Tag Archives: Mac Hopson

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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Monson’s homecoming spoils Idaho’s BracketBuster hopes

20 Feb

Dan Monson came back to his alma mater this week, and a sweet homecoming it was for the son of legendary Idaho coach Don Monson. Unfortunately for the Idaho Vandals, Dan was coaching their opponent.

In an ESPNU BracketBusters non-conference showdown, Long Beach State pretty well dominated Idaho from start to finish, coming away with a 77-66 victory in the Cowan Spectrum. Turnovers, missed field goals and porous defense characterized the Vandals’ play, and only a 13-point, 14-rebound night from Marvin Jefferson kept things interesting for the home team.

“(Long Beach) beat us in every aspect of the game,” Idaho coach Don Verlin admitted.

As well as the Vandals (13-13, 4-8 WAC) played Thursday against Seattle, they played just as badly tonight — continuing a theme for this season, in that the only thing consistent about Idaho’s performances has been their inconsistency. Mac Hopson led the team in scoring with 15 points, but didn’t make a bucket until the game’s final 67 seconds and finished an awful 2-for-9 from the field, 0-for-3 from downtown. Hopson and several other starters sat on the bench for long stretches of the game in favor of some of the Vandals’ younger guns. Verlin made no bones about his displeasure with the performance of his seniors.

“I’m very disappointed in my seniors’ effort — except Marvin Jefferson, he played his tail off,” Verlin said. “The seniors have to lead this team, and I don’t think they had their team ready to play. We’re two years into this deal and our senior leadership has to show itself. It didn’t tonight.”

The 49ers (13-14) took advantage of nearly every Idaho mistake, converting 16 Vandal turnovers into 21 points, including an 8-0 edge in fastbreak scoring. It would be that old ball-handling bugaboo that ultimately doomed the home team’s hopes.

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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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Vandal Nation Live: Idaho vs. Nevada

10 Feb

Vandal Nation is back, and just in time!

Tonight, Idaho takes on Nevada in a pivotal Western Athletic Conference battle in front of ESPN2′s national television cameras. It’s the Vandals and the Wolf Pack, each team desperate to prove something. Nevada needs to show it can win big games on the road, while Idaho wants to climb its way back into the WAC Tournament conversation.

Can Mac Hopson, Steffan Johnson and Luiz Toledo keep the momentum rolling at home against the star-power of Luke Babbitt and Armon Johnson? Join us and find out.

We’ll have all the action live from courtside in the Cowan Spectrum. Pregame coverage begins at 7:30 p.m., tip at 8.

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

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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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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Vandal Nation Live: Idaho vs. Utah State

23 Jan

The Vandals are back in action after a week-long bye, and they open up a week-long homestand against one of the Western Athletic Conference’s toughest foes: Utah State.

If Don “Merlin” Verlin has any magic in the back pocket, it better come out this afternoon. For Idaho to have any shot at a top-half seeding in the conference tournament, the Vandals need to sweep their three-game set in the Cowan Spectrum.

The other storyline: Aggie head honcho Stew Morrill, Verlin’s coaching mentor, is searching for his 500th win as a head coach tonight. Can Mac Hopson, Steffan Johnson and the rest of the Vandals keep his big night at bay?

We’ll have complete coverage from courtside, with pregame at 4:30 p.m., tip at 5.

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

Idaho at Nevada Video Preview

14 Jan

Idaho’s three-game losing streak ties its longest ever under the command of coach Don Verlin, and Saturday’s battle at Nevada provides a stiff challenge to snapping the slide. We spoke with Verlin and point guard Mac Hopson today about the Vandals’ hopes of getting back on track in the Western Athletic Conference fight.

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