|Hot-shooting Vandals hold off Redhawks|
SEATTLE - Idaho shot a scorching 58.3 percent from the field and 57.1 percent from 3-point line, but a season-high 24 turnovers kept things close in an 87-85 win over Seattle on Saturday at Key Arena.
Idaho (10-10, 2-6 Western Athletic Conference) trailed by as many as 12 points in the first half and went into the break down by four at 41-37, but the Vandals scorched the nets in the second half to the tune of 64 percent on 16-of-25 shooting and hit 17-of-23 from the free throw line.
Seattle (9-13) stayed in the game primarily because of points off turnovers and offensive boards. The Redhawks scored 26 points as a result of Idaho miscues and turned 21 offensive rebounds into 23 points. The Redhawks attempted 73 shots in the game, compared to just 48 for Idaho, but SU hit 42.5 percent from the floor and just 22.2 percent from 3-point range.
"You don't think when you turn the ball over 24 times and give up 21 offensive rebounds that you're going to win, but we battled," Idaho head coach Don Verlin said. "Any time you can find a way to battle on the road and find a way to get a win, you're obviously very happy about it."
While Idaho's familiar turnover 'bugaboo' bit the Vandals again on Saturday, another early-season problem was nowhere to be found, as the team hit 23 of its 31 free throws for a 74.2 percent clip. In its last five games, Idaho has hit 75.4 percent of its free throws after struggling from the line early in the year.
Seattle's aggressive, full-court trapping defense gave Idaho problems during stretches of the game, but when the Vandals broke through, they were able to work their offense for a lot of easy shots and open looks.
"It was obvious what their game plan was tonight - to turn us over," Verlin said. "They're turning their opponents over 20 times a game and got us to turn it over 24, especially in the back court. They did a good job disrupting us."
Senior Steffan Johnson led the team with 18 points, as he went 4-of-8 from 3-point range and also added five rebounds, four assists and two steals. Sophomore Luiz Toledo was efficient again with a 6-of-8 shooting night and 16 points. Seniors Kashif Watson and Marvin Jefferson added 14 and 13 points, respectively, while Jefferson had a team-high nine rebounds.
Senior Mac Hopson is Idaho's leading scorer on the season, and while he had a quiet night in the score column with nine points, he dished a career-high 11 assists, which is tied as the sixth-best single-game performance in Idaho history.
Idaho's 50 points in the second half is a team season high for one half, while the team's 58.3 field goal percentage is its best of the season. The win is also Idaho's first over the Redhawks in Seattle.
Seattle stormed out of the gates early in the game, largely because of a plethora of Idaho turnovers. Idaho lost the ball nine times in the first 11 minutes and allowed Seattle to build up a 17-8 lead at the 9:47 mark. The Redhawks stretched the lead to as many as 12 points on two occasions late in the first half, but Idaho answered the second time by rattling off eight straight points.
The Redhawks came out in the second half strongly and extended to a seven-point lead at 50-43 with 16:56 remaining, but Idaho answered again with an 8-0 run to take back the lead. From there, Idaho cleaned up the turnover woes and put the pressure on Seattle by attacking the basket and earning trips to the free throw line, where they converted into 17 points in the period.
After completing a stretch of four games in an eight-day period, Idaho gets a few days off before facing Utah State on the road in a nationally-televised matchup with the Aggies on ESPN2. That game will tip off on Wednesday, Feb. 3 at 8 p.m. (PST).