Men's Basketball: Vandals falter down the stretch - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

Men's Basketball: Vandals falter down the stretch

MOSCOW, Idaho - In a game where every possession was crucial, University
of Idaho men's basketball made too many mistakes in a 55-49 loss on
Thursday in the team's Western Athletic Conference home opener against
the University of Denver.


Idaho (6-8, 2-2 WAC) committed 12 second-half turnovers and 18 total in
the game, which Denver (8-7, 4-1 WAC) turned into 19 points.


"I knew the game was going to be like it was, a grind-out game," Idaho
head coach Don Verlin said. "I knew it was going to be like that and I
thought we did a lot of good things. We did a good job defensively, but
we just didn't take care of our ball well enough to win this game."


In the first 36 minutes of the game, Idaho had held the WAC's most
prolific 3-point shooting team to just three made triples, but DU's
Chase Hallam drained threes on back-to-back possessions with three
minutes to play. Those two shots snatched away an Idaho 44-41 lead and
put the Vandals in a 47-44 hole with 2:36 to play.


Vandal senior Mike McChristian gave Idaho a 48-47 lead with a layup at
1:35, but Idaho committed two more turnovers and didn't attempt a shot
by the end of regulation, while DU re-took the lead on a layup at 1:14,
then made all six of its free throw attempts to finish the game.


"I thought we defended it pretty well, but we let Hallam get loose there
a couple times late and he makes two big 3-point shots," Verlin said.


As a team, Idaho shot 17-of-35 (.486) overall and 3-of-9 (.333) from
3-point range, along with a 12-of-15 (.800) showing at the free throw
line. DU went 19-of-44 (.432) from the field, 5-of-18 (.278) from
3-point range and 12-of-13 (.923) from the free throw line.


Idaho held a 25-17 rebounding edge, but gave up a key offensive rebound
after forcing a miss with 26 seconds to play and facing a one-point
deficit. The Vandals had to foul and saw themselves in a three-point
hole instead.


"I thought they came up with big plays when they needed to come up with
them," Verlin said. "It gets late in the basketball game, we get them to
miss a shot, then we don't come up with the rebound."


Vandal junior Stephen Madison led all scorers with 19 points on 7-of-11
shooting, along with four assists. Sophomore guard Connor Hill added 12
points on 3-of-6 shooting, all from long range, and added his
NCAA-leading third four-point play of the season.


Leading scorer Kyle Barone tied his season low with five points on
2-of-7 shooting, along with six turnovers. Verlin said DU did a good job
of attacking him with the double teams and frustrating him all night
long.


DU outscored Idaho in the paint, 26-24, off turnovers, 19-15 and off the
bench, 9-4. Idaho held a 2-0 margin on the fast break and had a 10-5
edge in second-chance points in the game.


After the Vandal men took a 28-24 lead into the halftime break, the
Pioneers opened the second half with a 7-0 run to take a 33-28 lead at
the 14:55 mark. Idaho answered immediately with a 15-3 run of its own
for a 43-36 lead - its largest of the game - but then Denver ended with
a 19-6 scoring tally over the game's final eight minutes.


The Vandal men stay at home on Saturday, when they host New Mexico State
(9-8, 3-2 WAC). The Aggies outlasted Seattle U in double-overtime on
Thursday by an 83-82 margin at KeyArena. Idaho and NM State split the
season series last year, with the home team winning each time.


Saturday's game tips off at 7:05 p.m. (PT) at the Cowan Spectrum.



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