Tag Archives: Kashif Watson

Idaho’s tournament dreams denied

11 Mar

RENO, Nev. — In four minutes and 39 seconds of the first half of Idaho’s Western Athletic Conference Tournament quarterfinal matchup against Nevada, the Vandals’ dreams of making it to the NCAA Tournament were shattered. The remaining 25 minutes of play were merely a formality.

After giving up a 13-2 run to open the game, Idaho clawed back in with red-hot outside shooting from Luciano de Souza, putting the Vandals within striking distance of Nevada midway through the first half. The homestanding Wolf Pack led, 27-21, with 9:43 remaining in the period, but all the momentum was with the black-clad Idaho squad.

Wolf Pack guard Brandon Fields, however, had other plans.

In a minute and 14 seconds, Fields drained back-to-back 3-pointers and slammed home a dunk, making for a personal 8-0 run. Add a pair of Luke Babbitt jumpers and all of a sudden, the Vandals trailed by 18 points with 5:04 to play in the first half. Nevada’s advantage would never be less than double digits the rest of the way.

Idaho fell to the Wolf Pack tonight, 87-71, ending a season that has been, for the Vandals, a frustrating campaign of unfulfilled potential.

“We had a lot of adversity this season, but we’ve kept fighting,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said. “We beat a Top 25 team, we went on the road and won in Utah and I can’t tell you how proud I am of my seniors. There’s so many positives, but it’s still tough to go out like this.”

The Vandals finish the season with a 15-16 record, 6-10 in WAC regular-season play. Nevada (20-11, 11-5 WAC) continues to the semifinals, where they’ll play New Mexico State tomorrow.

On the night, Nevada shot 55 percent from the floor and 55 percent from downtown, while holding Idaho to just 40 and 30 percent, respectively. The Vandals simply couldn’t get the ball in the basket.

The stat sheet tells the tale. After a red-hot 8-for-14 performance from downtown against Hawaii, Steffan Johnson went ice-cold, hitting just one of eight shots from the floor and missing all five attempts from beyond the arc. Mac Hopson shot just 4-for-16 and Shawn Henderson could convert only three of his 11 tries. Another double-double night from Marvin Jefferson — 14 points on 6-11 shooting to go with 10 rebounds — and a career-best 20 points from de Souza couldn’t make up for the lack of backcourt production.

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Good Morning Vandal Nation: WAC Tournament Day 1

10 Mar

RENO, Nev. — A light dusting of snow fell on the Washoe Valley last night, as the eight Western Athletic Conference women’s basketball teams which qualified for the tournament get ready to play this afternoon. Four of their NCAA Tournament dreams will end today.

The bracket for the women’s tourney looks like this:

(1) Fresno State vs. (8) Hawaii — noon

(4) Idaho vs. (5) New Mexico State — 2:30 p.m.

(3) Nevada vs. (6) Boise State — 6 p.m.

(2) Louisiana Tech vs. (7) Utah State — 8:30 p.m.

The 1/4 game winner and the 2/3 game winner will play Friday in the semifinals.

We’ll go live from courtside at 2 p.m. for pregame coverage of the Idaho/New Mexico State matchup.

Men’s basketball

  • The Wall Street Journal has a brutal take on the Mid-American Conference’s competitive woes.

On the Record with Don Verlin: WAC Tourney Edition

9 Mar

SAN FRANCISCO — We spoke with Idaho men’s hoops coach Don Verlin this afternoon about the challenge facing his squad in the Western Athletic Conference Tournament, beginning Thursday afternoon when they’ll take on the heavily-favored home team, Nevada.

The Vandals are coming into the tournament on something of a roll. Is that an advantage?

Yes, it’s good to have won your last couple of games before you go to the tournament. We have played very well offensively down the stretch and our guys are very excited to play in the WAC Tournament.

Do you think some of the issues which have plagued the team are being resolved?

Yeah, maybe a little bit. We did a good job last week of passing the ball and finding the open man. When you have 21 assists to 5 turnovers and 21 assists on 28 field goals, that’s a good sign. We need to keep doing that on Thursday.

What is the status of Kashif Watson? Will he be rejoining the team in Reno?

Kashif is still suspended indefinitely and he will not make the trip.

Playing Nevada on their home floor, what do the Vandals need to do to pull the upset?

(The Wolf Pack) have only lost one home game in league and they have a lot of talent so, it’s a really tough matchup for us, if you look at it optimistically, you have to beat everyone to get to the tournament. We have to slow them down. They’ve scored a bunch of points in the home wins, I believe 100 against New Mexico State. When you have a team like that, who can really score the ball, we need to slow the pace down to a workable number for us. We’re going to have to have our best defensive effort and keep Armon Johnson and Luke Babbitt in check.

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Watson to miss WAC Tourney; career at Idaho over

9 Mar

SPOKANE, Wash. — Idaho men’s basketball coach Don Verlin confirmed to us this afternoon that senior guard/forward Kashif Watson remains on suspension and will not travel with the team to this week’s Western Athletic Conference Tournament.

Verlin declined to comment further on the matter.

Watson was suspended indefinitely last week after Spokesman-Review writer Josh Wright uncovered comments made on Twitter which were harshly critical of Verlin’s leadership of the team.

The decision effectively ends Watson’s career with the Vandals, barring a seemingly-unlikely reinstatement for potential post-season play. Watson, who hails from Las Vegas, joined the team as a junior college transfer and was the Vandals’ second-leading scorer this season, averaging 10.7 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists per game. In 62 career games, Watson started 60 times, scoring 651 points and grabbing 201 rebounds in 1,838 minutes.

Ironically, in what would be his final game as a Vandal, Watson banked in a 75-foot buzzer-beating shot just before the halftime break in Idaho’s 86-76 win over San Jose State. The miracle bucket earned him the No. 2 spot on that night’s SportsCenter Top 10 Plays.

Vandals down Hawaii with beyond-the-arc barrage

6 Mar

In Idaho’s Senior Night battle against Hawaii tonight, it was fitting that all four starting seniors — Mac Hopson, Steffan Johnson, Luciano de Souza and Marvin Jefferson — would play key roles in the Vandals’ game-breaking run to victory.

All night long, Hawaii and Idaho had traded punches, with no team able to pull away. But with seven minutes on the clock, that would change. Hopson came around the right wing, drove the baseline and dished off to de Souza. Left wide-open in the corner, the Brazilian long-ball specialist drilled a 3-pointer to give the Vandals a 57-54 lead.

That shot broke the dam, as Johnson followed up with back-to-back-to-back triples — three of his career-high eight 3-pointers — before Hawaii coach Bob Nash had seen enough and called timeout with four minutes to play.

Whatever he drew up, it didn’t work. Out of the timeout, Jefferson swatted away Roderick Flemings’ jump shot, grabbed a feed from Johnson and dunked it home. Twenty seconds later, a Jefferson rebound found its way into Hopson’s hands. He chucked a cross-court pass at Johnson — and the 6-1 sharpshooter snagged it, leaped through the paint and threw down an exclamation-point jam, putting Idaho up by 11 with 3:28 on the clock. Timeout Hawaii — but everyone in the Cowan Spectrum knew it was game over.

Thanks to a season-best 14-for-27 performance from distance, the Vandals took out the lame-duck Rainbow Warriors, 78-69, to close out their Western Athletic Conference season on a high note and secure the 7-seed in next week’s WAC Tournament. Idaho improves to 15-15 (6-10 WAC) while Hawaii finishes at 10-20 (3-13 WAC).

“Steffan Johnson delivered tonight — he just caught fire and knocked them down,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said. “I thought we did as good of a job passing the ball to each other as we’ve done all year. Mac Hopson had 11 assists and no turnovers, Marvin Jefferson with four assists, no turnovers. We did a good job finding the guy with the hot hand and getting him the ball.”

Johnson, a transfer from Pacific, finished with 28 points on 9-for-16 shooting, 8-for-14 from downtown — all career highs as a Vandal. He was also a perfect 2-2 at the stripe, pulled down three rebounds and even recorded a block.

“I just wanted to finish with a bang,” Johnson said. “You know, Senior Night, you want to make it a memorable night. I told Mac when we were warming up, ‘We’re going to put on a show for the fans tonight’ and we did.”

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Vandal Nation Live: Idaho vs. Hawaii

6 Mar

It’s Senior Day in Moscow, as the Idaho Vandals look to clinch the 7-seed in next week’s Western Athletic Conference Tournament by defeating the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors in both team’s regular-season finale.

But the Vandals will have to do it without second-leading scorer Kashif Watson, who’s been suspended indefinitely by Don Verlin after making Twitter posts critical of the second-year coach.

That’s going to put big pressure on guys like Shawn Henderson, Jeff Ledbetter and the rest of Idaho’s bench, who will have to put up big numbers to help cover for Watson’s absence.

This will be the final Vandal Nation Live home Webcast of the season. We will be on the road in Reno starting Wednesday for complete coverage of the WAC Tournament, as Idaho’s men and women fight for the conference’s pair of automatic bids.

Honored will be graduating seniors Mac Hopson, Marvin Jefferson, Luciano de Souza and Steffan Johnson.

Join us for Senior Day pregame coverage at 4:30 p.m., tip at 5.

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

Vandals make the tournament, buzzer-beater makes SportsCenter

4 Mar

At the end of every shootaround, the Vandals huddle up and get a little hustle on. Everyone grabs a ball and jacks up half-court buzzer-beaters until someone cans one.

Apparently, practice does make perfect.

As the first half of Idaho’s game against San Jose State tonight came to an end, Vandal guard Kashif Watson caught a defensive rebound on the Spartans’ right wing. He hesitated, turned and, with 00.1 showing on the clock, launched a prayer from about 70 feet out.

The buzzer sounded. Watson stopped, stood and watched the ball arc across the court, bank off the backboard and drop through the net. Then he turned and walked away — as the Cowan Spectrum exploded.

“I kind of heaved it, so I was surprised it went in,” Watson said. “It was just luck, but I figured let’s ride with it.”

The Vandals did, carrying an 18-point edge into halftime and surviving a late Spartan run to knock off San Jose State, 86-76. The win marks Idaho’s first home conference victory since January, and assures the Vandals of a berth in next week’s Western Athletic Conference Tournament. Idaho improved to 14-15, 5-10 in the WAC, while San Jose State dropped to 14-15, 6-9 WAC.

Watson’s shot was highlighted on SportsCenter as one of the day’s Top Ten Plays, but it shouldn’t overshadow a strong team effort from an Idaho squad that has struggled to come up with a cohesive game lately. Watson and Mac Hopson shared scoring honors with 17 points apiece, while Marvin Jefferson was a dominant force in the paint — particularly in the first half. As a team, Idaho shot 56 percent from the field and 55 percent from beyond the arc, one of the season’s best shooting performances.

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