Vandals beat SCSU 81-68, off to 5-5 start

With Wednesday night's 81-68 victory over South Carolina State in the Cowan Spectrum, Idaho improved its season record to 5-5; its best start after ten games since the 1999-2000 season. Junior point guard MAC HOPSON led all scorers with 18 points and six assists. The Vandals committed just nine turnovers, shot 79% from the line, had five players in double figures, and outrebound SCSU 30-28.

COMMENTARY: The score was tied only once and there were just two lead changes, but South Carolina State hung tough against the Vandals until the final 12-1/2 minutes of the game. Leading by four at 50-46, Idaho outscored the visitors 31-22 down the stretch and did much of their damage from the free throw line. From the field during that stretch, Drew Eisinger nailed a 3 off a Mac Hopson pass and Terrence Simmons hit a fast break layup off an assist from Kashif Watson. Then Luciano deSouza hit a 3 with an assist from Hopson, and Marvin Jefferson slammed home a dunk off a Watson pass to cap off the field goal scoring with 30 second left.

Otherwise Idaho scored 14 of its last 24 points at the free-throw line, missing just twice in the run.

Game summary:

- Idaho is now 5-5 on the season. Prior to last night, Idaho had not won five times in their first ten games since the 1999-2000 season.

- The Vandals are now 4-0 at home for the first time sine 1997.

- The Vandals put five players in double figures and eight of the nine players who saw action scored. Mac Hopson led all scorers with 18 points and 6 assists; Kashif Watson had 15 points and 3 assists; Brandon Wiley had 13 points and 1 assist; Marvin Jefferson had 12 points and 1 assist; Luciano de Souza had 11 points and 1 assist; Trevor Morris had 4 points and 2 assists; and Drew Eisinger had a 3-point field goal and two assists.

- As a team the Vandals sank 25 field goals and collected 17 assists, a 68% assist-to-basket ratio. Coming into the game the Vandals had assists on 65% of their basets in their last five games.

- Idaho shot 46% from the floor and 30% on three-point shots. SCSU hit 47% from the floor and 39% from behind the arc.

- The Vandals outrebounded the Bulldogs 30-28 including a 10-8 edge in offensive board. In the loss seven days earlier SCSU outrebounded the Vandals 51-40 including a 20-9 edge in offensive rebounds.

- Idaho dominated the free-throw shooting statistics sinking 26 of 33 (79%) including 20 of 24 in the second half (83%). SC State made 17 of 25 for a 75% average.

- Idaho held a 26-18 edge on points in the paint, but the Bulldogs led 13-9 in second chance points. The Vandals cashed in big time on 20 SCSU turnovers for 26 points; the Bulldogs scored only 12 off of 9 Idaho turnovers. Idaho held a 10-0 edge in fast break points, and the bench points were close with SCSU leading 22-18.

- Announced attendance was 946, the largest crowd of the year.
The Vandals will host the Tigers of Texas Southern Saturday at 3 p.m. in Take A Kid To The Game Day. Any child 12 or under accompanied by an adult will be admitted for $2. Sunday the Vandals close out the homestand against Washington State at 5:05 p.m.

Coach Don Verlin post-game quotes

Q: That was a nicer outcome than it was a week ago.
DV: "Absolutely. You know, I thought we did a great job on the offensive rebounding part of the deal to hold them to eight offensive rebounds. That was basically the difference in the game. I thought we played very well in that aspect of it. I thought we played hard most of the game. I think we didn't make a ton of mistakes and we got them to turn the ball over 20 times and that was the difference in the game."

Q: You had another nice assist-to-basket ratio tonight.
DV: "Yes, and very good assist-to-turnover ratio. That's what we've got to have. Like I've told you guys before, we've got to be an unselfish basketball team, and tonight you see, what four guys in double figures, is that what it was? (Five) guys in double figures. That's what this team has to do to be successful. We can't rely on one guy, Mac Hopson or whoever it may be. We've got to get four or five guys in double figures so we're hard to guard. That'll make us be successful."

Q: Nine rebounds by Brandon Wiley. That was a nice stat.
DV: "Yeah. He's had nine or ten the least three games. I think he's come close to a double-double the last three outings; so I've been really impressed with his play. He's an undersized post but he works like crazy in there to get those rebounds. He did a good job tonight."

Q: It took a little while for you guys to finally break away from them. They kept hanging around, hanging around. Were you thinking, "Here we go again?"
DV: "No question (chuckles). You know, I did. I felt like we had control of the game. We just couldn't get away from them. It seemed like we'd get a run and we'd either make a mistake or they'd hit a three or we'd foul the shooter late in the clock or something like that, and we just couldn't get away. Then we finally pulled away at the end. It was really nice to see us make our free throws. This team, we're shooting 63% on the year; we need to shoot 78 or 80 on the year, and that was a good stat for us tonight."

Q: In that last 10 minutes you had three baskets from the floor and went something like 14 for 16 from the line.
DV: "That's how you win basketball games, right there. We've been shooting a ton of free throws; so I'm glad it's paying off."

Q: What about three-point shooting early? They wanted you to shoot out there. Did you like your team's offensive approach early in the game?
DV: "Yeah…I did. I think that we've got good shooters, and I think our shooters, when thye're open, need to shoot it. We've shot it well all year. We haven't shot it well the last two games, but we've got good shooters. I thought we did a good job when we did make our three-point shots early we got it inside, we drove the zone a little bit and we got ‘em out of the zone, and that was probably one of the big keys in the game. Lucy (Luciano de Souza) made one late three pointer, but our guys have got to shoot. That's our offense, and they've got to step back and knock it in, and they will. They will. It's just sometimes you go on a little bit of a bad streak."

Q: It looked like you got some different kids a little more than one or two minutes tonight. That was good to see.
DV: "Yeah, it was. Chevy (Augusto) is hurt, he's day to day, and Brandon (Brown) is day to day."

Q: How come Brandon?
DV: "He hurt his thumb in practice. We didn't know for sure if he was gonna get to go tonight. They held him tonight. I'm not sure if we're gonna have him back for Saturday or not, but it was nice to see Drew. Drew Eisinger came in and made a big shot, and Travis Blackstock played a little bit. Those are two walkons; so I was happy for those and I was able to spread the minutes out a little bit more."

Forward Brandon Wiley post-game quotes

Q: What was the difference between this week and last week with these guys?
BW: "We were a little bit more focused. Coach had us going harder in practice. He said our concentration wasn't too good; so we really had to refocus on what they did and came out and played better."

Q: Rebounded better too. You had a big part in that.
BW: "Oh, yes. Rebounding…that was a big emphasis on what we were doing in practice this week. He really wanted us to get on the offensive glass."

Q: That first half you guys were out there running hard, things were going fast, and all of a sudden the last nine minutes of the second half everything was at the free throw line. Is that tough as a player?
BW: "No, you gotta adjust. Basketball is an up-and-down game, and free throws are a part of it. We practice on those; so we've got to adjust to it."

Q: They came out in a zone and you guys rolled a little bit, shooting some threes, then you kinda started attacking a little better?
BW: "We had prepared for that. We had seen those looks earlier in our first game; so the zone, we just had practiced it a little more. It took us a couple possessions but we eventually got it."

Q: Did they play a lot of zone last week too?
BW: "Yeah, they did actually. Yes. Zone."

GAYLEN WOOD: It looked like they were just packing in waiting for you guys to start hitting from the outside.
BW: "yeah. They wanted to dare us to shoot. We didn't shoot a good percentage last week when we played ‘em, so they sorta pack it in, see if we could make a couple."

Q: How was it having a whole week off?
BW: "We didn't have week off."

Q: I mean game-wise.
BW: "Oh, no. Okay. It was okay."

Q: Is that weird?
BW: "It actually is."

Q: Was it kinda nice, though, with dead week and finals? Were you able to catch up a little bit school-wise?
BW: "Yeah. I caught up on all my school work, got most of my finals done; so yeah. That was good. That was a good part."

Q: Are you glad to be back in a game and not have to be worrying about practicing all the time?
BW: "Yeah, that was a good thing, because obviously games are much funner than practice."

Q: What would you like folks to know about your team right now?
BW: "We don't give up. We play hard. We keep fighting. You punch us in the mouth one time, we're gonna keep coming back, trying to scrape, claw back into the game until it's over."

Q: Anything else?
BW: "Go Vandals!"

Guard Kashif Watson post game quotes

Q: Are you ever not happy out there on the basketball court?
KW: "Ah, no. I'm always happy. That's the best thing. When I started playing basketball my dad always told me to be happy and have fun out there. That's what I do – have fun and do my job, play hard."

Q: What was the difference this week from last week?
KW: "It was just, we were home; so when we're home you've got to take care of your home court. You've got to come in and apply more pressure and have more energy out there. That's what we did tonight. We just applied more pressure and got up into ‘em and played an up and down game. We knew they couldn't stick with us if we played up and down."

Q: Did they do anything different this week than they did last week?
KW: "Not really. Everything was the same. We knew what they were gonna do. We knew everything. Coach prepared us very well for it, and it was just actually us going out there and executing and playing good defense."

Q: This week you hit shots…last week you guys were missing."
KW: "Yeah. On the road it's kinda tough. Sometimes you're gonna get games where you can't hit shots, but we could have found a way to win that game, but if you miss shots you miss shots. You've got to do other things."

Q: You had a great night turnover-wise. You were nine and forced them into 20. Did you realize that?
KW: "No ma'am. I hadn't noticed that."

Q: Earlier in the week coach really wanted you guys to rebound more. You guys rebounded great.
KW: "That's what we did all week in practice, rebounding drills, and that made us aware and know what we had to do coming into this game, because they're a good rebounding team. They average like 20 offensive rebounds a game. We knew that from last week, too; so we had to come in and box out, and that would get us a win right there if we just boxed them out."

Q: How's school going for you?
KW: "It's good. Finals tomorrow, last day. I'm happy."

Q: You guys probably haven't seen a lot on Texas Southern yet. They're playing some pretty tough ball right now. Are you guys kinda excited to play a team like that?
KW: "Coach just told us in the locker room before we left. He was, like, ‘They're playing good teams, and they take everybody to the wire.' He told us we're gonna come in tomorrow, be ready, practice hard, and be ready for these next two games because they're two big games and we're at home, too. We've gotta take care of that."

Q: What would you like folks to know about your team?
KW: "This is a new team. We're coming with a new mindset, everything. This time we're out to win games. We're gonna win games for sure."

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