Idaho men fall 72-50 to Southern Utah

A good first half by the Idaho Vandals against Southern Utah went for naught in the Cowan Spectrum Saturday night as the visiting Thunderbirds stretched a five-point halftime lead into a 72-50 win. The loss dropped the Vandals to 1-6 on the season and prompted coach George Pfeifer to contemplate lineup changes before the Vandals travel to face Idaho State Wednesday evening.

The Vandals started strongly enough against the Thunderbirds, scoring the first five points of the game and trading leads including a 24-23 advantage with 6:07 left in the first half. But Southern Utah posted an 8-2 scoring run to take a five-point halftime lead and then dominated the second half, shooting 47% from the floor and forcing 14 Idaho turnovers (leading to 18 SUU points) to win going away.

Idaho head coach George Pfeifer said the Vandals had looked sharp in practice Friday and the energy level was good at the outset of the game Saturday night before things fell apart. "We had a great practice the day before," he said. "That was what's so frustrating. I thought we got a great start to the game. I thought we came out, started the game; I was really proud and really pleased with our energy level and out commitment to what we wanted to do. And then I thought right about the 15- or 17-minute mark, someplace in there, you could see we weren't getting back quite as well on defense. And some of the errors that we made offensively really started to come into play, because we didn't play with as much energy to cover up for us."

The Vandals had planned to employ a trapping defense they had used successfully in the first meeting between the two teams in Utah last month, but they weren't as successful Saturday. "We tried to trap at the beginning of the first half. We didn't play with enough moxy to get it done. We didn't fly around," he said. "We trapped them down there when we stopped their on-ball pursuit. They had a couple different things [tonight], but we weren't on an edge. Guys were going right by us. If we jump out, if we fly around we make some deflections, but to not even attempt to trap…that kind of set the line of scrimmage for you right there.

"We're not talented enough to just do one thing," he continued. "We've got to do a couple of different things. This isn't chemistry or calculus or any of that. Trap the on-ball. The day before in practice we did it. We did it fine. We were flying around."

"The first 15 minutes [against SUU] we were doing some things that we wanted to. We were going to trap the the second half. The first four or five on-balls we didn't even come close. That's what we're talking about...we didn't even show. It's a matter of focus. I thought, based on what I saw at Gonzaga and based at what I saw at UW - in that environment - I thought we showed some tenacity and we showed some toughness. But that's obviously cooled," he said.

Asked how he planned to address the problem, Pfeifer said, "We're going to have to take a look at who we're playing. We're at a point in time now where we're going to have to give some other people some opportunities…start having lots of meetings, start changing lineups a lot. That's not a good sign, but on the other hand I'm not going to sit here and continue to float our boat in the same direction. I mean obviously that's not working; so we going to make some changes."

Asked if he had considered what those changes might be, he said, "I have no idea right now, I just know there will be some. We're playing what we think are the people who are giving us the best chance to win; so now, since we're not winning, and since we played the way did tonight, the message clearly has to be ‘there has to be change.' We have to go look someplace else. We're going to give some people some more opportunities. Hopefully those people will capture those opportunities and do something with them.

"We need to find a way to get better production out of our inside. I know that relief is coming, but we ought to be able to get something more out of that right now. Twenty-four turnovers...again, that's a byproduct of our mentality. The minute it gets hard we just deviate, go off in our own direction," he said. "We have to find maybe not the most talented guys, but we have to find some guys who are going to be tougher because it's a 40-minute game. It's not a 15-minute game."

Keoni Watson was the only Vandal reaching double figures, finishing with 13 points. Michael Crowell had 8 on the night, and Andrew Madsen scored 7 off the bench. Mackey was the Vandals' leading rebounder with 7. Idaho had a 31-30 rebounding edge and shot 42% from the floor and 64% from the freethrow line. Southern Utah improved to 6-2 with the win.

Next home action for the Vandals will be Saturday, Dec. 9 when they host Washington State as part of a doubleheader. The Vandal women will host Montana at 7:30 and the men's game will start approximately 30 minutes after the conclusion of that game. Originally scheduled for Memorial Gym, it was announced Saturday that the games will instead be played in the Cowan Spectrum.

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