It was an unbearable end to an unforgettable season for the Idaho men’s basketball team, who were thrashed by WAC opponent Utah State 76-56 in the second round of the Collegeinsiders.com Tournament Saturday in Logan.
After defeating UC Santa Barbara in Wednesday’s first round game, the Vandals experienced one of their worst shooting nights of the season, digging themselves into a hole during the first half that saw them go 27 percent from the field.
“It’s a very tough place to play, they’re very well coached,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said. “This game needs to be flushed down the toilet, really. I don’t think we need to focus on this game as far as our season.”
The Vandals, who went scoreless for the game’s first four and a half minutes, scored just 16 points in the first half. A Utah State team that also struggled offensively started out shooting 1-7. However, a 13-0 Aggie run followed and the hosts found themselves up 19-3 midway through the first.
Five minutes later, the Aggies scrapped together a 12-0 run to extend their lead to 24 points. Stew Morrill’s squad cruised into halftime with a 39-16 lead.
The teams traded 7-0 runs to begin the second but a Vandal comeback would prove to be too demanding a task, despite shooting a much-improved 52 percent in the second half.
Though no Idaho players scored in double digits, juniors Kyle Barone and Mansa Habeeb each poured in eight second half points to help the cause of an offensively flat Vandal side.
Aggie guard Preston Medlin tallied a career-high 32 points against the Vandals earlier this season but Idaho held the sophomore all-WAC first teamer to 50 percent from the field and 17 points this time around.
Idaho out-rebounded the Aggies 30-25 but committed 17 more turnovers. Utah State shot 49 percent from the field and was led by Brockeith Pane, who dished out 11 assists despite scoring just seven points.
For Verlin, Saturday’s result in no way reflected what Idaho achieved during the regular season.
“What this Vandal team did is they played with their heart all season long. This team did a number of unbelievable things and things you have to be proud of,” he said. “They came to work every single day, it didn’t start in the season, it started early this summer.”
The dedication and hard work paid off for a team that accomplished a number of impressive tasks this season.
For starters, the Vandals lengthened the season by winning their opening round game in the CIT Tournament, a feat they failed to achieve last season when falling to the University of San Francisco in the opening round. Their postseason appearance was the third in four years.
The Vandals posted their best WAC mark (9-5) in school history and beat every team in the process, including an away win at then undefeated Nevada.
Lastly, four of Idaho’s five starters received all-WAC honors, including each of the team’s three seniors; Deremy Geiger, Landon Tatum and Djim Bandoumel.
“Our seniors were as good as three guys as I’ve ever seen,” Verlin said. “They all did their jobs, so mainly their hard work and dedication to Vandal basketball enabled them to put together a great season.”
Verlin’s 19-win team returns two starters in Barone and sophomore Stephen Madison, while all eight of the team’s bench players will also be back.
“We’ve got to continue, we had lineups out there that we’ll play a bit next year, I like the foundation,” he said. “We have 10 guys coming back, and I think we’ve recruited well.”
The Idaho men’s basketball squad built a 17-point lead in the first half against CSU Santa Barbara and despite a hot second-half by the Gauchos, Idaho held on to squeak out 86-83 win in the first round of the College Insider’s Tournament. The Vandals will face off against WAC-rival Utah State in the second round. Photos courtesy of Ilya Pinchuk
The Idaho women were blown out by the Fresno State Bulldogs in the quarterfinal round of the WAC Tournament. The Vandals were unable to get any offensive pressure in the first half, which put them in a hole they were unable to recover from. Photos courtesy of Ilya Pinchuk
Another season for the Idaho women’s basketball team is in the books after the Vandals fell to Fresno State 80-55 in the WAC Tournament semifinals on Friday at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
Fresno State’s defensive pressure disrupted the Idaho offense all game and the Vandals were never able to mount a comeback after falling behind early.
Sophomore Alyssa Charlston said Idaho wasn’t able to adjust to Fresno State’s speed and pressure quick enough.
“We’ve played against it before, and I don’t know why we came out more tentative this time,” Charlston said. “We kind of lacked confidence in the beginning and it just seemed like their speed of the game was faster than us.”
The Bulldogs didn’t waste any time at the start and quickly established control of the game. Idaho was held scoreless through the first nine minutes of the game, allowing Fresno State to take a 20-0 lead. Things settled down a bit for Idaho in the second half of the period, but the Vandals still went into halftime with a 19-point deficit and down 33-14.
Idaho coach Jon Newlee said the first minutes of the game set a tone that Idaho was never able to break.
“I thought the tone was set early when we missed those layups early, point blank layups,” Newlee said. “I think it kind of fed their fire a little bit. We knew they were going to come out extremely aggressive.”
The second half didn’t get any better for the Vandals. Fresno State came out firing again and never allowed Idaho to mount a comeback. The Bulldogs lead by as many as 36 and were able to put the game in cruise control for the blowout victory.
Fresno State coach Adrian Wiggins said his team’s victory was due to their disruption of Idaho’s flow and the confidence his team played with.
“We had a lot of respect for Idaho’s shooting ability. We didn’t want to let them catch and shoot,” Wiggins said. “…We didn’t make a lot of buckets in the first half, but I think we gained a lot of confidence with the lead we jumped out to.”
Fresno State’s Ki-Ki Moore led all scorers with 19 and was one of four Bulldogs players to reach double figures in the contest. Charlston lead Idaho with 14.
The Vandals were outrebounded 44-34 in the game and gave up 17 offensive boards. Newlee said his team gave up too many second chances to Fresno State.
“The offensive rebounds really hurt us. One of our keys to winning was not to give them second changes. I think they do a great job of chasing down the misses,” Newlee said. “We did not do a good job of blocking out tonight. We did an extremely poor job of blocking out tonight and it did end up costing us.
With the win the Bulldogs move on to the conference championship where they will play La. Tech in an attempt to win a second straight WAC title. It’s the second straight year the two teams have met in the final.
It was a season of ups and downs for a young Vandal squad that managed to come together toward the end of the season and claim the No. 4 seed in the tournament before winning the first round. The Vandals will say goodbye to seniors Keri Arendse, Adrie Shiels and Ganeaya Rogers.
Optimism became contagious for the Vandal men’s basketball team late in the second half, but a second half surge wasn’t enough to save No. 3 Idaho from crashing out if its second consecutive WAC Tournament, falling to No. 6 Hawaii 72-70 in the first round.
A Zane Johnson-less Warrior team faced further despair midway through the second half when second-leading scorer Joston Thomas earned a technical foul and fouled out of the game. Only minutes later, coach Gib Arnold drew the team’s second technical, helping Idaho take a seven-point lead, its largest of the game.
But it was a Warrior team that made all the right plays at all the right rimes. Johnson’s replacement, freshman Shaquille Stokes, netted a crucial three-point shot to tie the game at 64-64 with three minutes to play.
“Obviously losing Zane was a big deal and I just felt good about this team, I felt like they deserved it,” Hawaii coach Gib Arnold said. “We’ve been a team that’s battled, we’ve been a team that’s done some really good things this year… We’ve struggled the past three weeks and the team and the university needed it.”
At 68-68 and with less than one minute remaining, Vander Joaquim stole an offensive rebound away from the Vandals, tipping it back in to earn a two-point lead. Kyle Barone’s lay in on the other end set the score level once more but Hawaii’s Hauns Brereton knocked down a baseline jumper, leaving the Vandals three seconds to pull out a miracle. Stephen Madison’s inbounds pass fell into the hands of Joaquim and the Warriors had every right to celebrate their first conference tournament victory since 2005.
“We made a couple of tough decisions but that’s basketball and it came down to a one-possession game,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said. “I thought they did things they usually do to stop our run and get themselves back in, Stokes hit a big three.”
At the helm for four years now, Verlin has experienced his fair share of tournament woes.
“It was a tough one, there’s no question about it,” Verlin said. “You’ve got to give Hawaii credit, the way they played down the stretch, Vander Joaquim had a couple key rebounds down the stretch there… I couldn’t be prouder of our team; I thought we played extremely hard.”
Idaho’s offensive success was limited in the first half, when the Vandals shot a dismal 34 percent from the field and 12 percent from three-point range. Both teams concluded the game shooting 44 percent from the field.
Stokes played Johnson’s role almost to perfection and the Harlem native, who didn’t log one minute against the Vandals in Moscow earlier this season, tallied 17 points Thursday.
Arnold praised the play of his two guards.
“I mean you’ve got two point guards who have combined for 12 and 1 (12 assists, one turnover), you’re going to be in every game and we’ve kind of seen that translate, which is nice,” he said.
It was Brereton who was the Warriors’ surprise hero though. In addition to his game-winning jumper, the junior forward was 6 of 8 from the field and also finished with 17 points. Brereton averaged just seven points-per-game during the regular season.
The dominant inside play of Joaquim and Barone, the conference’s top two centers, caused 42 fouls between the teams. Joaquim’s double-double saw him drop 20 points and grab 13 rebounds while Barone added 19 points. Senior forward Djim Bandoumel snatched a career-high 16 rebounds.
Idaho’s chances at a postseason tournament, likely the CIT or CBI, are high and will be announced as early as Sunday.
The Warriors will advance to the semifinals and play the winner of No. 2 New Mexico State and No. 7 Fresno State.
The Idaho men’s basketball squad lost in heart-breaking fashion today in a first-round match-up against the Hawaii Warriors. Photos courtesy of Ilya Pinchuk