Courtesy: Ilya Pinchuk (Moscow, Idaho)
Denzel Douglas
Vandals come up short
Courtesy: Idaho Athletic Media Relations
          Release: 02/14/2013
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MOSCOW, Idaho – The opportunities were there for the taking, but the conversions weren’t for University of Idaho men’s basketball in a 71-68 home loss to UT Arlington on Thursday at the Cowan Spectrum.

Trailing by five, 69-64, coming out of the 3:48 media timeout, Idaho (9-15, 5-9 Western Athletic Conference) held UTA (13-9, 8-5 WAC) to just two points on 0-3 shooting and forced two turnovers in the remainder of regulation. The Vandals got seven open looks in the game’s final minutes, but missed six of them, including a Mike McChristian 3-pointer that rattled out as time expired.

“I thought we had great looks,” Idaho head coach Don Verlin said. “We had three or four layup opportunities we didn’t convert and it wasn’t from lack of effort or lack of execution, we just didn’t get the job done.”

It was a back-and-forth game that featured three ties, four lead changes and several large scoring runs by each team. UT Arlington led by as many as 13 points in the first half, but the Vandals used a 17-3 run early in the second period to take a two-point lead – after which UTA went on a 12-1 rally.

The Mavericks shot 26-of-53 (.491) from the field overall and 9-of-14 (.643) from 3-point range, despite entering the game with a season average of 31.7 percent from beyond the arc. UTA went to the free throw line just 13 times, but converted 10 of them.

Idaho battled back in the second half despite shooting just 38.5 percent in the period. The Vandals finished the game with an 18-of-44 (.409) overall clip and a 7-of-17 (.412) performance from long range. Idaho converted 25 of its 31 free throw attempts for an 80.6 percent rate.

Aiding in Idaho’s long-range shooting performance was junior Stephen Madison’s school-record-tying 5-of-5 night from 3-point range. He ties the previous best single-game long-range shooting performance held by Mauro Gomes, who also went 5-of-5 from long range in an 81-78 win versus Weber State on Jan. 21, 1989.

Madison led all scorers in the game with 25 points on 6-of-10 shooting, along with makes on eight of his 11 free throws. He added five rebounds and one assist. He also forced seven UTA turnovers in the game with a combination of three drawn charges and a career-high four steals.

Senior center Kyle Barone added 21 points and 10 rebounds – his sixth 20-10 game of the season – on 5-of-8 shooting. He tied a career best with an 11-of-12 performance from the free throw line. Senior guard Mansa Habeeb added 11 points on 3-of-7 shooting, but the rest of the Idaho team combined for just 11 more points on 4-of-19 shooting.

The team was short-handed on Thursday, as sophomore guard Matt Borton (concussion) and junior guard Robert Harris (illness) were unavailable. Verlin said after the game that their status for Saturday’s game is undetermined.

UTA guard Kevin Butler entered the game as a 33 percent 3-point shooter, but hit all seven of his long-range shots and all eight of his attempts overall for 23 points, while forward Brandon Edwards was the only other UTA player in double figures at 11.

“I thought we battled to get back in the game when they had a guy just going off in Butler tonight,” Verlin said. “I thought we did everything we could do to win that basketball game against a good Arlington team in a huge game and we just don’t finish the plays we needed to in the end.”

Idaho will be back at the Cowan Spectrum on Saturday to host league leader Louisiana Tech, which took a 64-58 win at Seattle U on Thursday to move to 22-3 overall and 13-0 in the WAC. The Bulldogs are receiving votes in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches Top 25 polls.
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