The announced attendance in the Cowan Spectrum Saturday night to watch Idaho beat visiting New Mexico State 67-57 in a thrilling WAC matchup was 2,129, unofficially the largest crowd to watch a Vandal men's basketball game since 2,716 came out January 28, 2006 to see the Vandals lose to BSU 82-68. It looked like all but about 200 or so were in the courtside bleachers. Did the crowd have an effect on the game? Vandal coach Don Verlin was asked to comment on the crowd after the Vandal victory.
"Unbelievable, he said. "You know, if we can get a good crowd every night I think you'll really see this team come alive. I thought the crowd helped us win tonight. I thought we went on a stretch there where they went up three (51-48 with 8:33 left in the game) and we were kinda dead on our feet, then we made a play and all of a sudden we got our momentum back…We were on a 13-6 run to finish the game, and I thought that was attributed to the crowd tonight. No question. It was great."
Brandon Wiley said, "The crowd definitely gave us energy. We feed off the crowd; so the crowd was definitely in our favor. We liked it a lot. Hope they come back!"
Wiley put an exclamation point on the game with 20 seconds left when he stripped Aggie guard Hernst Laroche of the ball, drove the length of the floor and slammed home a thunderous dunk to make the score 65-57, sending the crowd into an excited frenzy. Vandal point guard Mac Hopson was asked if it was a fun way to end what had been a tight game. "Oh, it is," said Hopson. "I know the crowd liked it. That's all that mattered, you know? The crowd loved it. It was loud after that. He and Marv (Jefferson), they got some good dunks so I know the crowd loved that."
COMMENTARY: New Mexico State stayed in the game by shooting 44% from three-point range; otherwise Idaho dominated scoring in the pain 34-14 and points off turnovers 19-6.
One "statistic" that didn't show up in the final printout was one blown shoe for Luis "Chevy" Augusto. Playing his first game in almost a month because of injury, the smiling 6-8 senior got the ball in the low post on the block and set his right foot as his pivot foot. He then tried to maneuver against pressure, stepping out with his left foot when his sneaker disintegrated with the sole coming off. Augusto tried to continue his move to the basket but was whistled for a traveling violation, then left the game to secure a replacement shoe.
After the game teammate Brandon Wiley was asked about the unusual sequence of events. "He made a power move, I guess," Wiley said. "A little too powerful, and the sole just ripped out and his sock was just hanging out and he still tried to score. I have no idea (what happened). I looked down and his foot was hanging out of his shoe. They need to talk to Nike about that one."
VANDAL INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS:
Mac Hopson 23 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals. Brandon Wiley 16 points, 7 rebounds, 4 blocked shots, 2 steals. Kashif Watson 11 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals. Marvin Jefferson 10 points, 4 rebounds, 2 blocked shots. Luciano de Souza 3 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist. Trevor Morris 2 points, 1 assist, 1 blocked shot. Terrence Simmons 2 points, 1 assist. Luis Augusto 2 rebounds.
• FIELD GOALS: Idaho 25 of 61 for 41%; NMSU 20 of 53 fir 37.7%The Vandals will return to the Cowan Spectrum Thursday to face Boise State at 7:05 p.m. and will host Nevada next Saturday night.
• THREE-POINT FIELD GOALS: Idaho 4 of 19 for 21.1%, NMSU 7 of 16 for 43.8%
• FREE THROWS: Idaho 13 of 22 for 59.1%; NMSU 10 of 14 for 71.4%
• REBOUNDS: Idaho 10 offensive, 25 defensive for 35 total; NMSU 8 offensive, 26 defensive for 34 total
• ASSISTS: Idaho 10, NMSU 10
• TURNOVERS: Idaho 6, NMSU 13
• BLOCKED SHOTS: Idaho 7, NMSU 3
• STEALS: Idaho 9, NMSU 3
• POINTS IN THE PAINT: Idaho 34, NMSU 14
• POINTS OFF TURNOVERS: Idaho 19, NMSU 6
• SECOND CHANCE POINTS: Idaho9, NMSU 8
• FAST BREAK POINTS: Idaho 10, NMSU 4
• BENCH POINTS: Idaho 5, NMSU 20
• SCORE TIED : Five times
• LEAD CHANGES: Nine
• ATTENDANCE: 2,129
Head Coach Don Verlin, post-game quotes
DV: "I thought we played as good a defensive game as we've played all year. I coach (Ray) Lopes did an outstanding job getting our guys ready to play, and I thought our pressure wore them down. In the last two or minutes we finally wore ‘em down. We got ‘em to miss some shots, we got ‘em to turn it over, and got a couple of baskets at the end to stretch the lead. I was a lot closer than a 10-point game, I tell you that!"
Q: What was going through your head there about midway through when all of a sudden you guys aren't hitting and they pull ahead a little bit?
DV: "I though, ‘This is going to be a shame if we lose this game because we had played so hard.' I thought it was the hardest we'd played all year, and I thought it was as good as we'd rebounded all year against a good rebounding team. He had done a great job of taking away their inside guys who had killed us the game before. That was what was going through my mind (chuckles)."
Q: How big was it to have Marvin (Jefferson) back finally.
DV: "Oh, it's huge. And Chevy (Luis Augusto). I mean, even though Chevy didn't play much he got in there and mixed it up a little bit. Any time you have size around the basket…we really, I thought, changed a lot of shots around the basket tonight. I don't know… how many blocks did we have? We had seven, and that's huge. Brandon Wiley had four and Marvin had a couple; so any time you change shots around the basket it helps you, and I thought it was huge to have both those guys back tonight."
Q: I knew that Mac (Hopson) was having a good game, but we looked down at one point and he had 19 points then he had 23. It was the quietest 23 points I think I've ever seen.
DV: "I thought he played very well tonight. You know what I really was impressed was how well he pressured (Hernst) Laroche up the court. I thought Laroche wore down late. He (gave up) the steal late. I thought Mac did a great job of just coming at him, keep coming at him, and I thought Mac didn't force it . Like you said it was a quiet 23 but I thought he took his shots when he was open. I thought he did a great job tonight."
Q: Obviously when you guys got the lead there you were still going hard in transition. Does part of the coach want to say, "Hey, pull it back and milk the clock a little bit?" DV: "You know, we want to move it up and down the best we can, and I kinda let the guys go on their own there. They work so hard defensively, if you can get some turnovers let's go down and get an easy one. We probably didn't execute as well on the break as we needed to, but that's the kinda stuff we need to get so we can get a big spurt, and our big spurt came about the last 45 seconds of the game tonight (chuckling)."
GAYLEN WOOD: Were you surprised to see New Mexico go to man-to-man after they had so much success with the zone?
DV: "No, not late. Are you talking late?"
DV: "No, because I figured Marvin (Menzies, NMSU coach) would do that because we were gonna run the clock down to the end, and we were up three, and he was probably playing the possession game. He probably figured he had to get out and pressure us, and I thought it was actually a good move because we hadn't made many free throws, and so I figured it he fouled us and we're shooting 58% or whatever at that time going down the stretch, it's a chance that he gets the ball back and gets some more opportunities; so actually I kinda expected him to go man late."
GAYLEN WOOD: Can you talk about the crowd and the influence on the game?
DV: "Unbelievable. You know, if we can get a good crowd every night I think you'll really see this team come alive. I thought the crowd helped us win tonight. I thought we went on a stretch there where they went up three and we were kinda dead on our feet, then we made a play and all of a sudden we got our momentum back, and what did we outscore them? Does anybody know? We were on a (13-6) run to finish the game, and I thought that was attributed to the crowd tonight. No question. It was great."
TO ALL LOCAL VANDAL FANS: "Oh, one thing. We've got the ‘Readers and Leaders.' We're all out in the schools on Monday taking the whole team out. We're at every elementary school doing our ‘Readers as Leaders' program. It's a good deal, and there's an assembly at McDonald (Elementary) at 2:30 which the whole team will be at and myself."
Point Guard Mac Hopson, post-game quotes
Q: When you guys were missing from the outside, were you thinking, here we go again against New Mexico State?
MH: "Not really. I knew sooner or later we were gonna knock down some shots; so it was just a matter of time. Coach has good sets; so if we just run them you know we're going to get open shots. It's just a matter of us knocking them down."
Q: Defensively it looked like the best you guys have played all year. Do you feel one of the best games for you?
MH: "Coach was stressing defense before the game. We knew all their plays. We knew everything they did. We just had to take it away; so that's what we did and played great defense, at least down the stretch when it counted; so it's all that mattered."
Q: Mac, was the general idea to wear them down eventually?
MH: "Yeah. Coach kept on saying ‘They're tired. They're tired,' because they just came back from (Boise State). I think they lost by a couple of points (87-84), but coach was saying that they were tired; so go after ‘em. We've been off for a whole week. He gave us time off the whole week; so it was just like keep on going at ‘em because they were tired."
Q: That last minute or so, that last minute all of a sudden you guys kinda busted out with some big plays. Can you set up how those happened?
MH: "I don't really know. We were just playing out there. You run the sets out there and go on from there. That's about it. We just want to be aggressive, make plays. I mean, I think that's my job to create for other people. If my shot is there I'm gonna take it, but in my mind I'm just thinking like getting my teammates involved."
Q: It was kind of an exclamation point I thought at the end when you guys were able to break away and I think it was Brandon (Wiley) who had that nice dunk at the end there.
MH: "Yeah, yeah, yeah."
Q: What a fun way to end the game.
MH: "Oh, it is. I know the crowd liked it. That's all that mattered, you know? The crowd loved it. It was loud after that. He and Marv (Jefferson), they got some good dunks so I know the crowd loved that."
Q: You had some pretty good moves with the ball on a couple of the breaks. Talk a little bit about that.
MH: "It's kinda just what I do. I mean not to sound full of myself or anything, you know what I mean? It's just going out there having fun. The coaches tell me ‘Go out there and have fun.' My mom and my dad tell me, ‘Go out there and have fun.' I mean, that's just what I'm doing. Anything I could do to help my team win, anything I could do to help THEM win. I'm just a team player just trying to give all I've got."
Q: Were you surprised at all when you made that reverse layup and got fouled on it?
MH: "Nah. Terrence (Simmons) said, ‘That's you, Mac. That's you,' because I make ‘em in practice and pickup games. They guys know I've been making that shot; so it's kinda like, ‘You fouled me. I gotta make. This is my shot.' So after he fouled me that's what I was thinking so much of. It was cool."
GAYLEN WOOD: We're about halfway through the (WAC) season, and you guys are starting to pull things out and pull things together. You're 7-1 at home. Can you kinda summarize what your team feels right now, your attitude especially after this game, how you guys are looking at things?
MH: "We're feeling good. We're just taking one step at a time, pretty much. I mean, we go out there, we go out each game just playing defense, because offense is gonna come. That's what coach tells us. Offense is gonna come. We just go out there every game and try to play defense. If we don't play good defense we're gonna lose. I mean, that's just what it comes down to. That's the kind of team we are. We've gotta take that. That's the kind of team we are. If we come in and play defense like we did tonight we're gonna win the majority of our games."
Shooting Guard Brandon Wiley, post-game quotes
Q: Tell us a little bit about the difference between what happened tonight from the time you played them before?
BW: "I think we were a little bit more focused defensively. We practiced more defense this week. Coach really keyed in on it and I think we executed our game plan."
Q: Once of the things he talked about was rebounding, and you guys out-rebounded them and you had the bulk of those.
BW: "Oh, yeah. Rebounding was definitely one of our main points, main keys to try to win this game. He actually had a big star on it on the board; so we had to do that."
Q: Do you see your roll as bringing energy? You're kind of an under-sized guy down low, but bringing energy, do you think you kinda offset that a little?
BW: "Definitely an energy guy. I do whatever coach needs. Whatever he asks of me I try to do. Make sure the teams gets energy."
Q: How tough was it for you to be one of those undersized posts in there and counted on to get rebounds?
BW: "It was a little difficult in the beginning of the year, but I've gotten used to it, using my quickness. Obviously I'm a little smaller than everybody else (chuckles), but, yeah. The quickness factor definitely comes in there; so I try to use that to my advantage."
GAYLEN WOOD: Can you talk about the last minute of the game? You're up by two and then all of a sudden you guys blow it open. Can you just kinda recap what you guys did?
BW: "Basically we clamped down, clamped down on defense, helped rotation making sure we helped on the ball, rebounding especially and blocked out."
Q: Did you guys just spike the ball away from that guy (Hernst Laroche)?
BW: "Yeah. I thought he was holding it a little harder. I just swiped at it. He let it go so I ran the other way with it."
Q: Did you expect a whistle?
BW: "I thought, but everybody stood there and the ref just looked at me; so I just kept going. I mean, they stood there."
Q: Did it help having Marvin (Jefferson) back tonight?
BW: "Oh yeah. It definitely helped a lot, definitely his size. His presence in the middle brings a lot of pinching on him so I'm free to do what I want on the other side; so that definitely helps."
Q: What happened to Chevy (Luis Augusto's) shoe?
BW: (laughing) "He made a power move, I guess. A little too powerful, and the sole just ripped out and his sock was just hanging out and he still tried to score. I have no idea. I looked down and his foot was hanging out of his shoe. They need to talk to Nike about that one."
Q: Last thing: How did you like the crowd tonight?
BW: "Oh, definitely. The crowd definitely gave us energy. We feed off the crowd; so the crowd was definitely in our favor. We liked it a lot. Hope they come back!"