WAC Wrapup: Men's Hoops

Idaho's disappointing 4-24 regular season came to a prompt close last week with the Vandals' first round WAC Tournament loss to Conference Champ Nevada, 68-55. Idaho ended their inaugural Western Athletic Conference season with a 4-25 record, including 1-15 in WAC games. Despite the rough road, Idaho's lone senior TANORIS SHEPARD ended an impressive career at Idaho by making an impact on the Vandal history book.

RENO – Outstanding individual performances by senior Tanoris Shepard (16 points, six assists and a steal) and freshman David DuBois (19 points, eight rebounds and two steals) were not enough to overcome the strength and balance of the Nevada Wolf Pack here Thursday evening as the Vandal men ended their season with a 68-55 loss to the eventual WAC champions in what turned out to be the last game at Idaho for coach Leonard Perry.

In a brief 7-1/2 minute post-game media conference, Shepard succinctly summed up a disappointing season for the Vandals who finished with a 4-25 record. "Obviously it's not like I imagined the ending (of my career)," he said. "I'm proud of this team. I'm proud of the way we fought through adversity the whole entire year. We could have easily folded up the tent and just called it quits, but our guys kept plugging away, just kept staying positive, kept believing in our coach and believing in each other. It's not like I wanted to end it, but things happen for a reason, and now I've got to move on."

The Vandals got off to a rocky start offensively shooting just 26% from the floor in the first 12-1/2 minutes allowing Nevada to seize control of the contest, but as Shepard accurately pointed out the Vandals never quit and repeatedly continued to whittle away at the Wolf Pack's lead before a 22-15 Nevada scoring edge in the final 12 minutes iced the victory.

Perry, who a few minutes earlier had announced on a post-game radio show he would not return as coach next season, refused to allow the post-game media conference to focus on his status as coach of the Vandals and focused the spotlight onto Dubois and Shepard who accompanied him to the interview room in the Lawlor Events Center.

Perry was asked, "Coach, will you be back next year?" and responded, "We'll have an announcement here in the next day or so." The subject was not broached again.

Instead, Perry praised the effort displayed by his players. "I thought our kids played well," he said. "We missed some opportunities offensively in the first half. We defended about as well as we could defend. During the second half we competed. We hovered around 10 or 8 there for a long, long time. They got it up to 16 and we cut it down a little bit. I thought defensively we did a good job...During the first half they shot 56%, but we gave up eight on turnovers…Our kids competed. I was really proud of them. They never gave up. I think David Dubois was the freshman of the year. I don't think there's a question about it…end of story, (and) this guy (Tanoris Shepard) is what it's all about."

Asked to comment on Dubois, Perry said, "This is a difficult game for anyone to be a factor…He's only 6-4, and we've been playing him at the 4 spot almost the entire year. For every night the kid did not score well he defended the heck out of somebody in the post. You don't get credit for that and it doesn't show up in the box scores. He's started every game for us from beginning to end and got us some big wins. Of the four we had they're all huge now. He's been a major impact every night. He's a kid that his talent belongs in this league. No question about it."


VANDAL NOTES

In final statistics released by the WAC this week, Shepard was ranked in the top 10 in six different categories and teammate Brett Ledbetter was ranked in one. The WAC statistical rankings took into consideration all games played during the season including non-conference action.

Shepard finished third in minutes played (averaging 35.97 per game), sixth in assists (3.64 per game), eighth in steals (1.41 per game), ninth in both field goal percentage (.423) and assist/turnover ratio (1.20 assists per turnover), and tenth in scoring (15.4 points per game).

At Idaho, Shepard finished in the top 10 in career points, assists (third), 3-point field goal attempts, 3-point field goals made, field goals attempted and field goals made.

Ledbetter finished seventh in the conference in 3-point field goals averaging 1.90 per game.




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