|Vandals roll to biggest WAC win|
MOSCOW, Idaho - The University of Idaho men's basketball team put an exclamation point on the year 2010 with its biggest conference win in 12 years in a 77-47 victory over Louisiana Tech on Friday at the Cowan Spectrum.
Idaho (7-6, 1-1 Western Athletic Conference) started the game on a 9-0 run and never looked back in holding Louisiana Tech (9-7, 0-2 WAC) to just 28.8 percent shooting and converting 13 Bulldog turnovers into 20 points.
"I wish I could bottle that and we could do that every night," Verlin said after the game. "I thought we played as good as we could possibly play there, especially in the first 30 minutes of the game."
The previous big WAC win for the Vandals was last season's 24-point victory at Boise State, 79-55. Idaho hasn't beaten a conference opponent by 30 or more points since a 102-71 victory over Cal Poly on Jan. 10, 1998.
The Vandal defense was as stingy as the offense was efficient. Idaho limited Tech to just 15-of-52 from the field and 5-of-21 (.238) from 3-point range. Idaho also held the Bulldogs without a field goal for a stretch of just over eight minutes late in the second half.
"I thought our defensive intensity was as good as it's been all year," Verlin said. "We did a great job of contesting shots and holding them to one shot, and I thought our ball pressure was really good."
Offensively, Idaho hit 50 percent of its shots from the field (24-48) and also from 3-point range (7-14). The Vandals were also 22-of-27 (.815) from the free throw line. Seven different Vandals registered at least one assist, led by junior Landon Tatum's career-high six, and the team tallied 17 total for the game.
"We don't have that guy who every night is going to go for 20, so when we can all share the ball and keep our turnovers down, that's when we're going to be a good basketball team," Idaho senior guard Jeff Ledbetter said.
Ledbetter led the way for Idaho with his first career 20-point game on 6-of-7 shooting, along with five rebounds, two assists and a career-high three steals. Fellow senior guard Shawn Henderson came within one of a career high with 16 points, along with six rebounds. Junior guard Deremy Geiger was Idaho's third double-digit scorer, as he dropped in 10 points, with four rebounds and two assists.
Louisiana Tech's DeAndre Brown led the team with 13 points, while Olu Ashaolu added nine points and eight rebounds. Brown entered the game ranked second in the WAC with a 16.7 scoring average, while Ashaolu was fourth in the conference at 15.4 points per game.
"Deremy Geiger really stepped up to the challenge in guarding DeAndre Brown," Verlin said. "I thought Brandon Wiley and Luiz Toledo did a great job on Ashaolu. We held them both under their averages."
The Vandals jumped out to a 9-0 lead, seven points of which came off Tech turnovers. Deremy Geiger's 3-pointer at the 12:31 mark gave Idaho a 20-9 lead, and the Vandal lead never dipped below double digits from that point on. Geiger's bucket was the second in a 14-0 Idaho scoring run that saw the Vandals increase their lead to 29-9 with 8:39 remaining in the half.
After taking a 41-29 halftime lead - its biggest of the season - Idaho showed no signs of a second-half letdown. Henderson opened the period by knocking down a 3-pointer, and the Vandals answered every Bulldog challenge early in the half.
Tech's Cordarius Johnson knocked down a 3-pointer to bring the Bulldogs within 19 points at 58-39 with 9:24 to play, then Idaho held Louisiana Tech without a field goal for the next 8:11 of game time. Redshirt freshman Joe Kammerer's layup at 4:21 capped a 16-0 Idaho scoring run that put the game completely out of reach.
Walk-ons Paul Jorg, a freshman from Bothell, Wash., and junior Sheridan Shayne of Boise, Idaho, made their Idaho debuts late in the game. Both players made the team after a preseason open tryout.
Next up for the Vandals is a difficult road trip to Hawai'i and San Jose State next week. Idaho plays at UH on Thursday, Jan. 6, at 9:30 p.m. (PT), and at SJSU on Saturday, Jan. 8, at 7:30 p.m. The Vandals swept the season series with Hawai'i last year and split with the Spartans.
Hawai'i is 9-5 overall and 0-2 in the WAC after an 86-69 loss at Nevada on Friday, while SJSU is 8-5 and 0-2, with an 80-71 loss at Utah State on Friday.