Vandals Improve to 3-0 in Big West

Idaho is rolling in Big West action, having won 4 of their last 5 games. This week Idaho pounded Cal Poly 84-67 on Thursday, then seniors Tanoris Shepard (11) and Anton Lyons (25) helped clamp UC Santa Barbara tonight for a 61-50 victory. Here's a review of both games with post-game interviews.

Vandals erupt in final 7 minutes to post 4th straight win 61-50
Idaho improves to 3-0 in BWC

Tightening the clamps defensively over the last 7+ minutes of action, the Idaho Vandals outscored UC Santa Barbara 14-3 to break open a hard-fought game finally posting a 61-50 win Saturday night at the Cowan Spectrum.

It was the fourth win for the Vandals in their last 5 games and boosted them to 3-0 in Big West Conference play, the first time Idaho has opened conference action with 3 straight wins since 1997-98 and only the third time in the last 13 years (Idaho won 3 straight games to open Big Sky Conference action in 1992-93 and 1993-94).

Senior guard #11 Tanoris Shepard helped spark Idaho's 13-0 surge late in the game with 2 key layups.
Coming off their best offensive performance of the year two nights earlier against Cal Poly, the Vandals struggled from the floor allowing UCSB to stay close throughout the game. Having problems shooting from the outside, the Vandals continued to attack the Gaucho zone defense from close range. The strategy paid dividends.

"We knew we were going to see quite a bit of zone," Vandal coach Leonard Perry said after the game. "We understood that, but we've seen quite a bit of zone all year; so it's not anything we haven't seen. It just depends on if some outside shots are falling. I think our kids have decided amongst themselves -- with a little urging -- that we're not going to win games from that (3-point) stripe. That's fool's gold. Eventually you're going to start to miss. I thought we did a good job of attacking. I think there was a nice amount left on the clock when we went into the bonus which tells me that we weren't settling for 3s. We took some, but we weren't settling for them."

The statistics proved him out. Santa Barbara, trailing 23-20 at the half, was deadly accurate from the floor throughout most of the second half. At the 12:39 mark of the 2nd half the Vandals were ahead 47-45, but Santa Barbara at that point was 9/13 (69%) on 2-point shots and a perfect 3-3 from 3-point range. Over the last 7:21 the Vandals intensified their man-to-man defensive pressure and held the Gauchos to just 2-for-18 from the floor (including 1-for-10 on 3-pointers).

The game was deadlocked at 47 with 5:46 remaining before Anton Lyons converted a pair of free throw attempts to put the Vandals up by 2. That triggered a blistering 13-0 run featuring 5 free throws by Lyons, 2 layups by Tanoris Shepard, a layup and free throw by Lionel Davis, and 2 free throws by Dandrick Jones to put the game away. Asked if he made any adjustments to trigger the decisive run, Perry said, "Not really. I thought Tanoris just did a tremendous job of being composed and finding open guys. He was under control. He found guys in the right positions and the right spots to score, and they did. The kids did an excellent job of catching and finishing."

With their opponents suiting up just 7 players because of injuries, Perry was asked if the Vandals had intended to try to wear down the Gauchos with an up-tempo game. "We thought about it, but it wasn't working. One thing you have to understand is on Thursday we played quite a few guys 30+ minutes. It looked good on paper, but once I looked at Dandrick and Anton's eyes and they were sucking air like there's no tomorrow we abandoned that quickly," Perry added with a smile. "The way that Santa Barbara was playing they were very equipped for this kind of game tonight...Things didn't go our way, but I thought the kids hung in there and stayed with it. I thought they did a tremendous job, and I'm proud of them. We're in the very, very infant stages of the conference, but I'm proud of what they've done. We just played three games in five days. That's tough to do this late in the year, and our kids responded in all three games."

Senior forward #42 Lionel Davis hit a layup and free throw late in the game.
Perry added he was not disappointed with the decreased offensive production compared to Thursday's game. "We're far closer to what you saw in the first half (tonight) than what you saw against Cal Poly offensively," he said. "That's a fact. We are not a good looking unit offensively...but I thought we defended very, very well."

Regarding the outstanding play of Jones (16 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks in 40 minutes) and Lyons (22 points, 8 rebounds in 33 minutes), Perry said, "Dandrick has done a tremendous job of incorporating his basketball IQ into this team. He is truly the central intelligence of this team if you will. He really is. He knows everything we call. He knows exactly who's supposed to be where. I've given him the responsibility of putting us in our press when he sees fit; so his responsibility has really grown, but he's earned every bit of it, and I thought he did a great job tonight. Anton, if he doesn't (play well) we're going to struggle. When he struggled earlier in the year on both ends of the floor we struggled as a team. His presence is sorely needed. He's doing a good job for us right now."

Perry also tipped his hat to the hard-working Gauchos and head coach Bob Williams. "Give Santa Barbara all the credit in the world. I told our kids before the game started, `Don't you ever underestimate this team. They're down because of injuries, but their morale is great. They're working hard. It's a hard-working group. They are going to play you to the hilt, and you have to be prepared for a dog fight.' I thought Santa Barbara played really, really well."

The Vandals will now hit the road to face two of the toughest Big West teams next week facing Cal State Northridge Thursday and Pacific in Stockton Saturday.

READ MORE: UNIVERSITY of IDAHO Official Game Article & Stats

Senior forward #32 Armend Kahrimanovic hit a blistering 5 of 7 3-pointers in the first half.
Vandals cruise past Cal Poly 84-67

In what was undoubtedly their best offensive performance of the year, the Idaho Vandals raced out to an 11-0 lead less than 4 minutes into the game and never looked back, blitzing Cal Poly San Luis Obispo 84-67 Thursday night at Cowan Spectrum.

In upping their Big West Conference mark to 2-0, the Vandals shot 68% from the floor in the first half, made 64% of their first-half 3-point shots, and shot 67% from the free throw line, leading by as many as 21 points before settling for a 43-26 halftime bulge. The Mustangs, like most every other opponent, chose to open the game in a zone defense daring the Vandals to shoot from outside. The Vandals were up to the task with Armend Kahrimanovic hitting 5 of 7 3-pointers for 15 points and Dandrick Jones contributing 13 points (4 of 6 2-pointers, a 3-pointer, and 2 free throws) in the first 20 minutes of action. Cal Poly tried making adjustments in their zone setup before deciding to play the second half in a tight man-to-man. The change helped a little bit, but Idaho still hit 50% from both 2-point and 3-point range, along with 79% of their free throws, extending their lead to as many as 24 points before coasting home with the 17-point win.

On the night Jones wound up with 25 points, Anton Lyons had 16, and Kahrimanovic 15. The Vandals outrebounded the Mustangs 41-33 led by Lyons with 8 and Jones and Lionel Davis with 6 each.

Despite the tremendous offensive showing, coach Leonard Perry chose to highlight the intensity of the Vandal defense at the outset of the game setting the tempo for the evening. "To be honest with you, I was far more concerned with the defensive end," Perry said after the game. "I thought we started the game right defensively...We were certainly able to get the defensive stops that we needed to start the game right. To start the game I think we got 3 stops in a row which is what we needed defensively. That was our goal, to start the game by trying to get 3 stops in a row regardless of what happens on the offensive end."

Asked if the game reminded him of the Vandals' win over Utah State last month, Perry said, "I think this was more of a carryover from Eastern Washington than Utah State. That (Utah State) game has been long forgotten. Eastern Washington -- we feel like that was a very important win for us.

Perry said the one part of the Vandals' performance that bothered him was turnovers. "The only thing I'm displeased about this game was the turnovers (20)," he said. "That's just entirely too many, but when you're playing with a lead like that, it's brand new for the Vandals -- trust me. I thought our kids' effort was there. I thought the focus was there, and the kids are playing with unselfishness...You start out making a play, it looks good early, and then you're not sure whether to continue with it or bring it back out. You're caught in between, they get a hand on it, and the next thing you know it's turned over."

The Vandals indeed were unselfish handing out 20 assists on the night including 10 by Tanoris Shepard and 6 by Jerod Haynes. Kahrimanovic was a major beneficiary of the Vandal assists. "Tonight, I hit my first shot and I was really confident," he said. "My teammates found me all the time. I was thankful for that. They were easy shots."

Jones seemed pleased to see the Vandals do well in the up-tempo game. "Coach stressed to us in practice this week that we're playing at home; so we could play at our own tempo," he said, "but I think we can run or we can slow the game down. Last year we had to play at a slow pace. I think it's good that we can switch up the pace every now and then." Jones, who did most of his damage inside against the Mustangs, said "I tried to penetrate (their zone) and if I didn't have a shot I tried to get my teammates the ball. Other than that I was just being patient and taking my time on offense, taking what they gave me." He added that getting a lead "gave us a little comfort I think, but we were kind of nervous going in at halftime because we've been known for giving up leads, but it helped us a lot to have a lead ... it felt good to be in that situation."

"I think the kids are starting to listen and get what we're teaching," Perry said. "They're getting our scouting reports into the game a little bit better than we were earlier in the year. They understand what has to be done, they understand how good our opponent is and they respect our opponent, and they're able to execute."

A total of 12 players saw action in the game including 6-10 freshman center Zach Proett who saw his first action as a Vandal after sitting out last year and the first half of this season recovering from an injury sustained in high school.

The Vandals host UC Santa Barbara Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Cowan Spectrum hoping to notch their third straight conference win before hitting the road next week. Jones is expecting a tough game from the Gauchos. "Santa Barbara is a good, hard-playing team," he said. "We set a goal to go 3-0 in league before we go on the road to Northridge and Pacific; so we're just going to come out and play hard, try to go 3-0 in the conference.

READ MORE: UNIVERSITY of IDAHO Official Game Article & Stats

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