BOZEMAN, Mont. – The University of Idaho men's basketball team rode an impressive first-half defensive effort for a 65-50 road win on Saturday at Montana State in the ESPN BracketBusters game at Worthington Arena.
Idaho improved to 15-11 with the win, while MSU slipped to 11-16 overall. The victory is Idaho's third in a row outside Western Athletic Conference play and gives the Vandals an 8-5 non-conference tally this season.
"We really played well in the first half," Idaho head coach Don Verlin said. "I thought we dominated every facet of the game - guys came out with an unbelievable amount of energy."
The victory also gave Idaho its first three-game non-conference road winning streak since 1990.
The Vandals jumped out to their biggest halftime lead of the season, a 39-16 edge, after shooting 54.2 percent in the opening period. It was Idaho's biggest halftime advantage since its 15-point edge against Louisiana Tech on Dec. 31 at the break.
Sophomore Kyle Barone led Idaho with 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting, along with five rebounds and two assists. Senior forward Brandon Wiley put in 13 points with five rebounds and two blocks.
MSU's Bobby Howard led all scorers with 19 points on 9-of-16 shooting, but he was one of just two Bobcats to reach double-digit scoring totals on the day.
As a team, Idaho shot 47.6 percent from the field, 30 percent from 3-point range and 64.7 percent from the free throw line. The Vandals held MSU to 35.8 percent shooting overall and 11.8 percent from 3-point range.
"I thought the game was won tonight with our defensive intensity," Verlin said. "Holding them to 50 points, 35 percent from the field, 11 percent from three, that was a pretty good defensive performance."
Idaho posted one of its most impressive first halves of the season, as the Vandals shot 13-of-24 (.524) overall from the field and 3-of-6 (.500) from 3-point range. Idaho held MSU to a season-low 16 first-half points on 31.8 percent (7-22) shooting overall, including zero 3-point makes on eight attempts.
Idaho also drew seven first-half fouls and went to the line 14 times in the opening half. MSU earned just five free throw attempts and the Vandals out-rebounded the Bobcats 17-12 in the first 20 minutes.
After an MSU jumper by Howard made it 24-14 at the 8:43 mark of the half, Idaho unleashed a 15-2 run to end the half and send the teams into the locker room with the score 39-16.
Next week sees the Vandals jump back into WAC play, as they start the difficult road trip at Nevada on Thursday, then Utah State on Saturday. At 7-6 in WAC play, Idaho's three remaining conference games will be crucial in determining where the Vandals will start the WAC Tournament. They're currently tied in fourth with Boise State.