Vandals drop hard-fought Battle

With 11 minutes left in the game Idaho (6-6) trailed 39-38 to visiting Washington State (8-3), but went cold in the end as the Cougars pulled away for the 55-41 victory. Vandal center MARVIN JEFFERSON was the game's leading rebounder with 10 total plus three blocked shots, and WSU transfer Mac Hopson led Idaho with 10 points. Inside are quotes from Coach Verlin, Coach Bennett, and Mac Hopson.

COMMENTARY: Not yet. Not this time. The new, improved Idaho Vandal men's basketball team played hard for 40 minutes against 8-3 Washington State, but in the end the Cougars had too much strength "down under" in the form of senior Aron Baynes. The 6-10, 250-pound center from Cairns, Australia was held to just six points and two rebounds in the first half, but in the second half the Cougars made it a point to get the ball in to Baynes in the paint. He responded with 12 points and seven boards in the final 20 minutes to propel the Cougars to a 55-41 win. Idaho trailed 39-38 with 10:59 left in the game, but the Vandals scored just one basket the rest of the way.

Statistical summaries:

Mac Hopson was the lone Vandal to score in double figures in the defensively-dominated game, checking out with 10 points, 6 assists, 6 rebounds and a steal. Kashif Watson had 9 points, 4 rebounds, an assist and a steal. Luciano deSouza came off the bench for 8 points and 3 rebounds. Terrence Simmons finished with 6 points, 3 rebounds, an assist and a steal. Marvin Jefferson finished with 4 points and was the game's leading rebounder with 10 to go along with 3 blocked shots. Brandon Wiley also had 4 points, a rebound, and a steal.

• The Cougar defense clamped down on the Vandals limiting them to 31% shooting (16-of-51) from the floor including 28% (5-of-18) from three-point range. WSU shot 46% from the floor and 25% from outside the arc.

• There were only 15 fouls whistled between the two teams and neither team reached the bonus in either half. Idaho sank all four of its free throws and the Cougars were 1-for-2.

• In the first half Idaho held a 19-17 rebounding edge, but in the final 20 minutes Baynes collected 7 boards as the Cougars enjoyed a 20-9 edge giving them a total of 37 on the game to 28 for Idaho.

• Each team was guilty of just six turnovers; Idaho had four steals and WSU had two.

• Miscellaneous statistics: WSU won the inside battle outscoring the Vandals 30-18 in the paint (including an 18-6 advantage in the second half); WSU had a 10-2 edge in second chance points. The Cougars scored 11 points off turnovers compared to 4 for the Vandals. Each team had eight points from its bench and there were no fast break points. The score was tied once and there were four lead changes.

• Attendance was 1,618, highest home game total for the season and the largest crowd since the Vandals drew 1,817 last February against Nevada.
The Vandals are now 6-6 on the season and they dropped to 5-1 on their home court. Idaho will take a break for the Christmas holidays before returning to prepare for a tough non-conference game against Idaho State Dec. 29 in Pocatello.

Idaho Head Coach Don Verlin post-game quotes

Q: This is the first time we've talked when you've had a loss.
DV: "That's right. It was a tough one. I thought they did a great job. I thought they just kinda wore us down the last 10 minutes of the game. I give a lot of credit to the Washington State coaching staff. I thought they made great adjustments to our game plan in the first half, and they came out and went to Aron Baynes. Basically we couldn't get him stopped in the second half, and that was the difference in the game."

Q: You went a little cold, too, from the floor at the same time. That was a tough combination.
DV: "Yeah, we did. We missed some layups, and against a good team you can't miss some opportunities. I thought we had some pick-and-roll opportunities that gave us some shots at the basket that were pretty close in and we didn't finish them, but give the credit to them. They're physical, they're strong, they're big, and they're very well coached. They don't give you easy shots. They bumped us and took off our rhythm a lot of the night. They did what they were supposed to do. They held us to 41 points and we shot 30%. That can't be Vandal basketball. We've got to score a few more points and shoot a higher percentage if we're going to win."

Q: What did you like tonight from your kids?
DV: "I thought they competed all night long. I thought we battled right from the very first possession to the last passion. I thought we did a very nice job of that, and I told them if we can battle like that every night in the WAC some victories will come."

Q: This has to be a pretty good tune up, I would think, for the WAC coming up.
DV: "Well, yeah. That's what it was kinda designed to do. We played most of our preseason here and then have a really good opponent here at home. Yeah. It's definitely got us ready to go to the WAC; so we'll take a few days off for Christmas and get back and go to Idaho State, another in-state rival game, and then we'll go from there."

Q: How do you feel coming up at the end of the year? Do you feel like you're where you expected to be right now?
DV: "I don't know what I expected, to be honest with you. One game at a time is what we talk about with our guys…one practice at a time. I guess…I haven't thought about it that much, really. What I need us to do, and what I preach to our guys, is we've got to get better every day. We've just got to keep plugging along, plugging along, and if we do that and we play together as a team some wins will come. How many that is, I don't know. Our goal in our notebook is to win our next game, and that's what we're going to try to do."

GAYLEN WOOD: Do you think your guys have done that – improve from day to day?
DV: "I do. I think we've gotten a lot better…A game like this earlier in the year we wouldn't have been able to sustain our effort like we did tonight. I thought we sustained for 40 minutes; so I think we are getting better, yes."

GAYLEN WOOD: It's a little early to look at it, but the WAC…I'm sure you've been watching the scores. How do you feel it's starting to pan out? It looks like a lot of rebuilding years for a lot of teams.
DV: "Well, there are. Our season is...we're going to have to weather the first part of the season with four out of five games on the road."

GAYLEN WOOD: You've got a "nice" start (Nevada and Utah State on the road to open conference play).
DV: "Yeah. That's going to be tough on us; so we need to get out on the road and get some good done. You guys cover us. We haven't been as good on the road as we need to be. We need to be better. I think it's anybody's ball game. There are obviously some winnable games. There are some rebuilding teams. I'm the only new coach, but it looks like there are a lot of new players in the league. Obviously Utah State being 8 or 9 and 1, whatever they are, and Nevada has played a pretty good schedule. They look like the class of the league, but we'll just have to see how it goes. We start off at the two best places, at Nevada and at Utah State; so we'll find out right away what we're made of."

GAYLEN WOOD: How are the injuries coming around, the two kids (Brandon) Brown and Chevy (Augusto) who couldn't play tonight? Are they starting to come around?
DV: "Well, I think so. I thought we were going to have ‘em back for these games, and now it looks like it's going to be after Christmas; so it's kind of a day-to-day thing. That's really where it's at. They're telling me it's day to day…We're hoping to have ‘em back after Christmas for the Idaho State game."

GAYLEN WOOD: Certainly nice to have them for conference, anyway.
DV: "Yeah. No question. Exactly."

Idaho starting point guard Mac Hopson, post-game quotes

Q: The number one thing you wanted out of this game was a win, but nothing surprised you I presume out there?
MH: "Nah, nothing surprised me. I knew what they were going to do, and they executed. Down the stretch we were in the game, but then it just came to like leadership. Taylor (Rochestie), Davin (Harmeling), (Aron) Baynes. They've all been here; so that's what it came down to. Baynes kinda killed…well, he DID kill us down low. That's what really killed us, but we're gonna get some things done. We're gonna get better."

Q: How much did playing yesterday affect you the last 10 minutes of this game?
MH: "I think it took a wear on us. It (was) wearing us down like a little bit, a little bit. I felt it a little bit, to be honest. I haven't played two games in a row in a while; so I think it was hard on our legs, but that's no excuse for that. We've got to buckle down and do our jobs."

Q: What did you like today from your team that you saw?
MH: "The fight. That was probably about the third game I saw the fight in us. Everybody down just fighting. I think it was the third time we've had it this season. If we bring that every game we're gonna be alright. I really believe that we're gonna be alright."

Washington State Head Coach Tony Bennett, post-game quotes

Thoughts about the game: "I'm pleased coming in against a team that…they play solid and they challenge you. They put some pressure on you defensively because of the spread sets. Coach Verlin does a good job. Mac (Hopson) does a great job…he's real crafty off that ball screen and has some capable players around him. I think Idaho fans should be encouraged about what it holds in the future. It was our first true road game against a team that was playing with confidence. You know, they can score against you; so we were solid enough to get one, and that's important in preparation for the conference."

About the physical nature of this game: "I loved it, and I thought the refs did a good job. They were consistent…that reminded me of an NCAA tournament officiated game, where they let clean banging go and then step in when they needed to. I'm a big fan of that. I know there are a lot of people who aren't, but I thought it was a well-officiated game. Obviously we won, so it's always easy for the coach that wins to say that, but in terms of the consistency, and especially for a guy like Aron…I thought he got hit a couple of times going up, and I'm sure there were times that it was the other way, but they did let ‘em play a little bit. I think it's good for the game in my young opinion."

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