Tag Archives: Luciano de Souza

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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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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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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White-hot Idaho gunnery obliterates stunned Broncos

6 Feb

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.”

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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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