Vandals beat Warriors in WAC home opener

Last week Idaho shocked the WAC with their road win over Nevada, then lost a close battle at perrenial power Utah State. Thursday night the Vandals thumped Hawaii 67-47 in the Spectrum to win their WAC home opener, and stand 8-8 (2-1 WAC) on the season. The Vandals were paced by guard KASHIF WATSON who scored 19 points, including sinking seven free throws, while Idaho outrebounded Hawaii 37-26.

COMMENTARY: It was a slow start with both teams playing at a slow, deliberate pace. Hawaii led by four at the 15:50 mark of the first half. The Vandals led 30-24 at the half (30-24) despite 10 turnovers. Playing only their second game of the season on the mainland, the ‘Bows came in with a 9-5 season record (1-1 in the WAC) averaging 68.4 per game, shooting 44% from the floor and averaging 37 rebounds per game. They suited up eight players ranging between 6-7 and 6-10 in height.

Center MARVIN JEFFERSON, a physical force in the paint, with the jam against Hawaii.
Given all that, by the midway point of the second half it was obvious to the small (announced attendance of 652) but happy, appreciative crowd in the Cowan Spectrum that the Vandals were clearly the better team. The tallest Vandal, 6-10 junior Marvin Jefferson, exited the game after picking up his fourth personal foul and being assessed a technical on the same play with 13:22 left in the second half. Hawai'i made four free throws to cut the Vandal lead to 44-36. Idaho Coach Don Verlin had no choice but to go with his small lineup. Moments later with the Vandals leading 46-38, Idaho clamped down the defense, fired up the transition game, and outscored the ‘Bows 12-0 to blow the game open.

The run featured forced turnovers, fast breaks, a no-look pass from Mac Hopson to Brandon Wiley, and pretty much total domination of the game at both ends of the floor.

Idaho is now off to an outstanding 6-1 start at home, and they are 8-8 on the year, including 2-1 in conference play.

- VANDAL INDIVIDUAL STATS: Kashif Watson 19 points, 2 assists, 2 rebounds; Mac Hopson 14 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds, 1 steal; Brandon Wiley 9 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 blocked shots, 2 steals' Trevor Morris 7 points, 1 steal; Terrence Simmons 6 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists; Marvin Jefferson 6 points, 2 rebounds, 3 blocked shots, 1 steal; Luciano de Souza 6 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals.

- TEAM SHOOTING PERCENTAGES: Field goals: Idaho 24 of 45 for 53.3% (including 13 of 19 for 68% in the second half. Hawai'i 14 of 47 for 29.8% (including 6 of 24 for 25% in the second half). Three-point shots: Idaho 3 of 11 for 27.3%; Hawai'i 6 of 18 for 33.3%. Free throws: Idaho 16 of 25 for 64%, Hawai'i 13 of 19 for 68.4%.

- TEAM REBOUNDING: Idaho 13 offensive, 24 defensive and 3 dead ball rebounds for a total of 40; Hawai'i 12 offensive, 14 defensive and 3 dead ball rebounds for a total of 29.

- MISCELLANEOUS TEAM TOTALS: Turnovers: Idaho 15 (10 in the first half), Hawai'i 16. Blocked shots: Idaho 6, Hawai'i 4. Steals: Idaho 8, Hawai'i 5. Assists; Idaho 13, Hawai'i 10.

- MISCELLANEOUS STATS: Points in the paint: Idaho 26, Hawai'i 14. Points off turnovers: Idaho 26, Hawai'i 10. Second chance points: Idaho 11, Hawai'i 8. Fast break points: Idaho 4, Hawai'i 0. Bench points: Hawai'i 17, Idaho 13. The score was tied four times and there was one lead change.
The Vandals will be on the road for nearly two weeks beginning with a trip to New Mexico State next Thursday.

Head Coach Don Verlin, post game quotes

DON VERLIN: "It was a good win tonight for us. We played good."

Idaho junior point guard MAC HOPSON finished with 14 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds, 1 steal.
Q: What was the key for Idaho getting on the 12-point run and taking control of the game?
DV: "I thought early in the game…the key to the game was getting some defensive stops and getting some rebounds. They are a very good rebounding team, they average almost 14 offensive rebounds a game, and we were able to get some stops and get our transition game going. That was our emphasis going into the game. We needed to get some stops. We needed to get our transition game going. I thought we got some run outs in the second half and pushed the lead up."

Q: Pretty physical contest tonight. Have you had a very many games like that this year?
DV: "We've had a few of ‘em. I thought the Washington State game was physical. I thought both the games on the road – at Utah State and at Nevada – were very physical. The WAC is a very physical conference year in and year out. I thought we did a good job responding to that. I challenged every one of them about rebounding and about being physical tonight, and the key stat of the game is we out-rebounded one of the best rebounding teams in the conference by 11, and that was the difference in the game."

Q: That's been a big emphasis for you guys?
DV: "Yeah, after we got outrebounded by whatever it was, an ungodly number at Utah State. What was it, 36-19? That's what cost us that game, and it has to be an emphasis with our size. We aren't big enough, we aren't strong enough. We've all got to rebound, and it has to be a team effort, and we got that tonight from a lot of guys."

Center MARVIN JEFFERSON rejects a Hawaii shot.
GAYLEN WOOD: It looked like they really covered well when (Marvin) Jefferson went out really early.
DV: "Yeah. They did. They did a good job. I was just telling the trainer, with Chevy (Augusto) being hurt we've only got three posts, and then Marv makes a mistake and now we had to play the last 13:22 with two posts, and even put in the walk-on, Travis Blackstock a little bit. He hasn't played much. He's a walk-on from Kuna, Idaho. I thought our guys [Blackstock and the others] did a great job during that stretch."

Q: Up until that point Marvin was actually playing smart. He wasn't really in foul trouble…and then what happened. Did he say something or was it a gesture?
DV: "Any time, and I have told our guys this, any time you make a gesture or a motion to the officials they're going to give you (a technical foul), and that's the same thing that happened to Terrence (Simmons). I told them in the locker room this kind of stuff is not acceptable, and he'll have to do some extra running. We may have to buy him a new pair of shoes after this, but that stuff can't happen because in a situation like that, something like that can cost you a ball game. Thank God it didn't tonight."

GW: The defense really looked excellent in the second half when you guys starting changing things up down there.
DV: "I tell you what. It was as good a defense as we've played all year. This was as good as (any) defense and rebound we've played this year, and this team has to be able to defend. We were last in the league coming out of the pre-season at 42%, and we go out and hold them to 29% and out-rebound them by 12. That's about as good as we could do. That's what we've got to have night in and night out if we're going to be a team that competes for the league title. Hopefully if we can continue to do that we'll be a team that's at the top at the end - if we'll do those things."

Kashif Watson, post-game quotes

Q: It looked like you guys had a hard time getting a rhythm going until late in the second half. KW: "Yeah. We just had to get our legs under us and stuff, get up and down the court a little bit and warm up. Coach was preaching to us this week in practice that all we need is energy -- energy to get us this game. We were home; so we should win our (conference) home opener. That's what we did."

Q: Was that as physical a game as it looked?
KW: "Yeah, it was pretty physical. Coach told us before we came out here that they are a physical team. They like to bump. They like to ride you; so we had to be prepared for that when we came out here. We practiced for that during our yesterday practice, and that's what we did. We came out here and played hard, played physical with them and we came up with the victory."

Q: How were you guys able to finally come together and put that nine 12-point run together midway through the second half?
KW: "We were keeping our composure and kept playing, not getting frustrated. That's what coach always tells us. Don't get frustrated. Keep your composure, and we just stayed together as a team. We went out and we kept running our sets and got them tired. They couldn't stick with us in the transition game; so we came out with a 12-point run."

Q: That transition game looked like at the end you guys were having a lot of fun with the two and three passes to the bucket.
KW: "Oh, yeah. That's what we like to do. We're an unselfish team; so when we get in transition we're looking for the open person. Everybody's looking around to make a good pass. That's what we do."

Q: A lot of new guys on both teams. Were you kinda feeling each other out early?
KW: "A little bit. We really weren't too prepared for their personnel, but as we got in the game and got going up and down we figured out…we saw what they were trying to do, where they were trying to go, and it was just how our scouting report (said it would be). They were trying to go down low to the bigs, and that's what we had to do – hold down the paint."

GAYLEN WOOD: To me in the second half it almost looked like it turned into a scrimmage or a practice game. You guys were setting up and running what you wanted and doing what you wanted. Did you get that feeling?
KW: "We felt like we could have run any of our man sets or our zone sets against them and they weren't going to be able to stop it; so the coaches told us to be physical, set screens, and we'll be open all night."

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