Archive | January, 2010

Inside game comes up big as Vandals snap losing streak

29 Jan

Seven seconds left in the first half, tie ballgame and Fresno State’s looking to add a seventh 3-pointer to their tally to take a lead into the locker room. Bulldog guard Steven Shepp aims a pass at forward Brandon Sperling and fires.

But the big man in white, Marvin Jefferson, was a half-step ahead. Idaho’s powerful center swiped the ball away and lumbered down the court as the clock ticked down. Jefferson’s 6-10 frame exploded into the air and slammed the ball home as the backboard flashed red. In your face, Fresno State.

From there on out, it was all Idaho.

Powered by a season-high 44 points in the paint, including 16 points from sophomore forward Luiz Toledo, the Idaho Vandals snapped a six-game losing streak by defeating Fresno State in the Cowan Spectrum, 74-59. Idaho improves to 9-10 overall, 2-6 in Western Athletic Conference play, while the Bulldogs fall to 11-11, 4-4 WAC.

We’ll have a complete postgame wrap in the morning, but for now here’s video interviews with Don Verlin, Luiz Toledo, Kashif Watson and Mac Hopson.

Photo Gallery: Idaho Vandals vs Fresno State Bulldogs

28 Jan

Vandal Nation Live: Idaho vs. Fresno State

28 Jan

Well, it’s do or die time for the Idaho Vandals. Is there anything left? A Paul George-less Bulldog squad comes to town tonight, and it’s the Vandals’ last chance at getting a win out of a three-game homestand that’s seen losses to Utah State and arch-rival Boise State.

We’ll have all the action for you with pregame at 6:45 p.m., tip at 7.

Click here for Vandal Nation Live commentary, analysis and chat!

Photo Gallery: Idaho Vandals vs. Utah State Aggies

28 Jan

Charlotte Otero shows some slick moves with a no-look pass in transition against Utah State.

Bianca Cheever drives hard to the net past a Utah State defender.

Charlotte Otero flies through the air for a lay-up against Utah State

Shaena Kuehu powers past a Utah State defender for a lay-up.

Idaho’s Rachele Kloke releases a jump-shot against Utah State.

Rachele Kloke goes for a lay-up against Utah State

Charlotte Otero drives to the basket against Utah State.

Charlotte Otero slows down to call a new play to her team during Wednesday's game against Utah State

A young boy accompanies his father to clean the court during a media time-out.

Joe Vandal claps along to the music provided by Idaho's Marching Band during the halftime show.

The lovely ladies of Idaho's Cheer Squad perform a flip during media break.

Women fight back, tie game, but lose heartbreaker to Utah State

27 Jan

The Vandals came out of the time-out pumped and ready to defend. The clock read nine seconds, and the score was tied 55-55. Nine seconds — it was all that separated Idaho from an overtime period against Utah State.

“He (Idaho coach Jon Newlee) told us to stay with the players, don’t foul, and contend shots,” said junior post Yinka Olorunnife. “We were very confident that we were headed into overtime.”

Utah State worked their way down to the Vandals zone, trying to exploit an opening. There was none to be had. As the clock winded down, the ball found its way to the hands of Utah State’s TaHara Williams, who had not missed a shot all night.

She faked a shot, twirled around an Idaho defender and let loose a jump-shot as time expired. Fans held their breath as Williams’s shot sailed overhead towards the basket, arching perfectly in the air before falling through the hoop.

Then there was silence.

With that silence, Idaho dropped to 2-4 in the WAC, losing in heartbreaking fashion to Utah State by a final score of 57-55.

“It’s devastating,” Olorunnife said. ” One possession losses really get to you, but to lose at the buzzer, yeah… it’s the worst.”

The bitter loss comes after a valiant comeback from the Vandals, who dug themselves a hole early yet came back to tie at halftime and keep the second half competitive, in a game where there was very little to fault for the loss. The Vandals shot a respectable 45 percent from the floor, more than doubled Utah State on points off turnovers and tied for point in the paint.

“The very good teams make the plays at the end,” Newlee said. “You got to make your own luck — we didn’t get the loose balls and we didn’t make our own luck tonight.”

Newlee said he was proud of his squad for battling back from several deficits, and said he feels the team is a much-improved team over the squad at the start of the conference season.

The game was the first action for Debbie Pederson, who joined the team in late December and has been practicing ever since, but had yet to see game time. Pederson said she was working on adjusting to the pace of college basketball and learning the plays, but was happy to get out on to the court.

“I was trying not to get nervous and trying to stay calm and play,” Pederson said. “I just wanted to come in and help out the team as much as I could.”

Pederson played seven minutes and tallied her first two points of her college basketball career on free-throws, along with getting two defensive rebounds.

Newlee said he was impressed with the way Pederson played, despite acknowledging the fact that he has to limit the amount of plays they can do with her.

“I thought she did a great job, battled hard, and held her own against their (Utah State’s) big kids,” Newlee said. “I told her before the game to be mentally ready to play — I was very happy with the way she played tonight.”

At 6’3″, Pederson is the tallest player in Vandal uniform to see action this season along with fellow 6’3″ teammate Ally Sisel-Kumpfer. She adds some much-needed strength and height for the Vandals.

There is little time to grieve for the Vandals, who square off against Louisiana Tech on Saturday before coming home for a grudge-match against Nevada.

Vandal Nation Live: Idaho vs. Utah State

27 Jan

The Idaho women are back in action tonight against the Utah State Aggies, and Jon Newlee’s squad will be looking to build momentum off a road split last week.

We’ll have all the action from courtside in the Cowan Spectrum. Join us for pregame coverage at 6:30 p.m., tip at 7.

Click here for Vandal Nation Live commentary, analysis and chat!

Boise State 77, Idaho 67

25 Jan

Somewhere in the locker room, there’s an Idaho basketball team that dropped 94 points on Utah and beat No. 25 Portland by 20 points. But those are now distant memories.

Idaho blew a 9-point lead over arch-rival Boise State, giving up an Anthony Thomas buzzer-beater to send the game into overtime — and from there the Broncos took over. Boise State avenged its sweep at the hands of the Vandals last season by defeating Idaho, 77-67.

The Vandals fall to 1-6 in the Western Athletic Conference, while the Broncos get their first win of the conference season and improve to 1-7.

We’ll have a complete postgame report later, but for now, here’s postgame interviews with coach Don Verlin and center Marvin Jefferson.

Vandal Nation Live: Idaho vs. Boise State

25 Jan

Yes, the time has come again — it’s the Battle Royale, the Gem State Grudge Match, the rivalry renewed. Tonight in the Cowan Spectrum, the Idaho Vandals and the Boise State Broncos will clash head-on for intra-state men’s hoops supremacy.

Last year, Don Verlin’s Vandals pulled off the first silver and gold sweep in a decade, and the second-year head coach will be looking to keep his record perfect against the Broncos. Mac Hopson, Steffan Johnson and Kashif Watson will lead Idaho into action against Ike Okoye, Daequon Montreal and Paul Noonan of Boise State.

We’ll have all the action for you from courtside, with pregame coverage at 7:30 p.m., tip at 8.

Click here for Vandal Nation Live commentary, analysis and chat!

Stone-cold second half leads to Idaho’s third straight home loss

23 Jan

In a season where Idaho has struggled to make free throws and hang onto the ball, tonight at home against Utah State the Vandals did both of those tasks quite well. The Vandals converted on 14 of 17 attempts from the charity stripe and gave up just six turnovers all night.

But in the second half, it was the shooting-the-ball-into-the-hoop thing the Vandals couldn’t quite get the hang of.

Bewildered by the Aggies’ lockdown zone defense, Idaho converted on just four of 22 shots from the floor in the second period — scoring a season-low 18 points in those 20 minutes. Those aren’t the kind of numbers that will get it done against Stew Morrill’s Utah State squad, and they didn’t. The Vandals took their fifth straight Western Athletic Conference loss, falling to the Aggies in the Cowan Spectrum, 60-48.

“We got two holes plugged and some others busted tonight,” coach Don Verlin said, with a frustrated chuckle. “I made some personnel changes to get us to be more efficient and I thought we were at times, but then we don’t rebound or shoot as well as we have been. We just have to keep grinding. It’s the only thing I know to do.”

Early on, the game looked like it would become a punch-for-punch slugfest. The Vandals (8-9, 1-5 WAC) struggled to find consistent offense, as Utah State (15-6, 5-2 WAC) stifled point guard Mac Hopson’s game early. But Idaho’s Steffan Johnson and Kashif Watson joined together to pick up the slack with cut-and-slash drives and high-percentage shooting. Hopson recognized his situation and cleanly moved the ball out of the traps, dishing up five assists for just one turnover — one of his best ball-movement nights of the season.

But in the paint, it was all blue. The Aggies’ interior combo of Tai Wesley, Nate Bendall and Brady Jardine appeared to be unstoppable all night long, exploiting holes in the defense and tearing through the paint at will. Utah State owned a 35-23 rebounding edge in the game.

“They outphysicaled us, tonight they just beat us in the trenches,” Verlin said. “Wesley and Bendall and Jardine, they kicked our tail on the boards and in the paint and it was about that simple.”

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Vandal Nation Live: Idaho vs. Utah State

23 Jan

The Vandals are back in action after a week-long bye, and they open up a week-long homestand against one of the Western Athletic Conference’s toughest foes: Utah State.

If Don “Merlin” Verlin has any magic in the back pocket, it better come out this afternoon. For Idaho to have any shot at a top-half seeding in the conference tournament, the Vandals need to sweep their three-game set in the Cowan Spectrum.

The other storyline: Aggie head honcho Stew Morrill, Verlin’s coaching mentor, is searching for his 500th win as a head coach tonight. Can Mac Hopson, Steffan Johnson and the rest of the Vandals keep his big night at bay?

We’ll have complete coverage from courtside, with pregame at 4:30 p.m., tip at 5.

Click here for Vandal Nation Live commentary, analysis and chat!

Don Verlin, Kashif Watson and Marvin Jefferson talk Utah State

22 Jan

Tomorrow, the Idaho Vandals come off a week-long bye to begin a week-long homestand against three tough Western Athletic Conference foes — Utah State on Saturday, Boise State on Monday and Fresno State on Thursday.

We talked with coach Don Verlin, guard Kashif Watson and center Marvin Jefferson about what the Vandals have to do to get back on the winning track — and potentially use this three-game stretch to put Idaho right back in the WAC hunt.

WAC Hoops Wrap: Jan. 22

22 Jan

Wow. What a night it was for Western Athletic Conference basketball.

Three key matchups were played last night in the WAC, and every one of them ended up with major implications for the conference’s battle for regular season supremacy.

San Jose State 87, Louisiana Tech 76

The reigning juggernaut was felled — yes, Louisiana Tech (5-1 WAC) is mortal. We thought that first loss might come at some point on the road — but to the Spartans? That wasn’t our projection. But Adrian Oliver went off for a career night to power San Jose State (3-3 WAC) up and over the WAC’s Eastern Bulldogs. How career? Try 39 points on 12-for-19 shooting. Wowzers. Unstoppable.

One key to the upset: a big defensive performance against Louisiana Tech’s sharpshooter Jamel Guyton. Usually good for 15 points a night, the Spartans locked him down to just six last night, on a stone-cold 2-for-9 performance from the floor.

The Bulldogs haven’t faced much adversity this year, and they’ll be continuing their grueling road trip out to Hawaii tomorrow. How they respond will tell us much about the strength of Louisiana Tech down the stretch. If we had to bet, we’d put our money on them bouncing back just fine. For the Spartans, it’s red-hot New Mexico State next on the slate.

Utah State 69, Fresno State 43

This game wasn’t even as close as the score — and for the Western Bulldogs, big trouble might be in store. Fresno State’s all-everything stud and projected NBA lottery pick Paul George went down with a sprained ankle early and the team folded like a house of cards shortly thereafter. A big night from Utah State’s juco transfer Brian Green (17 points on 6-for-9 shooting) helped pick up the slack from an off-key performance by Aggie big man Nate Bendall (4 points, 3 rebounds).

Without George, the Bulldogs (3-3 WAC) look utterly hopeless — they went a breathtakingly awful 29 percent from the floor, boat-anchored by Sylvester Seay’s 1-for-12 epic fail. It’s unknown yet as to how long George will be out, but he’ll at least miss Fresno State’s next game — a tough home test against Nevada.

Utah State improved to 4-2 in conference play and now has a four-game win streak, clearly putting them back on track to compete for a top-tier seed come March. They come up to Moscow tomorrow in a game the Vandals’ season probably hinges on. Don’t miss it.

New Mexico State 71, Hawaii 69

Gotta love the WAC. First half, New Mexico State looks hopeless. Second half, Hawaii looks hopeless. Then Jahmar Young steps back and cans an 18-foot game-winner with 00.9 on the clock. What a battle, what a basketball game. Roderick Flemings did everything he could to boost the Rainbow Warriors (2-4 WAC) to victory on their home floor, throwing down 23 points and cleaning up 10 rebounds, but Young did him three better on the scoreboard — just enough to make the difference.

New Mexico State (5-1 WAC) is now in a tie for first with the Eastern Bulldogs, but they’ll have to play Bulldog-slayer San Jose State tomorrow. The Aggies have gotten big breaks down the stretch in many close games — can the streak continue? Well, if Young and Jonathan Gibson (19 points, 3 assists, 4 steals) keep playing like they are… it sure can.

The Rainbow Warriors won’t get any rest either — they face Louisiana Tech, and Kerry Rupp’s squad will no doubt be thirsty for revenge after being handed their first WAC loss of the season. Hiram Thompson was seen limping all game long from a lingering foot injury, but he played 38 ironman minutes nonetheless. Can he keep it up? Hawaii needs him to — desperately.

Women stun New Mexico State with last-second win

21 Jan

For Idaho women’s basketball coach Jon Newlee, Wednesday night’s game against New Mexico State felt a bit like deja-vu.

“They were back-to-back nail-biters,” Newlee said.

After a thrilling overtime win against Boise State, the Vandals came into New Mexico with confidence, which showed on the court as the Vandals passed the ball and wielded a balanced scoring attack for the second straight game, defeating New Mexico State in Las Cruces, 68-65.

“I think the success in the Boise State game really gave our team a sense of confidence when this game got close,” Newlee said. “The same scenario played out here and we were able to handle the pressure.”

The Vandals started the game right where they left off last week, staying scorching-hot from the field and nailing just under 50 percent of their shots, including several opportune three-pointers. Idaho confused the Aggie’s defense with unselfish play by rotating the ball to every player, an attribute that Newlee credits to the team’s embarrassing loss to Hawaii late last week.

“I think they realized after the Hawaii game that we’re not just going to go in and beat people one-on-one and that sharing the ball is the only way we’re going to be successful,” Newlee said. “We did a great job of sharing the basketball tonight, taking great shots, and making the shots.”

Idaho’s offense was led by Rachele Kloke and Yinka Olorunnife, both with 14 points apiece.
More importantly, Idaho showed its depth for the second straight game as all five starters tallied up 10 or more points, with Bianca Cheever adding 13 points and going a blazing-hot 50 percent from three-point range.

Shaena Kuehu played an all-around game. Not only did she contribute 12 points, four of which came on huge back-to-back coast-to-coast plays after the Aggies hit two 3-pointers to put Idaho down by nine, but Kuehu also led the team with eight rebounds, all on the defensive side.

Idaho’s defense was stifling, limiting New Mexico State’s leading scorer, Crystal Boyd, to only eight points and, more impressively, to only one basket until the final two minutes of the game.

Not content with slowing down one player, Idaho put the pressure on early and often, limiting Boyd, Jasmine Lowe and Madison Spence, who came in averaging 42 points per game, to just 25 points. Newlee said the Vandals focused on the transition game of New Mexico State and it paid dividends by containing the damage their top three players managed to inflict.

“We talked about extending the zone and not giving them the wide-open looks and letting them get into rhythm,” Newlee said. “They’re all rhythm shooters, and in the stretch where they went up, it was because they were in rhythm and in transition. We finally got some good ball pressure and that was a factor in getting them out of rhythm.”

Up next for Idaho is a meeting with San Jose State later this week. The Vandals will be looking to get their first sweep on the road, and it couldn’t come at a more opportune time.

“What we talked about after the game was not losing our momentum,” Newlee said. “We know we’ve got a chance to sweep a road trip, and that’s pretty special in this league.”

WAC Men’s Hoops Preview: Jan. 20

20 Jan

We’ve been swamped with start-of-the-semester academics and been under the weather, to boot, but tonight we get back on track with our regular previews of the day’s action in the Western Athletic Conference.

There’s just one game on tap tonight.

#4 Nevada (3-2) at #9 Boise State (0-6) (7 p.m.)

The Broncos are off to their worst start in conference play since the 1980s, and the fanbase is growing restless. Nor does the prospect of taking on a tough, talented Nevada Wolf Pack squad make for any smiles in Taco Bell Arena. For Boise State coach Greg Graham, this may be the beginning of the end.

In a year that’s been full of surprises in the WAC, the utter collapse of Boise State has to be near the top of the list. This is a team just two years removed from the NCAA Tournament, and last year the Broncos finished tied for third. But the graduation of anchor forward Mark Sanchez has apparently left Boise State a rudderless wreck. Point guard Anthony Thomas hasn’t been the same since losing to Idaho last year — he’s shooting just 35 percent from the floor and has nearly as many turnovers as assists. It didn’t help, either, that promising guard Westley Perryman was lost for the WAC season with an injury.

Whatever the causes of the Broncos’ woes, tonight’s game should be a bloodbath because there’s no reason to expect anything better from the Blorange Boys right now. The Wolf Pack can gain some separation on the WAC pack with a victory — and Luke Babbitt and Armon Johnson know it. The sparse crowd in the Big Burrito will probably be filing out early.

Thursday’s games:

#3 Utah State at #5 Fresno State (7 p.m.)

#1 Louisiana Tech at #6 San Jose State (7 p.m.)

#2 New Mexico State at #7 Hawaii (9 p.m.)

Photo Gallery: Idaho Vandals vs. Boise State Broncos

17 Jan


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