It probably would have taken one of the Idaho Vandals' best games of the year to defeat the visiting Pacific Tigers Thursday night at the Cowan Spectrum. Unfortunately, the Vandals were not able to pull it off and the Tigers, ranked 24th in the country in both national polls took advantage to post a 78-56 victory. Pacific improved to 11-0 in Big West Conference action and 19-2 on the season.
The Vandals scored the first 4 points of the game and stayed with the Tigers throughout the early part of the game. There were unofficially 7 lead changes in the first 9:26 of the first half and the Vandals were on top 17-16. At that point, however, Pacific ran off 8 unanswered points in just 74 seconds keyed by 3-pointers from Mike Webb and Matt Kemper to lead 24-17.
The lead was sliced to 4 twice, first on a 3-pointer by Dillon Higdon and later on Dandrick Jones' jumper with 2:22 left in the half, but just as the Vandals seemed ready to seize momentum the Tigers got a 3-pointer from David Doubley and a layup by Christian Maraker off an offensive rebound to make it 39-31 at the half.
Pacific quickly put the game out of reach in the second half coming out of the locker room hitting 4 of their first 5 shots while the Vandals missed their first 5 shots, and just 2:31 into the second half it was 45-31 Pacific. The shooting exhibition continued practically unabated. Pacific hit 7 of its first 10 shots in the second half including 2 of 4 3-pointers and took control of the boards at both ends of the floor, building their lead to as many as 26 points before settling for the final 22-point margin.
The Tigers also dominated the boards in the second half. Idaho kept pace in the first 20 minutes netting 14 rebounds to 19 for Pacific, but after intermission the Tigers outrebounded Idaho 23-9.
Vandal coach Leonard Perry summed it up: "We played a good team tonight, and they played well," he said. "They definitely looked like a top-25 team. We got beat every way, shape, and form imaginable. We didn't do a very good job stopping their big three."
Perry thought the quick run by Pacific to close out the first half was crucial, and he also felt the Vandals did not play well defensively. "At the end of the first half we got some solid stops, but then they hit some shots at the end…We had too many defensive lapses," he said. He also indicated he felt the Vandals let their offensive problems affect their play at the defensive end of the floor.
Pacific coach Bob Thomason was surprised by the final margin especially after the Tigers had to struggle to defeat the Vandals 62-53 in Stockton last month. "I'm just as surprised as they are," he said after the game. "The ball went in for us. We shot 50% (9-for-18) on threes and 54% overall. It was a combination of us fast breaking and shooting well. We got the ball inside and they made some mistakes. We also had more depth than they did. Our bench was also good…It seemed the better we played the more dejected they were…I don't think we can play much better than we did tonight."
Doubley, who wound up with 21 points hitting 7 of 9 from the floor including a perfect 5-of-5 from 3-point range, said, "We wanted to come out and give it our best effort. We upped our defense and made sure we played really, really good defense. We knew being ranked we had an extra big target on our backs." Thomason concurred. "This was a big game for us, a big game for our guys to respond to. Getting this win takes some of the pressure off us," he said, noting the Tigers did not want to suffer a similar fate to other teams who break into the national rankings only to lose their next game."
Looking ahead, Perry was very succinct in assessing the Vandals upcoming game against Northridge. "We're going to have to play much better on Saturday," he said. Utah State warmed up for their home game against Pacific by beating Northridge 77-57 Thursday.
The Vandals were led by Dandrick Jones who had 20 points. No other Vandal reached double figures: Tanoris Shepard and Lionel Davis had 8, Higdon and Anton Lyons had 6, Tihon Johnson and Armend Kahrimanovic 3, and Jerod Haynes 2. In the rebounding department, Lyons topped the Vandals with 6.
Idaho did manage to outshoot Pacific from the free-throw line sinking 9 of 11 on the game for an 82% average.
MOSCOW REPORT: Pacific rolls by Vandal Men 78-56
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