|Vandals topple North Texas|
PORTLAND – After being on the wrong end of a double-digit margin on Thursday night, the Idaho men’s basketball team got things turned around in a convincing 87-76 win over North Texas on Friday at the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in Portland, Ore.
The Vandals led by as many as 24 points in the second half and fought of a pesky North Texas team throughout the final 15 minutes in the win. Idaho senior Stephen Madison, who scored his 1,000th career-point against Portland on Thursday, paced the Vandals with 25 points on Friday, four shy of his career-best.
“For a large part of this game we played very well,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said. “We had a spirited effort tonight. I said to our guys, the team with the most energy tonight is going to be the team that wins.”
Idaho took a nine-point, 42-33, lead into the second half when senior Glen Dean exploded with three made 3-pointers in the first 3:06 of the period, and Connor Hill joined in on the fun with another one in that stretch as Idaho built a 64-40 lead just over five minutes into the second half.
“It was nice to see Glen break out and shoot it the way I know he can,” Verlin said. “We were able to free him a couple times off the high ball screens and he knocked them down. That’s the kind of shooting team we are.”
The Mean Green answered with a 12-0 run over the next five minutes to cut Idaho’s lead in half, but Dean broke that up with another 3-pointer and Hill buried another one shortly thereafter to build Idaho’s lead back up to 18. North Texas cut the deficit to nine points with under two minutes to play, but Idaho hung on for the win.
The Vandals improve to 3-2 with the win, and will wrap up the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at 4:30 p.m. (PT) on Saturday against Columbia. North Texas falls to 2-3 with the loss.
“It would have been real easy to be heartbroken after the way we played last night, but our guys came out and competed,” Verlin said. “Hopefully next time we get in that position we can finish a little better than we did tonight, but I’m happy with the win and we’re excited to face Columbia tomorrow and I couldn’t be happier for our guys.”
Dean finished with 16 points, the most of his young Vandal career, and added five rebounds and two assists. Hill added 12 points and four rebounds for the Vandals and Mike Scott scored eight. Madison’s seven rebounds led the Vandals, who owned a 39-38 edge on the glass but gave up a 19-8 advantage in second-chance points to the Mean Green.
Idaho shot 50 percent from the field in the game, connecting on 33-of-66 shots and 8-of-18 3-pointers. The Vandals also hit 13-of-14 free throws in the contest, while North Texas got to the line 26 times but converted only 15 of those chances.