Tag Archives: Kyle Barone

WAC preseason polls announced, Idaho too low

24 Oct

Madison McCord | Vandal Nation
Junior forward Stephen Madison throws down a dunk before the Black and Gold Scrimmage Friday.

The preseason suspension of Idaho center Kyle Barone must have really hurt the Vandal men’s basketball team who have been picked to finish sixth and fifth in the coaches and media polls respectively.

The Vandal women’s team also slipped lower than we projected finishing fifth and sixth in the coaches and media polls respectively.

Three bright spots did arise from the polls though for the Vandals, with three players receiving all-WAC honors. For the men, Barone was picked as a first-team member in both polls after finishing last season as a second-team all-WAC selection. On the women’s team, junior forward Alyssa Charlston was a first-team selection in both polls, while sophomore guard Krissy Karr received second-team placement in both. Continue reading

Idaho Men’s basketball tips off fall practice – Video interviews

12 Oct

Idaho Men’s basketball held its first organized team practice of the fall Friday evening on campus. We caught up with coach Don Verlin afterwards, along with G/F Mike McChristian and F Stephen Madison, both of whom figure to play large roles with the team this year.

Verlin touched a bit more on Kyle Barone, who was suspended indefinitely on Monday and was not present at practice Friday night. Verlin said  he can’t set a specific timetable on when he would return.

Forward Stephen Madison fights his way to the rim.
Courtesy | Spencer Farrin

“What Kyle has to do (to return to the program) is between him and I. Obviously I’m very disappointed in Kyle, that kind of behavior is unacceptable in our program,” Verlin said. “But he is one of our family members. We love him and we’re going to do everything we can to get him on the court as quickly as we can, when he does the things that I think are necessary for him to come back.”

Other information of note from Verlin include:

- Verlin said he’d be surprised if 6-foot-8 CC transfer Marcus Bell doesn’t lead the team in rebounding.

- Verlin said starting spots, most notably in the backcourt, haven’t been handed out yet. Those position battles should carry on throughout fall practice and scrimmages.

Here are the (mostly) raw video interviews we got tonight. Please forgive the quality on the Verlin segment, mid-term chaos didn’t have us as prepared with the technology.

 

Idaho Men’s basketball tips off fall practice

CIT Tournament: Idaho men vs CSU Santa Barbara photo gallery

15 Mar

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

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Vandals v San Jose State – Post Game

27 Jan

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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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!

Break out the brooms: Idaho sweeps Fresno State

14 Feb

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.

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Photo Gallery: Idaho vs. #25 Portland

7 Dec

Thanks to Argonaut photographer Nick Groff, we’ve got a great selection of photos from last night’s historic Vandal victory over the #25 Portland Pilots.

Pilots left stunned as Idaho’s defense crushes #25 Portland

6 Dec

The Portland Pilots, the No. 25 team in the country, came to Moscow tonight for Idaho’s first-ever home showdown with a nationally-ranked non-conference opponent — and were promptly blown right back out the doors of historic Memorial Gym.

To the thundering cheers of a sellout crowd in the venerable home of Idaho basketball, the Vandals made history by destroying #25 Portland, 68-48, for Idaho’s first victory over a nationally-ranked team since 1982.

Idaho improved to 5-2, the team’s best start since the 1989-90 season, while the Pilots fell to 5-3.

The victory came in an unorthodox — and for coach Don Verlin, heartening — way: with punishing lockdown defense. The Pilots, who came into this game as one of the nation’s top shooting teams, were comprehensively shut down, making just 19 of 59 shots from the field — an abysmal .322 performance.

“That’s as good defensively as we’ve played all year for that length of time,” Verlin said. “It’s a credit to our guys.”

The stat lines are stunning: guard T.J. Campbell, the Pilots’ leading scorer with 16.7 points on .554 shooting, was held to an awful 1-for-11 shooting for 3 points. Big man Robin Smeulders, a 63.3-percent shooter averaging 13.3 points, was just 1-for-6 with 2 points while turning the ball over 3 times. A team that came in shooting 42 percent from downtown made just 6 of 22 3-point attempts — 27.3 percent.

“We’re happy about this win because we did it on the defensive end and that’s where we were lacking,” Idaho point guard Mac Hopson said. “Coach said that’s what he wanted from us, was to shut them down, and we just listened this time. We stopped their top threats and got the W.”

Right from the opening tip-off, it was clear the Vandals wanted to establish dominance early. Idaho made its first three shots in a row — including a crowd-pleasing dunk by center Marvin Jefferson — while the Pilots missed their first six attempts from the floor.

The real damage was done midway through the first half. With 10 minutes to play in the opening period, a 4-0 run from the Pilots cut Idaho’s lead to 3 points, and the momentum seemed to be all on the visitors’ side. But reserve point guard Marcus Lawrence stepped up and canned a wide-open trey from the corner, and the rout was on.

Idaho would go on to score 10 more points in the next 5 minutes — while Portland combined to go 1-for-6 with 5 turnovers and a bench technical foul. Ethan Niedermeyer snapped the run with a 3-pointer, but Luciano de Souza ignited the gym by returning the favor from downtown. That would be the game’s theme — every time the Pilots looked to have something going, the Vandals struck back and reignited the crowd.

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Hoops Preview: Inside Portland (Lights-shot-out edition)

6 Dec

The Vandals take on one of their toughest foes yet, the Portland Pilots, in Memorial Gym at 5 o’clock this evening. The Pilots are nationally ranked #25 in the AP Poll, which makes them the first ranked non-conference team to visit Moscow since 1963. (Thanks to SID extraordinaire Spencer Farrin for tracking that stat down.) It’s a big game for both teams, which are each coming off their second loss of the season. For the Vandals, knocking off a top-25 team could be a big boost to the seed-line come tournament time, and it would certainly be a nice feather in the cap regardless. As we’ll mention, it’s also a matchup of two of the best offensive teams in the NCAA.

We’ll have all the action on Vandal Nation Live, starting with pregame at 4:30 p.m., tip-off at 5.

Let’s take a look at this year’s Portland squad. Click here for Idaho coach Don Verlin’s thoughts on the game.

Portland Pilots (5-2)

West Coast Conference — 2009 record: 19-13 (lost to Pacific in CollegeInsider.com First Round)

Backed by a high-powered and efficient offense, the Portland Pilots have busted out of the gate as one of the hottest mid-major squads in college hoops. They upset Oregon, UCLA and #22 Minnesota en route to a runner-up finish in the 76 Classic preseason tournament, losing in the title game to a red-hot West Virginia squad. Those stellar performances, all on national TV, earned Portland its first national Top 25 ranking in 50 years. But ever since then, it’s been downhill. The Pilots dropped their last game at home to cross-city rival Portland State, and desperately need a victory to keep their two-game slide from getting steeper.

Few teams in the NCAA are as efficient as the Pilots, and that’s what’s powered them to the upsets. They rank 24th in the nation in points per possession, collect an unreal 1.2 points per weighted shot (12th in the nation) and have Division I’s 10th-best True Shooting percentage. They aren’t great with ball-handling, turning it over about 15 times per game, but those shooting percentages make up for it. In raw numbers, Portland hits from the floor at a .491 clip and .417 from downtown.

The Pilots are also extremely diverse — in seven games, four different players have stepped up as the leading scorer. This is not a uni-dimensional squad and it won’t be easy for the Vandals’ defense to shut down. There’s not much depth, though — only seven players have been making significant contributions to the offense, and six average at least 25 minutes. Past the two bench stalwarts, fourth-year coach Eric Reveno is taking big chances.

The good news, if there is any: Portland’s inside presence can be exploited, because that’s where the Pilots have been giving up big points. They’re holding opponents to just 32 percent shooting from beyond the arc, but allowing 48 percent inside. Even more heartening: they can be even worse. In the loss to Portland State, the Pilots gave up 53 percent shooting, including a lights-out 60 percent performance from downtown. But still, the Vikings never led until the final minutes, as Portland’s powerhouse offense was able to keep a step ahead despite shoddy defense.

To get the win, the Vandals are going to have to shoot the lights out in their own gym, earning easy layups and bullet treys off wide-open transition looks. Idaho’s not built for grinding it out, and neither are the Pilots. Whoever has possession last (and whoever gets hot near the end) may well come out on top. But with more depth on the bench, Idaho coach Don Verlin may have his ace in the hole. Forcing Portland into foul trouble could pay big dividends, as their finely-honed short-bench rotation doesn’t tolerate interruptions. The other thing they must do: come through in the clutch. Idaho’s defense couldn’t get any stops down the stretch in Northridge and that was the difference between winning and losing. So may it be tonight.

Key statistic: True Shooting Percentage

  • Idaho: 60.3% (16th) — Portland: 61.0% (10th)

If you like offense, you’re going to love tonight’s matchup, and the scoreboards in venerable Memorial Gym may just blow a fuse. This is a matchup of two of the hottest-shooting teams in NCAA basketball. True Shooting Percentage is a weighted percentage that factors in a team’s performance from beyond the arc and the free-throw line. The Vandals clock in at 60.3 percent, good for 16th in the nation. The Pilots are even better at 61.0 percent. Could both teams break the century barrier? Not out of the question at all.

Projected Starters:

  • G #15 Nik Ravio, Sr. — 15.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 2.4 apg

Ravio began the season as one of the Pilots’ most potent weapons, and he’s still a high-scoring backcourt threat and glass-cleaner. But his shooting efficiency has taken a nosedive in the last three games — not coincidentally, three of the toughest opponents the Pilots have faced this season. He’s just 14-of-42 after opening the year 36-of-52. Nor is he great at the charity stripe. So it would seem the Vandals could find a defensive opening against him. But there lies danger, too — you never know when a streaky shooter like Ravio will get hot again.

  • G #44 T.J. Campbell, Sr. — 16.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 5.3 apg

A 5-9 sparkplug, Campbell was the WCC’s Newcomer of the Year last season, and why not. The kid shoots 55 percent from the floor — 2-point and 3-point — and boasts a 2.2 assist-to-turnover ratio. After his breakout 2008-09 campaign, Reveno said “We maybe need to get him some more shots.” They have — he’s the team’s leading scorer despite his diminutive size. Campbell is also a nearly-automatic free-throw shooter, so the Vandals can’t just hack away. If Idaho lets him run loose in Memorial Gym, it’ll be a long night for the home team.

  • C #12 Robin Smeulders, Sr. — 13.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.0 apg

The Pilots’ big man with soft hands, Smeulders will be a handful for the Vandals’ post defenders to deal with. Not only can he score in bunches, but he simply does not give up the basketball, averaging just 1 turnover per game this year. That’s unusual for a paint power like Smeulders, and it’s one reason he’s so effective at scoring the basketball. Not only that, but you don’t want to foul him either. He doesn’t turn it over, he shoots 64 percent and he hits free throws? Yeah, good luck guarding that. Jefferson, Barone and Co. have their work cut out for them tonight.

  • F #45 Kramer Knutson, Jr. — 5.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 0.6 apg

You knew Portland couldn’t have five starting studs, and here’s where the Pilots could get take advantage of. Knutson is not a great starting power forward, because he just doesn’t pull down the boards like he should. Oh, he can shoot it — 63 percent from the field — but he’s averaging a turnover every 10 minutes and he has nearly as many fouls (14) as rebounds (16) on the season. It’s clear Reveno doesn’t have much confidence in him — for a starter, Knutson sees very little playing time, just 16 minutes per game.

  • F #3 Ethan Niedermeyer, Sr. — 6.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.0 apg

Another weak spot for the Pilots, Niedermeyer is the worst shooter on the team by a country mile — and he doesn’t even have the excuse of being a guard. He’s just 18-of-46 from the field (.333 from downtown) and is either on his game or way, way off. Nothing in between, he might be the streakiest shooter in the West Coast Conference. Not only that, he’s a turnover machine, too — he’s coughed it up 16 times in just seven games, with 9 of those coming in the last three contests. His saving grace, might be his rebounding, where he puts up solid numbers for a wing.

Key reserves:

  • G #20 Jared Stohl, Jr. — 8.9 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 1.3 apg

The backcourt spark waiting on the bench, Stohl is a decent enough shooting guard hampered, in what seems to be a recurring theme for the Pilots, by extreme streakiness. Against UCLA, he was unstoppable, burying 5-of-5 from beyond the arc, but the next night against Minnesota he took 10 shots and hit just 2 of them. He’s a combined 6-for-24 in the Pilots’ last three games, where the defensive challenge has stiffened. If the Pilots want to make a real run in the WCC and continue their statement season, Stohl has to get more consistent, if perhaps less spectacular.

  • F #21 Luke Sikma, Jr. — 6.3 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.3 apg

A versatile front-courter off the bench, Sikma is a huge force off the glass, a solid ball-handler and a 58-percent shooter from the floor. His defensive skills are somewhat suspect (with two foul-outs on the season, it seems he has to hack to get a stop) and he’s a relatively poor free-throw shooter, but those are small quibbles. On a team with a fairly thin bench, Sikma has played a huge role in the Pilots’ success this season, and his minutes are going to be big ones against an Idaho team that runs the floor and leaves opponents gasping in its wake.

Vandals bury Eastern Washington in a blizzard of 3-pointers

28 Nov

With a minute and change gone in the second half of Idaho’s home contest against Eastern Washington tonight, Steffan Johnson grabbed a feed from Mac Hopson at the top of the key and buried his fourth three-pointer of the game to put the Vandals up by 25.

Twenty seconds and a Marvin Jefferson block later, it was an instant replay. Hopson dished off to Johnson in the wing and as his shot arced through the air, the 1,500 fans in Memorial Gym came to their feet even before it swished through the net. They knew it would be good — every one before had been.

On the strength of seven straight 3-point makes and a stifling defensive effort, the homestanding Vandals blew out Eastern Washington, 76-54, to go 4-1 on the young season — Idaho’s best start since 1988. EWU fell to 2-4.

“This was a heck of a win,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said. “We dominated them. We rebounded the ball well, got out in transition and held (the Eagles) to 36 percent shooting. That’s just good execution all around.”

The Vandals made eight of 12 3-point attempts, the third-best team performance from downtown in Idaho history, and Johnson’s 6-for-7 shooting outside was the third-best by a single player. Hopson and Marcus Lawrence also got in on the action from long range, shredding the Eagles’ man-to-man defense. Overall, Idaho shot 54.2 percent on the night — and 66.7 percent in the first half. Idaho leads the WAC in both shooting categories — hitting .489 from the field and .446 from downtown.

Both teams started slowly, and an early trey from the Eagles’ Kevin Winford meant Idaho led by just a single point three minutes into the game — 4-3. But the Vandals would score eight consecutive points and go on a 32-12 run in the next 10 minutes of the half, anchored by big inside buckets from Jefferson and Luiz Toledo. The Eagles would not threaten again, and Idaho would build a 31-point lead midway through the second half before calling off the dogs.

Johnson led all players with 18 points on 6-7 shooting from 3-point range, along with 2 assists, 2 rebounds, 2 steals and a block. He was joined in double figures by Toledo’s 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting and ten more from Jefferson, who was 4-for-8 from the field. Hopson, the other half of Idaho’s 1-2 backcourt punch, was 4-of-5 from the field for 9 points, grabbed 5 rebounds and dished up a team-high 4 assists.

“I was just feeling it tonight,” Johnson said. “When we’re shooting like that, it helps us in so many ways. They had to open up their defense, give space to our big guys inside and it’s a huge mental boost, too. When you hit like that, the bench gets into it, the crowd was really going — you start thinking you’re never going to miss.”

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Vandals doing a lot right – but please, stop turning it over!

22 Nov

CHICAGO — With a CRJ hop from Fargo under our belts (we had a nice conversation with seatmate Jose Mohler, NDSU’s starting quarterback), we had some time to mull over the Vandals’ stats after three games. Thanks to WAC media relations honcho Jason Erickson for getting the WAC Stat Pack out so quickly.

There’s a lot of reasons for the Vandals to be pleased with themselves right now, because Idaho is at or near the top of the WAC in an array of statistical categories.

  • The Vandals have the No. 2 scoring offense, averaging 80 points per game and trailing only Nevada.
  • Idaho has the No. 2 team field goal percentage, averaging .488 shooting, and the No. 3 team field goal defense, holding opponents to .406 shooting.
  • Surprisingly, Idaho has the No. 3 free-throw shooting percentage, averaging .725 at the line.
  • Only Nevada hits from downtown more, as the Vandals are No. 2 in 3-point shooting and efficiency. Idaho drills 42 percent of its shots from outside, for an average of 7.3 per game.
  • The Vandals also rank No. 4 in blocked shots and steals.

Individually, there’s another slew of superlatives:

  • Luiz Toledo ranks No. 2 in field goal percentage, making 79 percent of his shots.
  • Mac Hopson ranks No. 3 in assists, with 4.3 per game, while Steffan Johnson is No. 4 with 4.0.
  • Johnson is tied for No. 1 in free-throw percentage, nailing all 8 of his shots from the charity stripe.
  • Johnson has the conference’s No. 1 assist-to-turnover ratio, dishing 12 assists for just 4 turnovers.
  • Johnson is No. 3 in 3-point shooting, averaging 3.0 treys per game.
  • Marvin Jefferson gets in on the stat action, as he’s No. 3 in blocks, averaging 2.3 per game.
  • Jeff Ledbetter ranks No. 6 in 3-point percentage, making 50 percent of his shots from downtown.

Even where the Vandals don’t excel, they’re vastly improved from last year. While Idaho sat at or near the bottom of the WAC in rebounding throughout the 2008-09 season, the Vandals now have a respectable No. 3 rebounding defense, No. 4 rebounding offense and No. 5 rebounding margin. Those numbers could still use improvement, to be sure, but the jump made already is something to celebrate.

What makes that rebounding stat even more interesting is the fact that Idaho doesn’t have a single player among the WAC’s top-10 glass-cleaners. That’s a double-edged sword — it speaks to the Vandals’ inconsistency so far this season, but it also speaks to the depth of a team that doesn’t require perfect performances every night. Against Utah, it was Kyle Barone pulling down all the boards — last night in Fargo, it was Toledo and Jefferson doing the work. Individually they don’t average to the top 10, but together they’ve created a team that can hold its own on the glass.

Now for the bad news: Idaho has regressed, and regressed a lot, when it comes to taking care of the basketball. The Vandals were second-best in the WAC with a 1.16 assist-to-turnover ratio last season. This year, Idaho’s dropped to No. 5, coughing up the ball more than dishing it with an 0.82 assist-to-turnover ratio. The nadir was the disastrous outing at Texas Southern which featured twice as many turnovers as assists.

Whether it’s mental lapses, increased game pace or unfamiliar players still trying to get on the same page, turnovers have hurt Idaho in all three of its games — with losing consequences in one of them. Against NDSU, the Vandals made progress — but 18 assists to 16 turnovers is a stalemate, not a victory. We’ll be watching that stat closely, as it should be a good benchmark to see how well the Vandals come together in the season’s opening stanzas.

Vandal Hoops: Predicting the Starters

9 Nov

The exhibitions are done, so now for the prognostications. Who’s going to start, who’s going to play and who’s going to redshirt for Idaho basketball? It’s no easy task this year, with the Vandals boasting a ridiculous amount of depth. But we’re going to try.

Here’s our guesses, based on coach Don Verlin’s statement that he’ll play no more than an 11-man rotation. A caveat: these are predicted Opening Day starters vs. Utah. Depending on how fast the incoming talent gets adjusted to Division I basketball, it wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see some of them work into the starting lineup later in the season.

Starters:

  1. PG Mac Hopson, Sr. — A no-brainer here, Idaho’s returning star will run the show again.
  2. SG Steffan Johnson, Sr. —  Another no-brainer, Stef is an instant double-digit scoring threat.
  3. SG Kashif Watson, Sr. — Last year’s quiet glue guy, no reason to think he won’t be again.
  4. PF Brandon Wiley, Sr. — Led Idaho in rebounding in 08-09, and the Vandals need his boards.
  5. C Marvin Jefferson, Sr. — He’ll get competition from Barone, but Big Jeff gets the nod for now.

Bench:

  1. PG Marcus Lawrence, Jr. — Stef can run the show as PG too, but Marcus will be a solid backup.
  2. SG Shawn Henderson, Jr. —  The revelation of the exhibition, he’ll be Idaho’s go-to sixth man.
  3. SF Luciano de Souza, Sr. — Big hair, big shots. Need a three-ball in the clutch? Give it to Luci.
  4. PF Luiz Toledo, So. — Will rotate with Wiley, and may just about split the 4-spot minutes.
  5. PF Corey Stern, Fr. — Showed great poise and skill for a freshman, should see plenty of action.
  6. C Kyle Barone, Fr. — May be the much-needed answer to the Vandals’ rebounding woes.

Deep bench:

  1. SF Travis Blackstock, Sr. — T-Black is back, walking on for the love of the game. Gotta love it.

Redshirts:

  1. PG Landon Tatum, Jr. — This guy’s too talented to sit, but we’ve run out of places to put him.
  2. SG Jeff Ledbetter, Jr. —  Solid 3-point production and ball-handling, but no room at the inn.
  3. SG Justin Stewart, Fr. — The walk-on from Spokane will get a year to learn Division I.
  4. C Joe Kammerer, Fr. — Big Jeff graduates next year, makes sense to save Big Joe’s eligibility.
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