Idaho’s Memorial Gymnasium played host to a loud and proud capacity crowd tonight as the Vandals swept their hoops exhibition doubleheader.
The evening’s first celebration came after the Vandal women took down NAIA Eastern Oregon in a slugfest, 61-43. Two hours later, Idaho’s men claimed an 87-61 victory over Division II St. Martin’s.
Neither win was perfect — the women struggled to find a shooting touch, while the men had trouble finding a defensive groove. But both squads well used the experience of 40 minutes on the hardwood against outside competition to prepare for their regular season openers next week. The men begin Nov. 13 at Utah, while the women open at home against Gonzaga on Nov. 16.
Idaho 87, St. Martin’s 61
Idaho coach Don Verlin was pleased with some aspects of his team’s performance in their one and only preseason exhibition tuneup, but he didn’t mince words when talking about their trouble spots.
“We have to get better defensively,” Verlin said. “We weren’t solid all night in post defense and I’m disappointed in how our post guys did there. We didn’t do a good enough job contesting shots, either. Give them some credit, (the Saints) are good, but they had wide-open looks.”
One place the Vandals weren’t lacking: offense. Idaho lit up the scoreboard, as four players hit double figures and one just missed out. Guard Steffan Johnson led the way with 14 points on 5-8 shooting, while guards Mac Hopson and Shawn Henderson and center Marvin Jefferson poured in a dozen apiece. Freshman center Kyle Barone nearly pulled off a double-double, scoring 9 points and grabbing 9 rebounds.
Henderson, a JC transfer from North Idaho College, made an attention-getting debut in a Vandal uniform. He caught fire in the second half, going 5-for-5 at one point. Henderson finished 6-for-7 with 12 points while pulling down four rebounds and dishing out a pair of assists in 15 minutes of action.
“I just started feeling it and I got in the zone,” Henderson said. “Coach wanted me to attack the basket and that’s what I did. The shots started falling and that was that.”
Idaho 61, Eastern Oregon 43
If it’s possible to be disappointed with a victory, this would be it. The Vandals shot an awful 36 percent on the night, with stat lines like Bianca Cheever’s 2-for-10 and Yinka Olorunnife’s 1-for-8 being the rule. Nor was there much to smile about defensively — only endless bricks from the NAIA Mountaineers kept the game from being close. Coach Jon Newlee made his displeasure clear.
“We got so much to work on. With Gonzaga coming in here, it’s scary, to be honest with you,” Newlee said. “I didn’t like our defensive communication or our decision-making with the basketball. We had 18 turnovers against these guys and it wasn’t like they put a whole lot of pressure on us. That wasn’t bad execution, it was bad choices.”
This story will be continually updated.