7 run to turn a tight, 21-16, game into a 41-23 advantage with 5:04 remaining the first period. During the run, Nevada hit four of its five 3-point attempts and went 7-of-10 overall and took a 47-34 lead into the half.

While the Vandals hoped to start the second half strongly to get back into the game, Nevada started the second the same way it finished the first. The Wolf Pack made six of its first seven shots in the period and extended its lead to 20 points at 60-40 with 16:31 left in the game.

"We never got the game to the tempo we wanted to have it at, and that just goes to credit a very good, very experienced Nevada team," Verlin said.

Idaho was able to cut the lead down to 14 points on one occasion, but the Wolf Pack answered every time the Vandals tried to string together a run.

With the loss, Idaho slips to 1-5 all-time at the WAC Tournament, with the one victory being a 50-49 win over San Jose State in the 2008 play-in game.

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