|Vandals advance to semis|
LAS VEGAS – Idaho seniors Stephen Madison and Glen Dean turned in stellar performances and the Idaho men’s basketball team gutted out a 73-70 win over Kansas City in the Western Athletic Conference quarterfinals on Thursday afternoon.
Madison scored 26 points and added a career-high 17 rebounds while hitting all 11 of his free throw attempts and three of his five 3-point attempts. Dean came off the bench and went 4-for-6 from 3-point range and added six assists. He also converted two critical free throws with 10 seconds to play to finish with 14 points.
“Glen Dean stepped up and played his best game since early in the season,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said. “He was almost flawless until that last turnover. Glen is obviously a very good defender, he was on Harrison all night and he did a good job of keeping him in front, and he’s a hard guy to keep in front. I thought Glen played a whale of a game tonight.”
It wasn’t just the Idaho seniors who stepped up. True freshman Sekou Wiggs scored a career-high 18 points and added four rebounds. His free throw with three seconds left gave Idaho its final 73-70 margin.
It was the first WAC tournament victory for Madison and Verlin.
“It feels awfully good, and Stephen and I enjoyed a special moment because we hadn’t gotten one yet,” Verlin said.
“It means a lot because we’ve put a lot of hours in over the last four years,” Madison added. “It feels good to get one and we’ll keep going forward and show what this group can do.”
The Vandals led by eight points, 68-60, with 2:14 to play when the ‘Roos went on a 7-0 run to close the lead to one.
“You’ve got to give them credit, they made some good plays,” Verlin said. “They got us to turn it over with the press, they got a good charge on Steve, and then they made a 3-pointer. That’s how they got back in the game.”
The ‘Roos threatened to take the lead in the final minute but Madison drew a charge then converted a layup on the other end to help put the game out of reach.
“I was just trying to make the plays to help our team, and just do what I do best,” he said.
The Vandals shot just 41 percent from the field while UMKC hit 48 percent of its shots, but Idaho hit 8-of-18 3-pointers and held the ‘Roos to 6-of-23 from long range, and owned a 37-26 rebounding advantage to make up for it.
The win is Idaho’s fifth in its last six games, and the Vandals improve to 15-17 on the season. UMKC finishes its season at 10-20. The fifth-seeded Vandals will take on top-seeded and regular season
“We’ve been playing pretty well the last four or five weeks,” Verlin said. “The second half of the league we’ve played pretty good basketball, and I thought tonight we were ourselves. I like where this team is going, I like how they’ve matured.”
The Vandals lost twice in the regular season to the Wolverines, including an 89-88 loss in Orem, Utah in a game where Madison scored a career-high 42 points.
“When you lose to a team, you always owe them one, so we’re going to be ready,” Madison said.