|Efficient Vandals top EMU|
MOSCOW, Idaho - The University of Idaho men's basketball team shot better than 50 percent for the second game in a row and spread the ball around to extend their winning streak to four games with a 75-60 victory over Eastern Michigan on Sunday.
The game capped off an exciting Basketball Travelers Classic tournament, which was the first regular-season tourney in Moscow since 1989. Idaho (5-3) went 3-0 over the weekend, while Eastern Michigan (1-6) went 0-3 after two close losses on Friday and Saturday.
"We executed offensively very well and we made some key defensive stops to ignite our runs, especially in the second half," Idaho head coach Don Verlin said. "I thought we had a lot of guys step up and play very well in a lot of areas of the game."
Idaho hit 52 percent of its shots for the game and shot at least 50 percent in each half on Sunday. The Vandals also went 8-of-14 (.571) from 3-point range and 15-of-19 (.789) from the free throw line for the game.
Sophomore center Kyle Barone put together the best offensive game of his Vandal career with 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting, including a 6-of-6 performance from the free throw line. He also tied for the team lead with six rebounds.
Senior guard Jeff Ledbetter pitched in 12 points, all from the 3-point line, while senior guard Shawn Henderson added 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Junior forward Luiz Toledo and senior forward Brandon Wiley each scored eight points, while Deremy Geiger had six, with three assists.
"We've just done a good job of executing our offense and hitting the open guy," Verlin said. "We've done a great job of sharing the ball, especially this weekend. When you have 20 assists and nine turnovers, that's a great stat."
Brandon Bowdry led EMU with 17 points and six rebounds, while Derek Thompson hit five 3-pointers for the Eagles and finished with 15 points. Eastern Michigan shot 46.7 percent from the floor and 41.2 percent from the 3-point line.
Idaho scored 30 points in the paint, while allowing just 14 to EMU. The Vandals also outscored the Eagles 12-9 off turnovers, 2-0 on the fast break and 30-27 off the bench. Both teams had six second-chance points.
In addition to its second 20-assist game of the season, Idaho committed a season-low nine turnovers. Idaho also had three blocks and five steals. Eastern Michigan had 11 assists, 13 turnovers, three blocks and three steals.
Geiger, who averaged 12.0 points and 3.3 assists, and shot .476 from the floor for the weekend, was named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. Toledo shot .565 from the floor and averaged 10.3 points and 3.7 rebounds, and was named to the Basketball Travelers Classic All-Tournament Team. Bowdry of EWU, Patrick Mitchell of North Dakota, and Mike Myers Keitt and Will Campbell of Monmouth were also all-tournament selections.
Eastern Michigan made six of their first eight attempts from the field in the first nine minutes, but Idaho forced four turnovers during that same time span and made six of their 11 shots to make it a 16-16 tie at the 11:02 mark of the first.
The Vandals used a pair of small scoring runs to extend their lead to double digits late in the first half. A 7-0 run starting at the 10:43 point put Idaho up 23-16 at 8:13, then minutes later, with a 27-21 lead, the Vandals rattled of seven more unanswered points for a 13-point advantage at 34-21 with 4:09 left in the period.
After Geiger's half-court attempt at the buzzer rattled out, the Vandals took a 38-29 lead into the halftime break.
EMU scored the first two baskets of the second half, but Idaho responded by hitting their next four shots, and back-to-back triples by Geiger and Henderson put Idaho back up by 13 at 48-35 with 16:14 left. Idaho matched Eastern Michigan shot-for-shot for most of the second half, and the lead never got below eight points. Henderson's tip-in at 1:23 gave Idaho a 74-57 lead - its largest of the game.
The four-game win streak is Idaho's longest non-conference winning streak since the Vandals won seven in a row against non-conference foes early in the 1989-90 season. Interestingly, that streak started with a 94-63 win over Centenary in the second game of the Palouse Classic - the last regular-season tournament in Moscow prior to this weekend's action.
"We probably had one of the worst performances in Idaho basketball history at Montana (on Nov. 22), and to come back and win four straight is a credit to the guys on our team and their character," Verlin said.
Sunday's game marked the end of an exciting tournament on the Idaho campus. Four of the six games, including Monmouth's 57-52 win in the early Sunday game, were decided by five points or less. Idaho finished the weekend 3-0, while Monmouth went 2-1, North Dakota was 1-2 and Eastern Michigan was 0-3.
"All the games were close games," Verlin said of the tournament. "We had a little spurt at the end of the North Dakota game, Monmouth took us right down to the wire, this game was closer than that (margin), and all the other games were close games.
"Basketball Travelers did a great job of picking the field - we had four even teams here, and we were fortunate enough to come out of here with three wins."
Up next for the Vandal men will be a road trip to Seattle University on Saturday, Dec. 11. It will be the first of a home-and-home series with the Redhawks this season. Idaho went 2-0 against Seattle last year, including an 87-85 win at KeyArena.