Women’s hoops are on tap tonight, as Idaho takes on Western Athletic Conference rival San Jose State in Memorial Gym. It’s an old-school throwdown as the 7-18 Vandals face off with the 6-20 Spartans. We go live with pregame coverage at 6:45 p.m., tip at 7.
Dan Monson came back to his alma mater this week, and a sweet homecoming it was for the son of legendary Idaho coach Don Monson. Unfortunately for the Idaho Vandals, Dan was coaching their opponent.
In an ESPNU BracketBusters non-conference showdown, Long Beach State pretty well dominated Idaho from start to finish, coming away with a 77-66 victory in the Cowan Spectrum. Turnovers, missed field goals and porous defense characterized the Vandals’ play, and only a 13-point, 14-rebound night from Marvin Jefferson kept things interesting for the home team.
“(Long Beach) beat us in every aspect of the game,” Idaho coach Don Verlin admitted.
As well as the Vandals (13-13, 4-8 WAC) played Thursday against Seattle, they played just as badly tonight — continuing a theme for this season, in that the only thing consistent about Idaho’s performances has been their inconsistency. Mac Hopson led the team in scoring with 15 points, but didn’t make a bucket until the game’s final 67 seconds and finished an awful 2-for-9 from the field, 0-for-3 from downtown. Hopson and several other starters sat on the bench for long stretches of the game in favor of some of the Vandals’ younger guns. Verlin made no bones about his displeasure with the performance of his seniors.
“I’m very disappointed in my seniors’ effort — except Marvin Jefferson, he played his tail off,” Verlin said. “The seniors have to lead this team, and I don’t think they had their team ready to play. We’re two years into this deal and our senior leadership has to show itself. It didn’t tonight.”
The 49ers (13-14) took advantage of nearly every Idaho mistake, converting 16 Vandal turnovers into 21 points, including an 8-0 edge in fastbreak scoring. It would be that old ball-handling bugaboo that ultimately doomed the home team’s hopes.
Idaho’s women opened up today’s hoops doubleheader with a thrilling, nail-biting 60-59 win over New Mexico State. Now it’s the men’s turn!
It’s the annual ESPNU BracketBusters non-conference showdown, as Long Beach State travels to Moscow to take on the Vandals. No, it won’t count in the WAC standings, but a victory this afternoon would help Idaho mightily in the quest for a second consecutive winning season.
The 49ers are led by coach Dan Monson, a Moscow High and University of Idaho graduate and son of Vandal coaching legend Don Monson. It’s an old-school Big West rivalry renewed, too. Both of these teams were picked to be near the top of their league, but have struggled to meet expectations. Who’ll come out on top? Join us and find out.
We’ll have pregame coverage starting at 5:15 p.m., tip at 5:30
Seattle RedHawks center Charles Garcia has been called one of the best players on the West Coast, with a dominating inside game based on unstoppable post moves. But tonight it was the homestanding Idaho Vandals who owned the paint — Garcia notwithstanding.
Holding off repeated RedHawks charges down the stretch, Idaho (13-12, 4-8 Western Athletic Conference) captured an 82-72 victory over Seattle (13-14) in the Cowan Spectrum, giving the Vandals their first winning record since early January. With just five games remaining in the regular season, every win is precious for an Idaho team trying to claw its way back into the postseason conversation. In the teams’ previous meeting this season, on Jan. 30, the Vandals took down the RedHawks in KeyArena, 87-85.
Idaho’s starting inside duo, Marvin Jefferson and Luiz Toledo, combined for 26 points and shot .750 from the floor, contributing mightily to the Vandals’ 44-30 edge on points in the paint. They collectively held Garcia to 14 points on 5-for-12 shooting, well below his average. Meanwhile, Kashif Watson juked and slashed his way to 20 points on a .750 field-goal percentage of his own.
“Coach has been preaching all along that the seniors are going to lead this team in February and March, and it was a night for me and Marvin to step up and have a big game,” Watson said. “The way we played tonight fits my style, getting up and down in transition and converting the easy opportunities.”
As a team, the Vandals shot 57 percent from the field while holding the RedHawks to just 38 percent. Unusually, Idaho hit just one 3-pointer all night on only six attempts, nearly a season-low. Clearly, coach Don Verlin instructed his team to eschew the quick jump-shot in favor of driving the lane and pounding Seattle in the paint.
The fast-paced battle was a pitched, back-and-forth affair for the opening 11 minutes, as the lead swapped back and forth seven times in that span with no team drawing more than a three-point advantage. But the RedHawks’ third-leading scorer, Cervante Burrell, was whistled for three personal fouls in 14 seconds — from 17:57 to 17:43 — and spent the rest of the half on the bench. That might well come back to haunt Seattle coach Cameron Dollar, as Burrell fouled out late in the second half and finished with zero points and one rebound.
Though he was relatively quiet the rest of the night, it was Luciano de Souza who would break the logjam and give Idaho the lead for good with a textbook top-of-the-key 3-pointer. His nothing-but-net jumper gave the home team a one-point edge with eight-and-a-half minutes remaining and ignited the small but vocal crowd of 1,287. Seemingly feeding off that energy, the Vandals closed the half on a 22-10 run, punctuated by dunks from Watson, Jefferson and Kyle Barone, and took a 38-28 lead into the locker room.
It’s BracketBusters week in Moscow, and the Vandals’ final pair of non-conference battles are on tap. First, the Seattle RedHawks visit the Cowan Spectrum tonight. The RedHawks are a transitional Division I team that will look to avenge a home loss at the hands of Idaho earlier this season. On Saturday, Dan Monson’s Long Beach State 49ers come to town for the ESPNU BracketBusters matchup.
For the Vandals, this pair of games is key to securing the potential of a second consecutive winning season. Sweep the week at home and the prospects for finishing above .500 get much brighter.
The star of the RedHawks, all-everything stud Charles Garcia, gave Idaho fits last time in Seattle. Big-time scorers have stepped up big against the Vandals time and again, as Don Verlin’s defense has had trouble containing playmakers. Will Marvin Jefferson, Luiz Toledo or Kyle Barone be able to slow him down? Will Kashif Watson’s foot injury keep him from being 100%? Can Idaho snap out of its home-court funk? Find out, tonight.
We’ll have Vandal Nation Live complete courtside coverage, with pregame at 6:30 p.m., tip at 7.
After a heartwrenching home loss to Nevada, the Idaho Vandals found solace tonight in an unlikely place: the unfriendly confines of Fresno State’s Save Mart Center.
On a tough Western Athletic Conference road trip, in a venue where the Bulldogs had lost just twice this year, the Vandals outshot and outhustled the home team en route to a 68-59 victory — sweeping Fresno State for the second consecutive season.
Idaho’s charge was led by a stellar night from Mac Hopson, who shot 8-for-11 from the floor and 2-for-3 from downtown for 20 points, while sharpshooter Luciano de Souza added 16 more, including four big treys. The win puts Idaho (12-12, 4-8 WAC) in the driver’s seat to secure a berth in the WAC Tournament next month.
“I’ve said this team is going to play some really good basketball at some point and we’re starting to get to where we should be,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said. “These guys have hung tough all year long and they’re getting better every game.”
The Vandals held a narrow lead most of the first half, but Fresno State (13-13, 6-6 WAC) took advantage of back-to-back turnovers to close the gap, and only a Shawn Henderson putback at the buzzer allowed Idaho to head into the locker room tied with the home team.
For the first ten minutes of the second half, both teams waged a fierce, back-and-forth battle, swapping the lead several times. Then, the Vandals missed three straight shots and Fresno State seized the lead on a Brandon Sperling layup with ten minutes to play. All the momentum seemed to be on the home team’s side.
But the Vandals would not be denied, as center Marvin Jefferson responded with a dunk-and-one to give Idaho the lead for good. That play sparked an 11-2 Vandal run which ultimately broke the game open. Jeff Ledbetter grabbed a steal on the next possession, dishing off to Jefferson for another dunk, Hopson canned a trey and Kyle Barone contributed another bucket-and-one.
The final straw for Fresno State came after Paul George canned a trey with six minutes remaining, cutting Idaho’s lead to just three. Seconds later, Steffan Johnson fired off a right-back-atcha 3-pointer that hit nothing but net, and the Vandals’ advantage would never be less than two possessions the rest of the way.
The Idaho Vandals closed up a 16-point deficit to lead Nevada with just seconds to play, but an Armon Johnson layup-and-one gave the visiting Wolf Pack a 67-66 victory.
We’ll have a postgame wrap this afternoon, but for now, here’s raw video from an angry Don Verlin and a disappointed Jeff Ledbetter.
Vandal Nation is back, and just in time!
Tonight, Idaho takes on Nevada in a pivotal Western Athletic Conference battle in front of ESPN2’s national television cameras. It’s the Vandals and the Wolf Pack, each team desperate to prove something. Nevada needs to show it can win big games on the road, while Idaho wants to climb its way back into the WAC Tournament conversation.
Can Mac Hopson, Steffan Johnson and Luiz Toledo keep the momentum rolling at home against the star-power of Luke Babbitt and Armon Johnson? Join us and find out.
We’ll have all the action live from courtside in the Cowan Spectrum. Pregame coverage begins at 7:30 p.m., tip at 8.
It’s been a long month since our last power rankings — academics and a three-day spell in the ICU are to blame for that. We’re trying to get back in the groove here at Vandal Nation, and we appreciate your patience. The stretch run to the 2010 WAC Tournament is underway, and these final weeks will set the stage for those amazing three days of basketball.
1. Utah State, 18-6, 8-2 (7) — What a difference a month makes. Last time around, the Blue Aggies were 0-2 in the conference and seemingly had lost their mojo. Not so, and we’ll never think that about a Stew Morrill team again. Since then, Utah State has ripped off eight straight conference wins to take control of their own destiny in the conference race. Finding their groove was pretty simple: just go back to what works, like Jared Quayle droppin’ in jumpers and Tai Wesley banging it in the post. Then, like Stew always manages to do, find some random guy to just have a huge breakout season — like Brian Green’s ridiculous .667 shooting percentage from downtown. It’s the Aggies’ race to lose.
2. New Mexico State, 15-8, 8-2 (4) — OK, we think it’s really fishy that Wendell McKines and Troy Gillenwater just somehow magically managed to get cleared mid-season, but you can’t argue with the results and the record for New Mexico State. Marvin Menzies’ team is hitting its stride at the right time, as shown two nights ago with a gutty win over Louisiana Tech. Their defense is still utterly atrocious but in Menzies’ trademark style, they have enough firepower to make up for it. That loss at San Jose State could haunt them down the stretch, though, as the all-Aggies season finale in Logan is now shaping up to be a titanic battle for the conference title.
3. Louisiana Tech, 19-5, 7-3 (1) — The WAC’s early juggernaut has staggered somewhat midseason, having lost three of their last five games and with a tough fight at Utah State looming just over the horizon. It seems opponents have maybe started to figure out Kerry Rupp’s system and the Gulf Coast Bulldogs don’t have the depth to withstand foul trouble in the paint. Still, by any measure this has been an excellent season for Louisiana Tech, though their weak non-conference schedule is going to come back and bite them right about now. Thanks to a slate full of cupcakes like UT-Pan American (twice!) and Nicholls State, the Bulldogs have no hope of an at-large bid to the NCAAs despite their gaudy record. If they want to go dancing, they’ll have to be the last team standing in Reno.
4. Nevada, 13-9, 5-4 (2) — The Wolf Pack: they are who we thought they were. Yes, Luke Babbitt and Armon Johnson are studs — but Nevada’s lack of depth has cost them dearly, most notably in a pair of losses to Utah State and a shocker road upset by Fresno State. Not to worry, Nevada fans, because there’s still more than enough firepower and talent to get the Wolf Pack back into the WAC Tournament title game on their home court. But they’ll have a much tougher path than last year. Nevada hasn’t been great on the road, and a loss tonight at Idaho would put paid to any hopes of a top-two seed for David Carter’s squad.
5. San Jose State, 12-11, 5-6 (5) — We like San Jose State. Scrappy, upset-minded and currently undefeated on their home court. Unfortunately, the Spartans have also suffered some inexplicable losses, most notably being one of Hawaii’s two victories. They’re one of only two WAC teams with no road wins. That perfect home record is also about to get its toughest challenge of the season, too, as Utah State comes calling on Saturday. Still, if you’re looking for a sleeper pick to make some noise in the WAC Tournament, San Jose State is my choice. Their balanced offense and strong rebounding gives the Spartans the tools to maybe pull an upset.
6. Idaho, 11-11, 3-7 (3) — Ugh. January was monthus horriblis for Don Verlin’s Idaho Vandals, who went on a six-game losing streak capped by a heartbreaking overtime defeat at home to arch-rival Boise State. Fortunately for Vandal fans, that seems to have been the final straw for a squad that was way underachieving its talent level. Since then, Idaho has won three of its last four games, including a huge 24-point revenge victory in Boise powered by .500 shooting from downtown. Tonight, a nationally-televised showdown against Nevada awaits. Are the Vandals for real this time? A victory in front of the ESPN2 cameras would say “yes.” Then it’s on to Fresno State, and a road win there would put Idaho in the drivers’ seat for a 5-seed.
7. Fresno State, 12-12, 5-5 (6) — This is a team on the way down, unless they can find a way to put things back together, and fast. The WAC’s West Coast Bulldogs have lost five of their last seven, with only a nice home win over Nevada to hang their hats on. Some of the blame can be put on Paul George’s absence for some of those games, but some of it has to fall on coach Steve Cleveland. Fresno State was a talented but utterly disorganized mess against Idaho, and they lost to Boise State, too. A two-game homestand against New Mexico State and the Vandals awaits this week, and we’ll find out whether the Bulldogs can get back together or not.
8. Hawaii, 9-14, 2-8 (8) — Bob Nash’s team has hit the wall with a sickening “splat.” His best players are walking wounded, his marquee transfer guard is suspended indefinitely and he hasn’t recorded a win in nearly a month. Next up for the Rainbow Warriors? The doubly-grueling road trip to Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State. Ouch, ouch, ouch. Nor does the rest of the schedule promise any relief — in fact, it’s quite possible they won’t get a win the rest of the season. If that happens, Nash is toast. For students of sports history who want to see what a program in crisis looks like, book your tickets for Honolulu now.
9. Boise State, 11-12, 2-8 (9) — Boy, we feel for Greg Graham. No sooner does he look like a hero for spoiling Idaho’s season with an upset win in Moscow… than he becomes the goat of the Broncos’ worst-ever home loss to the Vandals in the history of the basketball rivalry. The things that were said about him on various Internet message boards are not fit for family consumption. Even the Idaho Statesman’s Nick Jezierny got in on the action, wondering if the Broncos had shown up to Taco Bell Arena thinking it was bake sale day — they sure brought the turnovers. Ouch. Nor do things get easier, with games against Utah State and at Nevada on the docket this week. Boise State is on the verge of the unthinkable: missing the WAC Tournament.
Tomorrow in the Cowan Spectrum, the cameras of ESPN2 — The Deuce — will be trained on Idaho’s home hardwood as the Vandals battle the Wolf Pack on national television.
We talked with coach Don Verlin, forward Luiz Toledo and guard Kashif Watson about the Vandals’ recent surge back to some semblance of respectability in the WAC, and asked them what it’ll take for Idaho to pull off the upset of a talented Nevada squad.
Tonight in Boise, the Idaho Vandals took to the hardwood of the Taco Bell Arena with one thought in their minds: revenge.
The homestanding Broncos never knew what hit them.
Idaho avenged its heartbreaking overtime loss to Boise State at home earlier in the season in dominating fashion, capturing a 79-55 victory — marking the worst loss for the Broncos in the history of the intra-state rivalry series.
The Vandals (11-11, 3-7 Western Athletic Conference) quickly established to the 7,734 fans in attendance that the visitors, quite simply, wanted the game more than Boise State (11-12, 2-8 WAC) did. The two teams traded buckets for the first seven minutes to find things knotted up at 8-all.
But it was at that point a Luciano de Souza 3-pointer broke the logjam — and Idaho never looked back. That trey would spark a 37-11 Vandal run for the rest of the half, keyed by a 4-for-5 performance from beyond the arc by de Souza and two more downtown shots from Steffan Johnson. Overall, Idaho would shoot 7-for-11 outside in the opening 20 minutes and take a 45-19 lead into the locker room at halftime.
“We just got hot,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said. “De Souza got hot, Johnson made a couple, and then away we go. I looked up and we’re up 20 and it was like, ‘Oh my’.”
Meanwhile, a stout defensive effort held the Broncos to just 30 percent shooting (and an abysmal 17 percent from downtown) while collecting 14 turnovers. Idaho’s big men dominated inside, holding a 14-to-4 scoring margin in the paint and leading the Vandals to a 17-14 rebounding advantage.
Sophomore forward Luiz Toledo continued his string of solid performances, going 5-for-6 from the floor for 11 points and a game-high seven rebounds. Boise State inside banger and leading scorer Ike Okoye was kept to just one field goal and five points.
“We did a great job early in the game,” Verlin said. “Our posts did a great of getting around and not letting them get close post seals near the basket like we did last time, and then our perimeter guys did a great job of keeping them out of the middle of the floor.”
It was a situation which the Vandals have found themselves in almost too many times for Idaho coach Jon Newlee to count. With under two minutes remaining, the Vandals held a slim lead over Nevada, ranked second in the WAC, and were coming out of a time-out after Nevada sunk a big shot and looked on the verge of breaking even.
“What was going in my head (during the time-out) was we have been in this position so many times,” Newlee said. “I told the players ‘we are going to close this one out and we are winning this ball game and not giving it away.'”
They Vandals didn’t disappoint.
After heartbreaking losses to La Tech in overtime and Utah State at the end of regulation, the Vandals finally clamped down and held Nevada, whose only loss was to unbeaten Fresno State, to a measly 26 percent shooting in the second half, including an abysmal 18 percent from three-point range as Idaho brought down Nevada by a score of 61-53.
“The first thing I said (to the team) is that I am so happy to not be standing here and saying we gave another game away,” Newlee said. “I am proud of the way the team responded throughout the close games and the breaks have finally started to come our way.”
The entire game was a see-saw affair, with eight lead changes as both teams traded punches early, with Idaho entering halftime down by one point. The Vandals turned up the heat in the second, out-shooting Nevada for a eight-point lead with under two minutes to go before Nevada’s Tahnee Robinson nailed a perfect three to bring Nevada within striking distance at 57-52.
“When she (Robinson) banked in that three, I thought, well, here we go again,” Newlee said. “It was the same as in San Jose, when they banked in a three from the top and, well there you go.”
Instead of folding, the Vandals came out of the huddle and played arguably their best defense of the year — Nevada would get just one point in the next two minutes, off a free-throw.
Rachele Kloke said the team took the best parts of their game against La Tech and worked on transition play.
“It feels amazing,” Kloke said. “Nevada is a great team — it was a big win for us and it will give us more momentum.”
The Vandals, despite being out-matched size-wise in almost every game, have hung in with the best in the conference, losing their past their past three games by single digits. Newlee said the team played hard but the breaks just never seemed to happen for the team until tonight.
“Char’s layup was a great example — it hung on the rim and went in,” Newlee said. “All year, that ball has been hanging on the rim and coming off.”
The Vandals took their high-pressure defense, which was so effective against La Tech, and applied it to Nevada to hold them to a paltry 34 percent shooting from the floor.
On the other end, Idaho nailed 44 percent of their shots and an astounding 41 percent from three-point range.
Idaho was once again led by Rachele Kloke, who tallied up 17 points along with six rebounds. Yinka Olorunnife was a force at both ends, tallying 15 points for the Vandals cause as well as shutting down Nevada’s top scorers, and Shaena Kuehu rounded out the Vandals top-three with 12 points as well as leading the team with 8 rebounds.
“Sometime you feel like that black could is over your head,” Newlee said. “But you have to make your own luck with effort and playing smart, and I thought we did that tonight.”
The Vandals have an entire week to study film and work on their game before heading to California with a showdown against unbeaten Fresno State, which sits firmly in first place in the WAC.