|Vandals smother #25 Portland|
MOSCOW, Idaho - For the first time in school history, Idaho hosted a ranked non-conference team in a home game, and for the first time since 1982, the Vandal men took down a top-25 team, as Idaho smothered No. 25 Portland, 68-48.
Three days after Idaho (5-2) seemed punchless defensively in a 95-93 road loss at Cal State Northridge, the Vandal men took it personally and came up with all the answers against a Portland (5-3) team that entered the game averaging 76.1 points on .489 shooting.
Idaho used relentless pressure, active hands and all-around team effort to hound the Pilots into 17 turnovers and hold them to a season-low .322 field goal percentage on 19-of-59 shooting, as well as season-lows in points (48), free throws attempted (6) and made (4), and assists (9).
"That's probably as good of defense that we've played all year for that length of time, and that's a credit to our guys," Idaho head coach Don Verlin said. "They worked really hard these last two days in the film room and on the court about how we could get better defensively, and we did that tonight."
The Idaho offense was as efficient as usual. The Western Athletic Conference's field goal percentage leader hit .522 from the field as a team, its third time shooting above 50 percent in a game this year, and hit .429 (6-14) from 3-point range.
"We played the game at the tempo we dictated," Verlin said. "Not at the tempo that somebody else did, like what happened on Thursday night (at Cal State Northridge)."
Three Vandals scored in double digits, led for the second game in a row by senior Kashif Watson, who hit seven of his 11 shots and scored 15 points. Sophomore Luiz Toledo was 5-of-7 from the field for 12 points, while senior Mac Hopson dropped in 10 points on 3-of-6 shooting. Senior Marvin Jefferson led the team with nine rebounds, while senior Steffan Johnson had a team-high five assists.
Portland's three leading scorers, T.J. Campbell, Nik Raivio and Robin Smeulders, combined to average 45.9 points on .513 shooting coming into the game, but the Vandal defense held the trio to just 5-of-30 (.167) from the floor and 15 points. Luke Sikma led the team with 11 points, while Raivio added 10, but only one other Pilot scored more than five points in the game.
"We got some huge stops," Verlin said. "I thought Marvin Jefferson did a great job rebounding the ball, especially in the second half, and I thought Mac Hopson did a great job on T.J. Campbell.
"We were just able to get some stops down the stretch."
While the teams finished the game with 17 turnovers apiece, it was Idaho that took advantage, as the Vandals converted those into 23 points, compared to just nine for Portland. Idaho also led fast-break points by a 10-2 margin. Idaho out-rebounded Portland by a 36-30 margin and, despite giving up 12 offensive rebounds, only allowed UP four second-chance points.
Idaho started Sunday's game much the same way it had in its previous four wins - quickly. The Vandals scored the game's first six points and opened the first half with a 9-2 run. Portland pulled within three at 9-6, but the Vandals responded with a 13-2 run, 10 of which came from turnovers, from the 10:41 mark of the first half to the 5:46 mark.
Idaho extended its lead as far as 18 points at 31-13 with 1:29 left in the half. After UP's Campbell knocked down a 3-pointer with 18 seconds left in the half, Johnson responded for Idaho by coming right back down and swishing a deep ball of his own to end the scoring in the half, and Idaho went into the break with a 34-18 lead.
Portland appeared poised to start a run when it opened the half with five straight points to get within 11 at 34-23, but a 14-2 run by the Vandals, capped off by a Hopson 3-point play, put the Vandals ahead 50-27 with 11:10 remaining. The Pilots never got closer than 17 points over the remainder of the half, as Idaho answered every Portland attempt to get back into the game.
Idaho will now face another tough opponent on Wednesday in Washington State (6-2), when the team heads to Pullman for the oldest active basketball series West of the Mississippi. The Vandals and Cougars will play for the 103rd consecutive year on Wednesday, Dec. 9.
"Any time you can win a game against a good basketball team like Portland, and then get ready to play your cross-town rival, it's huge," Verlin said. "They're obviously very good and it's a game I know our players have been looking forward to all year long."
Wednesday's game, which will be broadcast on Fox Sports Northwest, will tip off at 8 p.m. at Friel Court.