For the third straight game, the Vandals looked more interested in sleeping in than playing basketball last night. The Portland Pilots, hungry for revenge at home after a 20-point Idaho beatdown knocked them out of the Top 25 last week, gladly took advantage.
Canning a school-record ten 3-pointers in an unstoppable performance, Portland guard Jared Stohl made up the margin of victory himself in leading the Pilots to a blowout 82-52 victory over the Vandals in the Chiles Center.
Idaho has looked disjointed, sluggish and indifferent ever since its home win over then-No. 25 Portland two weeks ago. There’s nothing good to talk about from this game, as virtually every stat was a season low for the Vandals: 38 percent shooting, 19 turnovers, even a spectacularly bad 12-for-29 performance from the free-throw line. The loss drops Idaho to 6-4 on the season, with a game next Tuesday against Lewis-Clark State remaining before Western Athletic Conference play opens.
“I’m at a little bit of a loss because I felt like we practiced hard,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said. “This basketball team simply has got to get ready to play on the road because we didn’t come out to play tonight and I’m disappointed.”
Mac Hopson led the Vandals with 15 points on a respectable 5-for-9 shooting performance, but he turned the ball over three times and was just 1-for-4 from downtown. Idaho’s shooters combined for a season-worst 2-of-11 performance outside the arc, and Steffan Johnson once again was dead quiet — he was just 1-for-8 on the night.
The game was never really competitive, as for the first time all year Idaho didn’t even get a taste of the lead. The Pilots broke open a 7-4 game with a 15-1 run that left the Vandals trailing 22-5 with 11 minutes to go in the first half, keyed by 3-pointers from Stohl, Nik Raivio and Ethan Niedermeyer.
Out of the locker room, the Vandals seemed ready to spark a comeback, as six unanswered points in the paint to open the second half closed the deficit to just 10. But Portland turned to Stohl again, and he delivered — a pair of buckets from downtown keyed an 11-0 Pilots response that broke Idaho’s back.
The Vandals allowed the Pilots to drill 55 percent of their 29 shots from beyond the arc, by far the worst defensive performance of the season, and with Stohl racking up 10 makes on 15 attempts, it’s as if Idaho’s defense didn’t even try.
“You have to give credit to Portland, they shot the ball well and we weren’t ready for it,” Verlin admitted.
Adding to Idaho’s troubles, backup point guard Marcus Lawrence has been suspended indefinitely for unspecified violations of team rules. The oft-troubled UNLV transfer is playing as a walk-on this year after being charged with theft during his redshirt season, leading to the revocation of his scholarship.
A season that started with much promise now seems to have peaked with the home win over Portland, and a tough, deep set of WAC contenders won’t tolerate nights off. One tuneup remains before conference play gets underway, and it’s those contests that will determine whether Idaho’s “Road to Glory” is paved to tournament success — or covered in fool’s gold.
“This team has to get better and it will get better,” Verlin promised. “We’ll get back to work and we’re going to get it done.”
The Vandals get Christmas week off before returning to action Tuesday in Boise with a neutral-site game against Lewis-Clark State, the night before the Humanitarian Bowl.
“Our guys are looking forward to playing in Boise and we’re hoping all the Vandal fans will come out and cheer us on,” Verlin said.