Vandals fall by three to BSU

IN FRONT OF THE THIRD LARGEST CROWD IN COWAN SPECTRUM HISTORY, Idaho (12-7, 5-2 WAC) couldn't make the defensive stops needed to contain Boise State (12-7, 5-2 WAC), falling by a 70-67 margin. The teams are tied at second in WAC standings. Up next, Idaho travels to Louisiana Tech at 5 p.m. (PST) on Thursday, Jan. 27 (live on ESPN Regional), then heads to NMSU on Saturday, Jan. 29, at 6:30 p.m.

The following is an official press release from the University of Idaho Sports Information Department.

LINK: OFFICIAL UI WEBSITE (stats and game story, plus more)

MOSCOW, Idaho - Defense was Idaho's calling card during its six-game winning streak, but on Saturday, the Vandal men's basketball team couldn't make the plays it needed to late and fell by a 70-67 score to Boise State at the Cowan Spectrum.

Idaho (12-7, 5-2 Western Athletic Conference) slipped into a second-place tie with the Broncos (12-7, 5-2 WAC) after the loss, and saw their program-best, five-game WAC winning streak come to an end in front of a crowd of 5,017 - the third-largest in Cowan Spectrum history.

"Those are tough ones to swallow, no matter who you play," Idaho head coach Don Verlin said. "You lose to your in-state rival at home, it hurts."

The Vandals raced out to a 12-point first-half lead and held the Broncos to just 30 percent shooting overall and 15.4 percent from 3-point range, but Idaho couldn't make the same stops in the second period, where BSU hit 51.7 percent of its attempts and 44.4 percent of its 3-pointers.

"We didn't lose this game offensively," Verlin said. "You look at the stat sheet and we shot 51 percent - we had 18 assists, 13 turnovers. We didn't get our job done defensively, and that's what we've been hanging our hat on."

Boise State also took advantage of its offensive rebounds and Idaho's mistakes better in the second period. The Broncos had 10 points each off turnovers and on the second chance, and outscored Idaho, 20-18, in the paint in the second half.

Idaho hit slightly more than half its shots from the field, but had an uncharacteristically poor 3-point shooting day. Their 3-for-13 (.231) performance was the worst since Dec. 11 at Seattle University.

The Vandals were led by sophomore Kyle Barone's 15 points and eight rebounds, while senior guards Shawn Henderson and Jeff Ledbetter contributed 11 points each. Senior forward Brandon Wiley also grabbed eight rebounds, while junior guard Landon Tatum had a career-high seven assists, with no turnovers.

Idaho outscored Boise State 38-34 overall in the paint, 20-13 off the bench and 12-4 on the fast break, but the Broncos held a 15-9 edge in points off turnovers and a 10-6 advantage in second-chance points.

A back-and-forth game was broken wide open in the first half by freshman Stephen Madison, who snatched a BSU inbounds pass at halfcourt at 11:25 and took it the rest of the way for a slam. It was the second basket in a 13-0 Idaho run that turned a 13-12 deficit into a 25-13 lead at the 6:45 mark.

During its big scoring run, the Vandal defense held Boise State without a field goal for a span of seven minutes, 50 seconds. BSU missed nine consecutive shots, turned the ball over twice, and Bronco player Daequon Montreal was whistled for a technical foul during that span.

BSU ended the half by making four of its final seven shots, while Idaho wasn't able to keep hold of its momentum. After a Luiz Toledo dunk at the 6:45 mark, the Vandals made just three of their final shots in the period and took a 33-26 lead into the half.

It was Idaho's first loss of the season in which they shot better than 50 percent - they entered the weekend 7-0 in such games - and it was just the second time in 12 games this year that Idaho has lost after leading at the break.

Saturday's crowd was the third-largest in the Cowan Spectrum, in which the Vandals started play during the 2000-01 season, and the largest since 5,676 watched Idaho play Utah State on Mar. 5, 2004.

"I really appreciate the Vandal fans coming out tonight and I'm really disappointed we couldn't reward them with a victory tonight," Verlin said after the game.

The Vandals have no time for a hangover, however, as the difficult road trip to Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State looms next week. LA Tech is 9-12 overall and 0-7 in the WAC after a road loss at Nevada on Saturday, while NMSU is 10-11 overall and 4-3 in the conference after its 59-49 loss at Utah State.

Idaho tips off in Ruston, La., at 5 p.m. (PST) on Thursday, Jan. 27, in a game that will be televised on ESPN Regional television, then heads to Las Cruces, N.M. on Saturday, Jan. 29, at 6:30 p.m. (PST).

"It's one game, and this is a marathon, not a sprint," Verlin said about the loss. "We've got to just continue to fight like we've been doing every day. Our character has won out so far this year, and it's going to continue to win out. We've just go to continue to come out and work, and continue to grind."

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