MOSCOW -- How should one describe the expression on Leonard Perry's face? It wasn't anger. It wasn't frustration. Imagine a man who has spent days rolling a large stone up a mountain, then looks up and realizes the peak is nowhere in sight. That was the expression on Leonard Perry's face.
It wasn't merely the score: 70-44. It wasn't merely the opponent: arch-rival Boise State.
It was the utter vacuity of the Vandals' second-half performance Saturday night. They had used a zone defense to narrow their deficit to two points by halftime. Then they were outscored 46-22, by a relatively underwhelming team whose record is now 2-3.
"It's the worst loss I've ever been associated with, in a home game, as an assistant, player or coach," said Perry, the Vandals' rookie 33-year-old coach. "I'm going to continue to try to find the answers. But we're going backward as a team and we should be going forward. That's my fault. That's coaching."
In a halftime ceremony, amid the elaborate flicker of UI's new spotlight system at Cowan Spectrum, the school paid tribute to the 1981-82 team that had advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. While several players from that season stood at midcourt, their former coach, the retired but still-feisty Don Monson, roused the crowd to a fever pitch by saying how unconscionable it would be if Boise State won this game in the Vandals' lair. That's a paraphrase. His language was a bit saltier than that.
Too bad the Vandals were in the locker room at the time. They came out and played one of their worst halves in Kibbie Dome history.
In a way, they did pay tribute. Not since early in the Monson regime -- Jan. 20, 1979, to be exact, in a 42-39 loss to Weber State -- have the Vandals produced fewer points in a home game (they did score 44 once in 1987 and again in 1994). But Monson's teams scored unprolifically because of the lack of a shot clock.
The Vandals' only excuse was that their top scorer, Rodney Hilaire, spent half the game on the bench in foul trouble.
Yet Perry was more disturbed by Boise State's 74-percent shooting in the second half (while the Vandals were hitting 29 percent) and its 34-17 rebounding advantage.
"I can't explain it," the coach said of the pallid boardwork, though it was partly attributable to Idaho's extensive use of a zone defense.
"We work on it daily in practice. I'm pretty stringent about it. I try to get it across to this team. But for some reason they haven't bought in. And that's probably my fault. I've got to figure out a way to get them to buy into defending and rebounding -- two things that might give us a chance, I'm not sure."
Boise State fed off Idaho's erratic concentration.
"You can see it when you're on the court -- and it's a great feeling when you're on this side of it, to know you're just taking the wind out of somebody," said BSU forward Abe Jackson, who scored 24 points and shot 9-for-16. "You can tell with our defensive pressure when they're getting frustrated. You can see it in their face. They might start griping at each other or something like that. When you see that, that's fuel to our fire."
Booker Nabors added 18 points for the Broncos on 7-for-10 shooting, and Jason Ellis nabbed 11 rebounds.
No Vandal scored in double figures or managed more than three rebounds. Idaho (1-3) mustered only one remotely notable statistic, Justin Logan's four assists.
"I hate to use the word ‘choke,' but it seems to fit," Logan said, referring primarily to Idaho's 19 turnovers against man-to-man pressure.
"Game plan, strategy -- everything was drawn up for us. We just did not execute offensively or defensively."
Rod Jensen, Boise State's seventh-year coach, said Perry needs to weather the storm.
"You guys have a great coach here," he said. "Just give him some time to get his picture across to his guys. You've got to give him some time to get the players he wants to coach, and he will be just fine. I guarantee you that."
How long will he need? Perry's face seemed to say, "Longer than I thought."
BOISE STATE (2-3)
Defares 4-6 1-2 9, Skiffer 0-0 0-0 0, Jackson 9-16 3-3 24, Morgan 3-6 0-0 6, Ellis 3-4 1-2 7, Williams 0-4 3-3 3, Nabors 7-10 2-3 18, Dauphinee 0-3 0-0 0, Wyatt 1-1 1-1 3, Gainous 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-50 11-14 70.
Fletcher 0-3 0-0 0, Logan 1-3 0-0 2, Hilaire 3-8 2-4 8, Powell 0-0 0-0 0, Gerschefske 1-3 1-2 4, Holmes 2-3 5-5 9, Turner 0-4 5-6 5, Jenkins 2-8 3-4 8, Howell 4-7 0-0 8. Totals 13-39 16-21 44.
Halftime--Boise State 24-22. 3-Point goals--Boise State 5-17 (Jackson 3-7, Nabors 2-3, Morgan 0-1, Defares 0-2, Williams 0-2, Dauphinee 0-2), Idaho 2-9 (Jenkins 1-1, Gerschefske 1-2, Turner 0-1, Howell 0-1, Fletcher 0-2, Logan 0-2).
Fouled out--none. Rebounds--Boise State 34 (Ellis 11), Idaho 17 (Hilaire, Jenkins 3). Assists--Boise State 13 (Skiffer 3), Idaho 8 (Logan 4). Total fouls--Boise State 17, Idaho 14. A--3,543