Courtesy: Ilya Pinchuk (Moscow, Idaho)
|Barone to Bandoumel|
MOSCOW, Idaho – Another big deficit, another dramatic home victory for the University of Idaho men’s basketball team on Thursday.
Idaho overcame a nine-point first-half hole and eliminated an eight-point New Mexico State lead with 5:58 to go in a 59-58 win over the Aggies at the Cowan Spectrum.
The Aggies have the Western Athletic Conference’s most imposing front line, but it was two Vandal posts who combined for the game’s biggest play. With Idaho trailing, 58-57, and less than 10 seconds left in the game, junior Kyle Barone took an inbound pass at the top of the key, drove his defender down the lane, then dished at the last second to senior forward Djim Bandoumel for the open finish with 5.4 ticks left.
“I felt like I could get by my guy,” Barone said of the play. “I saw Djim’s guy help and there was no one guarding him to help on help, so I just dished it off and he finished it.”
The Aggies got one last chance as senior Wendell McKines, the league’s leading scorer, got down the floor and had a look from three with Barone in his face, but the shot went well off the mark and the Vandals secured the win.
“That was a workman’s effort tonight our basketball team, no question about it,” Idaho head coach Don Verlin said. “We found a way to win a game where we were able to hold someone down defensively and I thought that was the key to the game.”
Idaho climbs to 14-11 overall and 6-4 in WAC play, and draws one game closer to the Aggies, which are now 17-8 overall and 6-3 in the conference.
Barone led all scorers with 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting, along with eight rebounds, two blocks and a career-high-tying four assists. Bandoumel made five of his 10 shots, grabbed six boards and blocked a career-high six shots. As a team, the Vandals tied a season high with 10 blocks in the game.
Despite taking a hard fall in the first half, sophomore Stephen Madison filled the box score with 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting, nine rebounds, including four on the offensive end, two assists, one block and one steal.
Idaho made just one of its 10 long-range attempts in the game, but made up for it by shooting 59.5 percent from inside the arc. The Vandals also were an uncharacteristic 50 percent (6-12) at the free throw line and committed 17 turnovers, but that wasn’t enough to offset a strong defensive night.
“We switched in and out of our man our zone, we switched our coverages down low in the post, we switched our ball screen coverages throughout the game,” Verlin said. “I thought we were able to keep them off balance. I thought our guys’ concentration was very good tonight.”
The Vandals limited McKines to 12 points on 5-of-16 shooting, and allowed just one other player, center Hamidu Rahman with 12, to reach double-figure scoring.
“Kyle Barone did a real nice job,” Verlin said of the post defense. “Even though he (McKines) was their leading scorer, he goes five-for-16. I thought we had a hand in his face all night long.”
Idaho shot 26-of-52 (.500) from the floor to give the team its ninth 50-percent shooting game of the season – all of which are wins. The Aggies were 24-of-56 (.429) overall and 1-of-7 (.143) from 3-point range. After giving NMSU 23 points from the free throw line in the first meeting of the season, an 80-68 Aggie win, the Vandals sent New Mexico State to the line just 15 times with nine makes.
Trailing by eight, 57-49 with 5:58 remaining, Idaho closed the game on a 10-1 run. During that span, the Aggies missed all four of their shot attempts, committed four turnovers and went 1-of-3 from the free throw line.
A layup by junior Mike McChristian started the run, then Barone put in six straight points before dishing up Bandoumel’s game-winner.
Also key in the game were the contributions off the bench from McChristian and junior forward Wendell Faines. McChristian scored a career-best eight points on 4-of-4 shooting, including a buzzer-beater at the end of the half to draw the teams even at 31-31 at the break. Faines had two points, two rebounds and one block in 10 minutes, provided solid post defense in his 10 minutes.
Idaho outscored New Mexico State 44-40 in the paint, 12-9 on second-chance points and 14-12 off the bench. The Vandals also out-rebounded the Aggies, 35-31. In the first meeting of the season, NMSU held a 38-21 edge on the boards and outscored Idaho by 12 in the paint, 34-22.
“This game was won in rebounding,” Verlin said. “I don’t know how many times they’ve been out-rebounded this year but that’s where this game was won. We battled our tails off on the offensive glass and on the defensive glass.”
Up next, the Vandals will play their fifth game in a nine-day span when they host Louisiana Tech on Saturday. The Bulldogs are 11-13 overall and 3-6 in WAC play after a 77-63 loss at Utah State on Thursday night. Idaho won at Ruston, La., earlier this year in overtime, 90-88.
Saturday’s game will be a men’s and women’s doubleheader. It’s also Idaho’s Coaches vs. Cancer game, sponsored by Relay for Life. Fans who wear pink to the game will receive free admission.