Courtesy: Idaho Athletic Media Relations
Idaho hosts UCSB in CIT
Courtesy: Idaho Athletic Media Relations
          Release: 03/12/2012
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MOSCOW, Idaho – For the third time in four seasons, University of Idaho men’s basketball will enter postseason play under head coach Don Verlin when the team hosts UC Santa Barbara in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT).

We’re extremely excited at the opportunity to play more basketball and to continue to build this program,” Verlin said. “I’m excited for this program, our seniors, and our university.”

The Vandals and Gauchos will tip off on Wednesday, Mar. 14, at 7 p.m. (PT) in the Cowan Spectrum. It will be the first meeting between the two teams since 2005, when both were members of the Big West Conference.

Idaho is 18-13 overall after a third-place finish in the Western Athletic Conference, while UC Santa Barbara is 20-10 overall and tied for second in the Big West. The Gauchos lost to top-seeded Long Beach State in Sunday’s Big West Conference Championship Game.

UCSB leads the all-time series by a 12-7 margin, but the Vandals are 7-2 all-time in games played at Moscow, Idaho. This will be the first postseason meeting in series history.

Tickets to Wednesday’s game are $10 for all seats. Idaho basketball season ticket holders have the option of Club Room seating for $10 each. University of Idaho students will need to purchase tickets.

“A chance to host in our facility is great and having a home game tells you what kind of season we had and what kind of respect we’re getting from people in the basketball community,” Verlin said. “I also appreciate our university for stepping up and allowing us to host a game.”

The Gauchos feature three-time All-Big West First Team selection Orlando Johnson, a 6-5 senior guard who averages 19.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Senior guard James Nunnally, a Second-Team All-Big West pick, adds 15.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.7 rebounds per game.

UC Santa Barbara averages 72.6 points per game and allows 65.8 to its opponents. The Gauchos shoot 45.7 percent from the field and 38.1 percent from 3-point range and out-rebound opponents, 37.8-33.8 per game.

“This is a very good team coming in here,” Verlin said. “It’s a team that is experienced, that has two really powerful wing players – as good of wing players as you’ll see in our conference – and they’ve been to the NCAA tournament the last two years. I was excited to get someone of their caliber, because it challenges us as a team and it gives our fans a great opponent to watch.”

Wednesday’s game marks Idaho’s third appearance in the CIT under Verlin. The team is 1-2 overall in CIT play. In 2009, the Vandals hosted Drake in a 69-67 first-round victory, then fell in the quarterfinal at Pacific, 69-59. The Vandals lost at San Francisco in the first round last season, 81-73.

In its fourth season, the CIT expanded this season to 32 teams. The tournament will consist of five rounds with each game being played at on-campus sites, determined by seeding. The Championship Game will be broadcast live on Fox College Sports on Wednesday, Mar. 28, 2012.

Idaho is one of two WAC teams in the tournament. Utah State hosts Cal State Bakersfield in the opening round on Wednesday.

The last time Idaho qualified for postseason play three times in a four-year span was 1980-83, when the team went to the NCAA Tournament twice (1980-81, 1981-82) and the National Invitation Tournament once (1982-83) under Vandal Athletic Hall of Fame coach Don Monson.
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