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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Vandals hold Garcia in check, complete Seattle sweep

18 Feb

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.

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Vandal Nation Live: Idaho vs. Seattle

18 Feb

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.

Click here for live commentary, analysis and chat!

Don Verlin, Luiz Toledo and Kashif Watson talk Nevada

9 Feb

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.

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.

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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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.

Late Spartan surge ends Idaho’s bid to sweep road trip

5 Jan

SAN JOSE, Calif. — With four minutes and change to play in San Jose State’s WAC opener against Idaho last night, Spartan forward C.J. Webster looked at the opposing shot clock across the court — it was about to expire. In desperation, he flicked up a no-look shot backwards over his head from the free-throw line.

Back of the rim. Net. Score. The 1,287 fans in the Events Center sounded like 10,000.

It was just that kind of night for the home team.

In a hard-fought road battle for the Vandals, San Jose State made just enough plays down the stretch to thwart Idaho’s designs on a 2-0 start to Western Athletic Conference play away from the comforting confines of the Cowan Spectrum.

How hard-fought? How about 28 lead changes and 12 ties. Yeah, that hard-fought.

Despite putting four players in double digits, Idaho fell to the Spartans, 78-75, thanks to a late-game surge that pushed the home team over the top. The Vandals dropped to 8-5 (1-1 WAC) while SJSU improves to 8-5 (1-0 WAC).

San Jose State was powered by big inside buckets from the forward-center duo of Webster and Chris Oakes, who combined to shoot 18-for-24, leading the way for a Spartan team that scored 44 points in the paint.

“You have to pick your poison against these guys and we decided not to double-team Webster,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said. “They found him and drove him down our throats.”

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