|Vandals let one slip away|
MOSCOW, Idaho – Connor Hill got a good look at a would-be game-winning 3-pointer as time expired, but the shot was narrowly off the mark and Washington State escaped Moscow with a 67-66 win in men’s basketball action in Cowan Spectrum on Saturday night.
The Vandals (4-5) led by as many as 10 points five minutes into the second half, but the Cougars (4-4) chipped away and took their first lead of the half with just under two minutes to play at 63-62 off a pair of free throws from DaVonte Lacy. The Vandals regained the lead after two free throws from Stephen Madison made it 66-65 with 31 seconds left, but after a missed layup from Lacy on the other end, WSU’s D.J. Shelton was fouled and sank both free throws for the deciding score. The Vandals had eight seconds and Hill got a good look at a corner 3-pointer off Glen Dean’s drive-and-dish, but Hill’s shot was just strong off the back iron.
“That’s our homerun play and we executed it exactly perfect,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said. “Joe (Kammerer) set a good screen and from my angle it looked like he had a pretty good look at it. The game should have never come to that possession. It’s obviously not Connor’s fault, but I thought we executed it well and had a good look at it to win the game.”
The biggest difference-maker in the game was on the glass, where WSU held a 35-31 overall advantage but a 14-6 advantage on the offensive end, resulting in a 15-4 lead in second-chance points.
“They killed us on the boards,” Verlin said. “They just got so many extra possessions. We did just a terrible job of keeping them off the glass and that was our number-one key to the game. We knew with their size we had to keep them off the boards and we didn’t man-up there tonight, and that was disappointing.”
The Vandals held WSU to a 39.1 field goal percentage, the lowest for a Vandal opponent this season, but the Cougars got 20 more shots than Idaho, connecting on 25-of-64 from the field while Idaho went 18-of-44 (40.9 percent).
Idaho turned the ball over 11 times in the game and forced WSU into nine giveaways, but the Cougars capitalized with an 18-6 advantage in points off turnovers. Washington State also out-scored Idaho 30-18 in the paint.
“We didn’t execute like we should have,” Verlin said. “We had a number of executional errors, typical of a young team. Not a ton of them, but in a one-point game, you’re going to look back and see four or five where we didn’t execute some of our normal sets. We didn’t execute like a Vandal team normally executes and I was disappointed in that.”
Madison led Idaho with 16 points and added four rebounds and two steals. He went 9-of-10 from the free throw line and 3-of-8 from the field. Hill added 15 points and three rebounds and was a perfect 8-for-8 at the free throw line. Dean finished with 14 points on 4-of-11 shooting and had two rebounds, an assist and a steal. Sekou Wiggs had eight points and four rebounds off the bench for the Vandals.
Idaho got to the free throw line 31 times, and connected on 25 of those attempts for an 80.6 percent clip. The Vandals went 5-of-17 from long-range in the game, with all five makes coming on 12 first-half attempts.
Lacy finished with a game-high 23 points for the Cougars and hit half of his 10 3-point attempts. Shelton had a 10-point, 14 rebound double-double for WSU after hitting the decisive free throws that sent Idaho’s crowd of 4,142 home on a bitter note.
“It was a great crowd tonight,” Verlin said. “I wish we could have sent the Vanda fans home with a nice Christmas present, that’s disappointing, but I hope they come out again, I think they’re going to like watching this team play.”
Idaho gets another shot at a border rival on Dec. 11 when the Vandals visit Montana for the first game of a home-and-home series with the Griz during December. Wednesday’s game tips at 6 p.m. (PT), and the Grizzlies will make the return trip to Moscow on Dec. 28.