|Seniors come up big|
MOSCOW, Idaho – Senior Night was for the seniors Saturday night as Kyle Barone and Mike McChristian powered the University of Idaho Vandals past Seattle University, 76-72, before a spirited crowd at the Cowan Spectrum.
After a disjointed first half, the Vandals came out in the second with a sense of defensive purpose that fueled a shooting display by McChristian and sophomore Connor Hill rarely seen. The barrage, ignited by Hill, began with the Vandals trailing 34-31 with 17:25 to go. By the time it ended, Hill had four 3s, McChristian had six and the Vandals were leading 62-50.
“That’s in. That’s in. That’s in,” said Barone, who had his 16th double-double of the season with 27 points and 12 rebounds. “That was one of the best shooting performances since I’ve been here.”
McChristian’s effort not only included a career-best 26 points but he had seven assists and four steals without a single turnover during his 37 minutes of play.
Coach Don Verlin could do nothing but applaud his seniors.
“Those two guys had as good of performances as I think I’ve ever had seniors have,” said Verlin, whose Idaho teams are a perfect 5-0 on Senior Nights.
Verlin said he used the emotion of sending four seniors – Wendell Faines and Mansa Habeeb also played their final game at the Spectrum, off on a winning note to gain his team’s attention at halftime with the Vandals trailing 32-25.
“We needed to send them out the right way,” he said. “The guys did a good job of that.”
Hill’s contribution was 18 points while a slightly under-the-weather Stephen Madison had four points and four rebounds.
“We had some good looks in the first half,” Verlin said. “We just had to keep moving the ball. I knew we were going to knock some down – and we did. That was the difference in the ball game.”
McChristian agreed that it only was a matter of time before the shots that Verlin said were the right looks in the first half began to fall in the second.
“We got a couple to start falling and everything else seemed to go in tune with that,” said McChristian, whose mother surprised him before the game by arriving just in time for the Senior Night Festivities. “It seemed like whatever we were shooting went it. It was a pretty good stretch for us.”
The Redhawks did manage a comeback but a free throw by McChristian with 16 seconds remaining put the finishing touch on the decision.