Vandal men, women sweep exhibitions

THE FINAL DRESS REHEARSALS FOR THE 2011-12 VANDAL BASKETBALL PROGRAMS were successful this weekend as the women downed NAIA member Warner Pacific 70-45 Friday, and the men outran NAIA Willamette 114-73 at Memorial Gym. Things get serious this weekend as the women host Corban University Saturday (2 PM, Memorial Gym), while the men head to Big West favorite Long Beach State Saturday at 2:05 p.m.

Friday night the Vandal women put 4 players in double figures led by Stacey Barr with 19, Krisy Karr with 16, and Jessica Graham and Ganeaya Rogers with 11 each. There were 12 assists, 48 rebounds, 9 blocked shots and 13 steals as all 10 players in uniform earned plenty of playing time.

Vandal coach Jon Newlee said the game served its purpose well. "Well, that's why we have exhibition games," he said. "What I like about them is you can get a lot of different people in some different combinations. You let people, even the veterans who have been around, get their feet wet a little bit. They're always nervous to start the season. I think we have a lot to work on, absolutely, but with a young team and the lack of experience that's gonna happen; so it's good. It was a good first step."

Saturday night the Vandal men got into a track meet with Willamette which prefers an up-tempo, attacking game. The Vandals obliged shooting 49% from the floor including 23 fast break points and 30 points in the paint. The Vandals had 55 rebounds (there were 80 on the game) and dished out an eye-popping 23 assists while chalking up 11 steals and three blocked shots.

Idaho did turn the ball over 12 times though.

Scoring-wise sophomore Stephen Madison finished with a game-high 23 for the Vandals. In a great display of balance Kyle Barone, Deremy Geiger and Dazmond Starke all netted 14 points. Thirteen of 14 Vandals were on the floor for at least 10 minutes, and 12 players scored.

Men's coach Don Verlin echoed a Newlee's sentiments on the value of exhibition games. Asked if the torrid tempo of the game was to his liking, he said, "Well, this team kinda let us play that way a little bit. I mean, they pressed and tried to keep the tempo moving a little faster, which is fine with us. I've always said forever we've got to be able to play at all speeds, and if we've got to play a slow down game, let's play a slow down game. If you wanna play a fast game, let's play that. I think probably when we play against better opponents we're gonna have to limit the possessions a little bit more than we have so far.

"Obviously we put up a lot of points tonight, and I've never worried about us scoring the ball. I mean, we've got some offensive weapons here. I thought our guys played with a lot of energy and a lot enthusiasm. I didn't think we were as sharp as we need to be defensively again, but we did a lot of really good things tonight."

What do the coaches want to focus on as they head into regular schedule?

Newlee plans to refine his offense and transition attacks. "We're going to work on our offense, getting more fluid. I think we need to do that," he said. "I think from a rebound standpoint we can do a better job of blocking out and not giving up O boards. I mean that was a small team and we gave up a lot of O boards I thought tonight. I think our transition defense is going to be something that we're going to work on this week."

Verlin plans to work on shoring up the Vandal defense while continuing to teach the newcomers the Vandal system. "I thought we got beat on the ball way too much. I thought our help defense was way too slow," he said referring to the defensive effort. "I thought we did a few good things guarding their ball screens early in the game, but we've got to do a better job guarding the basketball. It's just going to take time, and it's going to take time putting this team together and them understanding the team defensive concept. We've still got a lot of work to do on the defensive end."

Given the large group of new players this year, the coach was asked if the team was learning as quickly as he would like. "Well, that's a great question. Not as fast as I would like…is about the best way I can answer it. Maybe that's just my high expectations," he said. "I know what we've got on the horizon here with Long Beach and Montana (November 17) as our next two road games. We're gonna have to be on it defensively and we can't make the errors we've been making. But the new guys are trying their tails off. They're working hard. We've just got to get some of those details cleaned up."

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