Vandals bury Eastern Washington in a blizzard of 3-pointers

28 Nov

With a minute and change gone in the second half of Idaho’s home contest against Eastern Washington tonight, Steffan Johnson grabbed a feed from Mac Hopson at the top of the key and buried his fourth three-pointer of the game to put the Vandals up by 25.

Twenty seconds and a Marvin Jefferson block later, it was an instant replay. Hopson dished off to Johnson in the wing and as his shot arced through the air, the 1,500 fans in Memorial Gym came to their feet even before it swished through the net. They knew it would be good — every one before had been.

On the strength of seven straight 3-point makes and a stifling defensive effort, the homestanding Vandals blew out Eastern Washington, 76-54, to go 4-1 on the young season — Idaho’s best start since 1988. EWU fell to 2-4.

“This was a heck of a win,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said. “We dominated them. We rebounded the ball well, got out in transition and held (the Eagles) to 36 percent shooting. That’s just good execution all around.”

The Vandals made eight of 12 3-point attempts, the third-best team performance from downtown in Idaho history, and Johnson’s 6-for-7 shooting outside was the third-best by a single player. Hopson and Marcus Lawrence also got in on the action from long range, shredding the Eagles’ man-to-man defense. Overall, Idaho shot 54.2 percent on the night — and 66.7 percent in the first half. Idaho leads the WAC in both shooting categories — hitting .489 from the field and .446 from downtown.

Both teams started slowly, and an early trey from the Eagles’ Kevin Winford meant Idaho led by just a single point three minutes into the game — 4-3. But the Vandals would score eight consecutive points and go on a 32-12 run in the next 10 minutes of the half, anchored by big inside buckets from Jefferson and Luiz Toledo. The Eagles would not threaten again, and Idaho would build a 31-point lead midway through the second half before calling off the dogs.

Johnson led all players with 18 points on 6-7 shooting from 3-point range, along with 2 assists, 2 rebounds, 2 steals and a block. He was joined in double figures by Toledo’s 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting and ten more from Jefferson, who was 4-for-8 from the field. Hopson, the other half of Idaho’s 1-2 backcourt punch, was 4-of-5 from the field for 9 points, grabbed 5 rebounds and dished up a team-high 4 assists.

“I was just feeling it tonight,” Johnson said. “When we’re shooting like that, it helps us in so many ways. They had to open up their defense, give space to our big guys inside and it’s a huge mental boost, too. When you hit like that, the bench gets into it, the crowd was really going — you start thinking you’re never going to miss.”

Eastern Washington came into the game shooting only 41 percent from the field, but the Vandals kept the Eagles in an even deeper freeze. The Eagles managed to hit just 20 of their 55 field-goal attempts, a 36.4 percent performance that should keep Idaho among the nation’s top teams in field-goal defense. Point guard Glen Dean was a solid 5-for-8, but the ten other Eagles combined to make just 15 buckets between them.

Of particular note: Eagles center Brandon Moore, who entered the night averaging a double-double with 13.4 points and 11.2 rebounds per game, was shut out by Idaho’s big men. He went 0-for-6 from the field and pulled down just 5 rebounds while turning the ball over three times.

“The coaches have been asking me to play solid defense, and if I play my role we’ll succeed,” Jefferson said. “It was all about being tough and putting on the pressure all night long.”

For Jefferson, it was a stellar outing all around — to his 10 points and shutdown defense, he added 3 rebounds, 3 blocks, 3 steals and recorded no turnovers. He now leads the WAC in blocked shots, averaging 2.6 per game.

“Marvin played as good a floor game as he’s played since he’s been here,” Verlin said. “He was a huge factor tonight in our dominance of the paint.”

While Idaho again struggled with turnovers — coughing up the ball 21 times — Verlin preferred to focus on the other big stat of the night. The Vandals outrebounded the Eagles by 17, pulling down 40 boards to EWU’s 23. Kyle Barone led the charge on the glass, pulling down 7, while Toledo, Hopson and Kashif Watson grabbed 5 apiece.

It was a milestone night, too, for true freshman forward Corey Stern, who scored his first points as a Division I player. In 11 minutes of action, he tallied 4 points, 3 rebounds, an assist and a block.

The Vandals can’t rest on their laurels, as they head into another tough three-game stretch — two of which will be on the road. Idaho will take on Cal State-Northridge on Thursday, in a return game from Idaho’s home win last year in the BracketBusters. The Matadors went on to the NCAA Tournament after winning the Big West Tournament and they’ll be gunning for revenge. On Dec. 6, the Vandals return home to face the undefeated Portland Pilots, who have upended Oregon, UCLA and nationally-ranked Minnesota. Finally, on Dec. 9, Idaho will make the short trip to Pullman, Wash. for the cross-border rivalry with Washington State.

“This has been a great start, but it’s on now,” Verlin said. “I told our guys, our next three games are going to be all we can handle. It’s going to be competitive, tough and we’ll have to play our best basketball every night.”

Official Basketball Box Score
Eastern Washington vs Idaho
11-28-09 7:05 p.m. at Memorial Gym - Moscow, Idaho

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
VISITORS: Eastern Washington 2-4
                          TOT-FG  3-PT         REBOUNDS
## Player Name            FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF  TP  A TO BLK S MIN
01 DEAN, Glen.......... *  5-8    2-3    2-4    0  2  2   2  14  4  3  0  3  33
02 FORBES, Jeffrey..... *  2-9    1-2    0-0    1  1  2   4   5  1  0  0  0  28
10 GIBBS, Alden........ *  0-0    0-0    0-0    0  1  1   0   0  0  0  0  0   8
42 DUNN, Mark.......... *  3-5    0-0    2-2    1  2  3   2   8  0  1  0  0  23
45 MOORE, Brandon...... *  0-6    0-0    0-0    2  3  5   2   0  0  3  0  0  18
05 VALENTINE, Benny....    2-4    2-4    0-0    1  0  1   1   6  0  2  0  0  10
14 GIBSON, Gary........    0-1    0-1    0-0    0  0  0   3   0  0  1  0  1   8
15 GRIFFIN, Laron......    2-6    0-0    0-2    1  2  3   3   4  0  3  1  2  12
23 WINFORD, Kevin......    3-7    1-3    2-2    0  0  0   1   9  1  1  0  0  20
24 DEMISSIE, Abebe.....    3-5    1-2    0-0    1  2  3   2   7  0  2  0  0  13
32 BRUNELL, Matthew....    0-4    0-1    1-2    1  1  2   1   1  1  1  0  0  27
   TEAM................                            1  1
   Totals..............   20-55   7-16   7-12   8 15 23  21  54  7 17  1  6 200

TOTAL FG% 1st Half:  9-25 36.0%   2nd Half: 11-30 36.7%   Game: 36.4%  DEADB
3-Pt. FG% 1st Half:  2-5  40.0%   2nd Half:  5-11 45.5%   Game: 43.8%   REBS
F Throw % 1st Half:  3-7  42.9%   2nd Half:  4-5  80.0%   Game: 58.3%    3

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
HOME TEAM: Idaho 4-1
                          TOT-FG  3-PT         REBOUNDS
## Player Name            FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF  TP  A TO BLK S MIN
01 Hopson,Mac.......... *  4-5    1-1    0-0    0  5  5   2   9  4  5  0  0  22
05 Johnson,Steffan..... *  6-7    6-7    0-2    1  1  2   0  18  2  4  1  2  27
21 Toledo,Luiz......... *  4-7    0-0    2-3    3  2  5   3  10  0  1  0  1  23
32 Watson,Kashif....... *  2-6    0-0    4-4    2  3  5   1   8  2  2  0  0  23
53 Jefferson,Marvin.... *  4-8    0-0    2-4    0  3  3   0  10  0  0  3  3  22
00 Stern,Corey.........    1-2    0-0    2-2    1  1  2   3   4  1  0  1  0  11
02 Ledbetter,Jeff......    1-2    0-1    2-3    0  3  3   4   4  2  1  1  1  16
03 Henderson,Shawn.....    0-2    0-0    2-2    0  3  3   0   2  0  4  0  1  17
13 De Souza,Luciano....    0-1    0-1    0-0    0  1  1   2   0  1  0  0  0   7
20 Lawrence,Marcus.....    3-4    1-2    0-0    1  0  1   2   7  0  3  0  0  15
33 Barone,Kyle.........    1-4    0-0    2-2    2  5  7   0   4  0  1  1  0  17
   TEAM................                         1  2  3
   Totals..............   26-48   8-12  16-22  11 29 40  17  76 12 21  7  8 200

TOTAL FG% 1st Half: 16-24 66.7%   2nd Half: 10-24 41.7%   Game: 54.2%  DEADB
3-Pt. FG% 1st Half:  5-5  100 %   2nd Half:  3-7  42.9%   Game: 66.7%   REBS
F Throw % 1st Half:  8-13 61.5%   2nd Half:  8-9  88.9%   Game: 72.7%    2

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Officials: Duane Allen, Rick Batsell, Frank Harvey III
Technical fouls: Eastern Washington-None. Idaho-None.
Attendance: 1500
Score by Periods                1st  2nd   Total
Eastern Washington............   23   31  -   54
Idaho.........................   45   31  -   76

Points in the paint-EWU 10,UI 30. Points off turnovers-EWU 13,UI 18.
2nd chance points-EWU 3,UI 10. Fast break points-EWU 0,UI 5.
Bench points-EWU 27,UI 21. Score tied-0 times. Lead changed-0 times.
Last FG-EWU 2nd-00:31, UI 2nd-02:54.
Largest lead-EWU None, UI by 31 2nd-09:51.
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