|Vandals can't complete comeback|
MOSCOW, Idaho – The Idaho men’s basketball team clawed back from a 13-point second half deficit to pull within one, but could never get over the hump in a 71-66 loss to Utah Valley in Western Athletic Conference play on Thursday night.
Idaho falls to 7-12 on the season and 1-4 in WAC play with the loss, while the Wolverines improve to 9-7 overall and 3-0 in the WAC.
Idaho trailed 49-36 with 13:22 to play before going on a 21-9 extended run to make it a one-point, 58-57 game with just under six minutes to play. The Wolverines scored the next three points but Idaho kept it a two-or-fewer possession game throughout. Idaho freshman Perrion Callandret had two shots at would-be lead-changing 3-pointers, but both fell off the mark.
“Obviously it’s tough when you can’t find a way to win a basketball game,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said after the game. “It was the same story all night long, can’t find a way to make a shot. I think we had a number of open shots from the perimeter, some drives, some college layups that we just weren’t able to finish. To win, you can’t let those opportunities slip away.”
Idaho senior Stephen Madison led the Vandals with game-highs of 21 points and eight rebounds, while junior Connor Hill added 19 points on 7-of-15 shooting. Junior Mike Scott, who made the start at point guard for the injured Glen Dean, finished with 12 points, six rebounds and five assists without a turnover.
The Vandals shot just 37.9 percent from the field, going 22-for-58 and just 2-of-16 (12.5 percent) from 3-point range. Idaho connected on 20-of-29 free throw attempts. The Wolverines shot 46.0 percent (23-of-50) in the game and 8-of-17 (47.1 percent) from 3-point range, and owned a 38-32 advantage on the glass and a 16-9 lead in second-chance points. UVU had seven blocked shots in the game, including four from 6-foot-9 center Ben Aird.
“I always think a good sized guy in there makes it difficult,” Verlin said of Aird’s presence. “But again those are college layups that we have to finish and when you look at the stat sheet at the end of the night and you shoot 37 (percent from the field) and 12 (percent from 3) you’re probably not going to win a basketball game.”
Idaho committed just six turnovers in the game, the second fewest this season, and forced UVU into 14 giveaways, leading to a 12-7 lead for the Vandals in points off turnovers.
The Vandals remain at home when they host Bakersfield on Jan. 18 with a 7 p.m. tipoff in the Cowan Spectrum.
“As I challenged the team in the locker room afterwards, you got to forget about this one and look forward to the next,” Verlin said.