Pilots left stunned as Idaho’s defense crushes #25 Portland

6 Dec

The Portland Pilots, the No. 25 team in the country, came to Moscow tonight for Idaho’s first-ever home showdown with a nationally-ranked non-conference opponent — and were promptly blown right back out the doors of historic Memorial Gym.

To the thundering cheers of a sellout crowd in the venerable home of Idaho basketball, the Vandals made history by destroying #25 Portland, 68-48, for Idaho’s first victory over a nationally-ranked team since 1982.

Idaho improved to 5-2, the team’s best start since the 1989-90 season, while the Pilots fell to 5-3.

The victory came in an unorthodox — and for coach Don Verlin, heartening — way: with punishing lockdown defense. The Pilots, who came into this game as one of the nation’s top shooting teams, were comprehensively shut down, making just 19 of 59 shots from the field — an abysmal .322 performance.

“That’s as good defensively as we’ve played all year for that length of time,” Verlin said. “It’s a credit to our guys.”

The stat lines are stunning: guard T.J. Campbell, the Pilots’ leading scorer with 16.7 points on .554 shooting, was held to an awful 1-for-11 shooting for 3 points. Big man Robin Smeulders, a 63.3-percent shooter averaging 13.3 points, was just 1-for-6 with 2 points while turning the ball over 3 times. A team that came in shooting 42 percent from downtown made just 6 of 22 3-point attempts — 27.3 percent.

“We’re happy about this win because we did it on the defensive end and that’s where we were lacking,” Idaho point guard Mac Hopson said. “Coach said that’s what he wanted from us, was to shut them down, and we just listened this time. We stopped their top threats and got the W.”

Right from the opening tip-off, it was clear the Vandals wanted to establish dominance early. Idaho made its first three shots in a row — including a crowd-pleasing dunk by center Marvin Jefferson — while the Pilots missed their first six attempts from the floor.

The real damage was done midway through the first half. With 10 minutes to play in the opening period, a 4-0 run from the Pilots cut Idaho’s lead to 3 points, and the momentum seemed to be all on the visitors’ side. But reserve point guard Marcus Lawrence stepped up and canned a wide-open trey from the corner, and the rout was on.

Idaho would go on to score 10 more points in the next 5 minutes — while Portland combined to go 1-for-6 with 5 turnovers and a bench technical foul. Ethan Niedermeyer snapped the run with a 3-pointer, but Luciano de Souza ignited the gym by returning the favor from downtown. That would be the game’s theme — every time the Pilots looked to have something going, the Vandals struck back and reignited the crowd.

Portland managed to score just 18 points in the game’s first half, going into the locker room trailing by 16. While the Pilots got more opportunities in the game’s second 20 minutes, they weren’t able to shoot any better, and the damage had already been done. The Pilots’ final total of 48 is the lowest point total for a Vandal foe this year.

“Our players worked really hard these last two days in the film room and on the court about how we can get better,” Verlin said. “Our perimeter pressure was good as it’s been all year and Marvin (Jefferson) and Kyle (Barone) did a great job with post defense.”

Jefferson scored only once — on the early dunk — but froze out Smeulders and was a rebounding machine, grabbing 9 boards to lead all players in cleaning up the glass.

“Tonight, I couldn’t get it going offensively so I tried the best I could defensively to help the team,” Jefferson said. “Coach is always preaching, says I have to go in there and grab every board and that’s what I tried to do tonight.”

Nor did the Pilots get opportunities on the free-throw line — they took just six shots from the charity stripe all night, converting on four. That marks another season-low for the Vandals’ opponents.

“I got a couple quick fouls but I took the refs’ advice and played a little more solid, going after the ball and not the man,” Jefferson said. “When I’m out there, I feel like the team plays better, so it’s on me to stay out of trouble.”

The Vandals weren’t fazed by the Pilots’ defense, finishing the night shooting 52.2 percent, 43 percent from 3-point range. That keeps the Vandals among the nation’s top 20 teams in shooting efficiency.

For the second game in a row, Kashif Watson led the Vandals — this time from the field and not the free-throw line — with 15 points on 7-for-11 shooting, 4 rebounds and 2 assists. Hopson finished with 10 points on 3-6 shooting and 3 assists, while Luiz Toledo was once again a force in the paint with 12 points and 5 rebounds. Steffan Johnson scored just 8 points, but he grabbed 6 boards and dished up a team-high 5 assists.

Idaho’s bench once again played a key role, providing 20 points, with de Souza’s 8 points on 3-for-4 shooting leading the way.

As expected, the game was a sell-out, and the 1,500 in attendance got a special halftime treat — football coach Robb Akey stepped to center court and announced the Vandals’ acceptance of a bid to play in the 2009 Humanitarian Bowl against Bowling Green on Dec. 30.

“It was great, great to hear we got an H-Bowl bid,” Verlin said. “It’s a good time to be an Idaho Vandal and it was great to see all the people in the stands. Our basketball team really feeds off that energy.”

The Vandals don’t have much time to celebrate the victory, as they head 10 miles down the road to Pullman, Wash. on Wednesday for a night-time showdown with cross-border rival Washington State. That game, scheduled for an 8 p.m. tip-off, means much to one Vandal in particular.

“I came from WSU out of junior college and that game is pretty huge for me,” Hopson said. “Every game is big, but that one is something special. I want to get a big win for us.”

Official Basketball Box Score
Portland vs Idaho
12-6-09 5:05 pm at Moscow, Idaho (Memorial Gym)

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
VISITORS: Portland 5-3
                          TOT-FG  3-PT         REBOUNDS
## Player Name            FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF  TP  A TO BLK S MIN
03 NIEDERMEYER, Ethan.. *  3-8    3-7    0-0    1  1  2   3   9  1  2  0  4  29
12 SMEULDERS, Robin.... *  1-6    0-0    0-0    4  2  6   1   2  0  3  1  0  27
15 RAIVIO, Nik......... *  3-13   1-3    3-3    3  4  7   2  10  1  1  0  1  29
44 CAMPBELL, T.J....... *  1-11   1-7    0-0    0  2  2   2   3  5  4  0  1  36
45 KNUTSON, Kramer..... *  2-3    0-0    0-1    0  0  0   0   4  0  0  0  0  13
05 ITO, Taishi.........    0-0    0-0    0-0    0  1  1   1   0  0  2  0  0   5
20 STOHL, Jared........    1-4    0-2    0-0    0  2  2   2   2  2  2  0  2  18
33 MITROVIC, Nemanja...    2-4    1-3    0-0    0  1  1   0   5  0  0  0  0  10
43 SIKMA, Luke.........    5-8    0-0    1-1    2  3  5   2  11  0  1  0  0  25
55 HANNIBAL, Jasonn....    1-2    0-0    0-1    0  0  0   1   2  0  0  0  0   8
   TEAM................                         2  2  4             2
   Totals..............   19-59   6-22   4-6   12 18 30  14  48  9 17  1  8 200

TOTAL FG% 1st Half:  8-25 32.0%   2nd Half: 11-34 32.4%   Game: 32.2%  DEADB
3-Pt. FG% 1st Half:  2-8  25.0%   2nd Half:  4-14 28.6%   Game: 27.3%   REBS
F Throw % 1st Half:  0-1   0.0%   2nd Half:  4-5  80.0%   Game: 66.7%   0,2

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
HOME TEAM: Idaho 5-2
                          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......... *  3-6    1-2    3-3    0  1  1   0  10  3  3  0  0  30
05 Johnson, Steffan.... *  2-7    1-5    3-5    0  6  6   0   8  5  3  1  2  28
21 Toledo, Luiz........ *  5-7    0-0    2-2    1  4  5   0  12  1  1  0  0  29
32 Watson, Kashif...... *  7-11   0-0    1-2    1  3  4   4  15  2  4  0  0  23
53 Jefferson, Marvin... *  1-4    0-0    1-2    2  7  9   2   3  2  2  1  1  30
02 Ledbetter, Jeff.....    1-3    1-3    1-2    0  0  0   2   4  3  0  0  1  12
03 Henderson, Shawn....    0-1    0-0    0-2    1  2  3   1   0  0  1  0  0  15
13 de Souza, Luciano...    3-4    2-3    0-2    0  0  0   3   8  0  0  0  0  13
20 Lawrence, Marcus....    1-1    1-1    0-0    0  0  0   0   3  2  1  0  2  10
33 Barone, Kyle........    1-2    0-0    3-3    0  3  3   4   5  0  1  0  1  10
   TEAM................                         2  3  5             1
   Totals..............   24-46   6-14  14-23   7 29 36  16  68 18 17  2  7 200

TOTAL FG% 1st Half: 13-23 56.5%   2nd Half: 11-23 47.8%   Game: 52.2%  DEADB
3-Pt. FG% 1st Half:  4-8  50.0%   2nd Half:  2-6  33.3%   Game: 42.9%   REBS
F Throw % 1st Half:  4-7  57.1%   2nd Half: 10-16 62.5%   Game: 60.9%   4,1

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Officials: Duane Allen, Newton Chelette, Lonnie Dixon
Technical fouls: Portland-TEAM. Idaho-None.
Attendance: 1500
Score by Periods                1st  2nd   Total
Portland......................   18   30  -   48
Idaho.........................   34   34  -   68

Points in the paint-POR 22,IDAHO 28. Points off turnovers-POR 8,IDAHO 23.
2nd chance points-POR 4,IDAHO 0. Fast break points-POR 2,IDAHO 10.
Bench points-POR 20,IDAHO 20. Score tied-0 times. Lead changed-0 times.
Last FG-POR 2nd-00:10, IDAHO 2nd-01:36.
Largest lead-POR None, IDAHO by 25 2nd-01:12.

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4 Responses to “Pilots left stunned as Idaho’s defense crushes #25 Portland”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Idaho 68, #25 Portland 48 « Vandal Nation - December 6, 2009

    [...] have a complete game story tonight (Editor’s note: that story is now posted) — for now, here’s raw video interviews with Don Verlin, Mac Hopson and Marvin [...]

  2. Pilots left stunned as Idaho's defense crushes #25 Portland … | College Sports Nation - December 7, 2009

    [...] is the original post: Pilots left stunned as Idaho's defense crushes #25 Portland … addthis_url = [...]

  3. Good Afternoon Vandal Nation: Dec. 7, 2009 « Vandal Nation - December 7, 2009

    [...] of the year, the Vandal men captured their first win over a nationally-ranked team since 1982 by crushing #25 Portland, 68-48. We’ve got complete coverage with a game recap/video interviews and photos from Nick Groff. [...]

  4. Hoops Preview: Portland (Deja vu edition) « Vandal Nation - December 22, 2009

    [...] took down the then-No. 25 Pilots in Moscow on Dec. 6. The stunning 20-point blowout helped knock Portland out of the Top [...]

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