|Hill flirts with record in win|
MOSCOW, Idaho – Since the last time the Idaho men’s basketball team played a game in Memorial Gym, the facility was equipped with a new set of baskets. Idaho junior Connor Hill approves of the upgrade.
The junior from Post Falls, Idaho, knocked down eight 3-pointers, one shy of a school record, as the Vandals topped CSU Northridge 96-88 in Memorial Gym in non-conference play on Tuesday night.
“These new rims up here are not bad,” Hill joked after the win. “They’re not bad at all. I like them.”
The Vandals played arguably their most complete offensive game of the season and fended off a late surge from the Matadors (13-15) to improve to 11-16 on the season. The win also avenges a 79-69 loss at Northridge earlier this season.
Idaho is 3-0 in Memorial Gym this year and will play its home finale in facility as well. That game is Saturday at 1 p.m. against Grand Canyon, and will be Senior Day for Stephen Madison, Joe Kammerer and Glen Dean.
“It is nice being back at home in Mem,” Hill said. “It’s home for everyone and there’s a comfort zone here.”
Idaho had season-bests of 96 points, 21 assists, 33 made field goals and a 58.9 field-goal percentage in the win.
“Definitely one of our best offensive performances of the year,” Verlin said after the game. “Conner shot the fire out of it. Our ball moved as good as it has moved all year and it’s finally nice to see our offense look like it has in my previous five years here.”
Hill finished with 28 points, one shy of his career-high, and one shy of Mike Hall’s school-record nine 3-pointers in a game. Hall set that mark on Jan. 24, 2008 against San Jose State. Hill was 8-for-11 from 3-point range, bringing his career-record total to 209 3-pointers made. He has now made 75 this season, the sixth most in a single-season in Idaho history.
Hill wasn’t the only Vandal to put in a big game. Madison quietly scored 21 points and added eight rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block. It was Madison’s 12th 20-plus point game of the season, and the seventh in the last nine games for the WAC’s leading scorer.
Freshman Sekou Wiggs scored 16 points – one shy of a career-high – while adding four rebounds and four assists, and redshirt freshman Ty Egbert added 11 points on 5-for-5 shooting. Junior Mike Scott added 10 points and five assists to give the Vandals five double-figure scorers for the first time since Jan. 15, 2011.
“It’s always a lot better if were evenly balanced,” Verlin said. “I thought Ty Egbert played very well tonight, Conner shot the ball well, Mike Scott was aggressive.”
Verlin attributed much of Idaho’s strong offensive performance to Dean, a senior point guard. Dean finished with seven assists and just one turnover in 21 minutes of action.
“Glen Dean played a whale of a game, I thought it was his best floor game of the year,” Verlin said. “When you look at our point guards we had twelve assists and three turnovers against a team that prides itself on turning the ball over. We did a great job executing the game plan no question about it.”
The Vandals were able to keep Northridge off the free throw line, despite the Matadors entering the game ranked No. 11 in NCAA Division I in free throws attempted. Idaho shot 33 free throws in the game while CSU Northridge attempted only 10. The Matadors did have a slight, 33-30, advantage in rebounding but Idaho led 14-13 in second-chance points.
An 11-0 Idaho run midway through the second half ballooned the Vandal lead to 19 points, 79-60, but the Matadors would not go away quietly. They went on a 9-2 run to get back into the game and shortly after a 10-2 run to trim the lead to single digits. Idaho’s lead was cut to as little as five points with less than a minute to play before the Vandals sealed the game at the free throw line.