Courtesy: Ilya Pinchuk (Moscow, Idaho)
|Vandals roll in home finale|
MOSCOW, Idaho – Two underclassmen made sure Senior Night was a memorable one and University of Idaho men’s basketball earned its fifth win in a row with a 77-68 victory over Portland State on Saturday at the Cowan Spectrum.
The Vandals won for a third time in their last four Sears BracketBuster series outings, extended their overall win streak to five and their home winning stretch to a season-best four straight in front of a crowd of 3,081.
“What a great crowd for our seniors tonight,” Verlin said. “I was extremely excited with the attendance we had tonight, and what a great way to send off three wonderful guys. I couldn’t be happier for our seniors.”
Junior center Kyle Barone scored a career-high 25 points with the third-best shooting performance (10-of-11) in school history. Sophomore Stephen Madison went for his first career double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Madison and Barone combined on an alley-oop dunk to open then game, then pretty much owned the first half after that. The duo shot a combined 14-of-16 for 30 of Idaho’s 42 first-half points and had eight of the team’s 16 rebounds in the first 20 minutes.
In his final home game, senior Landon Tatum provided his most efficient effort to date with a career-high-tying 10 assists and zero turnovers. For good measure, he scored 10 points and earned his first career double-double.
“I thought Kyle Barone was a dominating force all game long, but really in the first half, and then there’s Stephen Madison with the double-double,” Verlin said. “I thought we had some guys turn in some great performances tonight.”
Idaho opened the game on a 9-0 run and ended the half on an 8-2 run and took a season-best 17-point halftime lead after Kyle Barone’s lob layup with less than a second left beat the buzzer to put the Vandals up 42-25.
A pair of Barone free throws to start the second half pushed Idaho’s lead to 19 at 44-25, but shortly after, the Vikings popped off nine unanswered points to squeeze the margin down to six points at 52-46, with 9:44 remaining.
“Our biggest thing, I think, is just making the smart play and slowing down a little bit,” Barone said. “A couple times, we were trying to get a layup out of a scramble situation, turned it over a couple times there and gave them some buckets. If we take care of those little things, then we should have no problems.”
Enter Deremy Geiger. The senior was scoreless for the game’s first 31 minutes, but his open triple from the top of the key ended PSU’s run at the 9:15 mark. He drew a foul and drained a pair of free throws on Idaho’s next possession to restore some momentum.
“We ran one of our staples,” Verlin said of the key 3-pointer. “They took away our first option of play which was Djim coming in underneath. The second option was Deremy, who jumped up and knocked it down and that kind of gave us a little jump start.”
Geiger’s layup at 5:13 put the Vandals back up by 10 at 63-53. The Vikings made seven of their final 12 shot attempts, but Idaho countered by making 12 of its final 14 free throws in the last two minutes to keep the margin above seven points.
Idaho went 27-of-48 (.563) from the floor for its best shooting performance against an NCAA Division I team this year, added a 5-of-13 (.385) 3-point shooting effort and makes on 18 of its 26 free throws for a .692 clip.
The Vandals held the Vikings to just 29.6 percent shooting in the first half, but allowed PSU to shoot better than 50 percent in the second. Portland State ended up going 24-of-58 (.414) overall and 6-of-21 (.286) from 3-point range. The Vikings went 14-of-20 (.700) at the free throw line.
Idaho held a 35-28 rebounding advantage and outscored the Vikings 10-8 on second-chance points despite a 9-6 offensive boards deficit. The Vandals also held scoring edges in the paint (38-34) and on the fast break (6-4), while Portland State outscored Idaho 14-9 off turnovers and 31-10 from the bench.
Portland State never led and Idaho earned its third wire-to-wire win of the season.
Barone’s 10-of-11 shooting night is the best by a Vandal since Mike Hall posted the same tally in a 74-63 win over San Jose State on Jan. 24, 2008. Tatum’s 10 assists give him 126 for the season and draw him within four of Idaho’s single-season top-10.
Idaho takes its winning streak into one of the nation’s toughest venues next week when the Vandals return to Western Athletic Conference play at Utah State on Friday, Feb. 24. The Aggies are 14-14 overall, 12-4 at home and 5-6 in the WAC this season.