Idaho triumphs over Boise State

Tonight, in front of the third largest crowd ever assembled at the Cowan Spectrum (over 4,700 fans) since its dedication in 2001, the Vandals ended an eight-year drought against the Broncos with a thrilling 63-59 victory. Idaho was paced by point guard MAC HOPSON's 20 points, eight assists, and three steals, as the team overcame struggles at the free throw line for the long-anticipated victory.

COMMENTARY: Less than a week ago the Vandals ended a 10-game losing streak against New Mexico by breaking open a tight ball with a lightening-quick run at the end of the game to pull out a 10-point victory. Thursday night was even sweeter. Visiting Boise State held a 20-26 lead with 3:44 left in the first half. Once again the Vandals unleashed the lighting scoring six nine unanswered points – five by Mac Hopson and two each from Brandon Wiley and Kashif Watson to send the Broncos to the locker room down by three.

With the heavily-partisan crowd of 4,731 -- third largest crowd in Cowan Spectrum history – putting up a deafening roar the Vandals continued to pull way eventually building a 12-point lead with 12:39 left in the game. The Broncos didn't fold, and boosted by poor Vandal free throw shooting the lead dwindled to 60-57 with 14.1 seconds left before Trevor Morris cashed in two critical free throws and Mac Hopson added a third eight second later to seal the victory.

As the final horn sounded the fans courtside – mostly U of I students – stormed the court and a huge mass of people enveloped the Vandals as the fight song played, confetti and streamers rained down, and the University of Idaho celebrated the completion of a "monkey off the back" trifecta – victory over a team they had not beaten since a 70-67 win February 17, 2001 at the dedication of the Cowan Spectrum configuration for the Kibbie Dome. The team that started the trend will be coming in this Saturday – the Nevada Wolf Pack - which lost to Idaho for the first time in WAC action four weeks ago.

Mac Hopson 20 points, 8 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 steals. Brandon Wiley 12 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal. Kashif Watson 10 points, 10 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists, 1 blocked shot. Terrence Simmons 7 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist. Marvin Jefferson 7 points, 5 rebounds, 1 blocked shot. Trevor Morris 5 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal. Luis Augusto 2 points, 1 rebound. Luciano de Souza: 4 rebounds, 1 steal.


• FIELD GOALS: Idaho 25 of 51 for 47.1%; BSU 21 of 57 for 36.8%
• THREE-POINT FIELD GOALS: Idaho 4 of 13 for 30.8%, BSU 7 of 24 for 29.2%
• FREE THROWS: Idaho 4 of 13 for 44%; BSU 10 of 16 for 62.5%.
• REBOUNDS: Idaho 6 offensive, 26 defensive for 32 total; BSU 13 offensive, 30 defensive for 43 total
• ASSISTS: Idaho 14, BSU 11
• TURNOVERS: Idaho 6, BSU 13
• STEALS: Idaho 9, BSU 3
• BENCH POINTS: Idaho 7, BSU 8
• SCORE TIED : Twice
The Vandals will return to the Cowan Spectrum Saturday to face Nevada at 7:05 p.m.

Head Coach Don Verlin, post-game comments

Q: Well coach, you're 1-0 against the Broncos. You can run for mayor in this town, do whatever you want. What's that feel like?
DV: (laughing) "Well, I don't know about that. It was good to get a win tonight, obviously. I thought our guys played extremely hard. We did a great job defensively…our team defense was unbelievable tonight to hold them to 36% and keep the score down to where it was, at 59 points. Obviously when you hold Boise to 59 points the way they play and the way they transition, you're probably gonna have a good result, and I thought that was the key to the game, our defensive intensity and our defensive effort tonight."

Q: What did you think about the crowd, coach?
DV: "Unbelievable. You know, I never thought early in the season when we were kinda building this thing, getting things going, we'd see a crowd like this…It was awesome in the Spectrum tonight. I really appreciate the Vandal students coming out, the Vandal nation. We had our ‘Readers as Leaders' program. A lot of those kids were here tonight; so it was a great night in the community of Moscow tonight, and just excited to be here."

Q: Talk about the stretch at the end of the first half and the start of the second. That's kinda when you built your lead and then were able to hang on. What did you see happening in that stretch?
DV: "It was kinda interesting. Coach (Ray) Lopes made a great suggestion, and we kinda went to our zone a little bit. In the first 10 minutes or so of the game we were strictly man-to-man and they were kinda getting what they wanted. We switched to a little of our two zone and Boise missed some open shots to be honest with you. In the second half we came out and we were man-to-man about the first six or seven minutes and then went to our zone again, and I thought that really threw off the rhythm tonight. Normally they shoot 37, 38% from three. Normally that's not a real smart play, but it was one of those things that worked tonight and we stayed with it. Our game plan wasn't to play a lot of zone tonight, and it just kinda worked and we kinda went with it. We were very fortunate they missed some shots. I thought our guys did a great job of getting to their shooters, though, in that zone and really extending out and I thought our length on the perimeter really disturbed some of their shots from three. Obviously that was a huge part of the game, the end of the first half and the start of the second half was obviously very, very important for us winning the game."

Q: Late in the game Boise State was coming back and it looked like you called a time out to try and calm your kids down.
DV: "It was kinda interesting. I was worried about this, I told the coaches before the game. We haven't played in front of a crowd at home this big. I thought we had a lot of nervous energy. I looked out there a lot tonight and we were exhausted…We've played the same guys 35 minutes all year long and haven't showed that much fatigue; so that was some of it. I called to slow the game down, and I thought they were so hyped up that they burned up a lot of energy early in the game. That was really about it, and I just wanted to kinda get the guys back to thinking…It was really loud in the Spectrum tonight. It was hard for ‘em to hear. We grew a lot as a basketball team tonight. We really did, because we haven't played in that magnitude of a game yet this year, and I thought us finding a way to win was awesome for us."

Q: Free throws, coach?
DV: "They were horrible. I mean, you shoot 11 for 25 and win…that's just one of those things. Basketball's an interesting game. We probably shoot as many free throws as anybody in the country. We at least make 200 a week and we probably shot 300 this week. I don't know. It's just one of those things. Brandon Wiley's a 50% free throw shooter and goes 2-for-7. Mac (Hopson) is a very, very good free throw shooter and goes 3-for-6. Maybe a little nervous. I'm not sure what, but like I told our guys that's something that we've gotta get better at, and hopefully the next time we get in a situation like this, probably Saturday night in a big game, we can make those free throws."

GAYLEN WOOD: Can you talk a little bit about Trevor Morris's contributions tonight?
DV: "I thought Trevor played one of his best defensive games of the year. He did a great job of getting in there. The one thing I've been on Trevor all year long about is defensive rebounding. I thought he did a great job defensively, and then he's a very, very good free throw shooter, and late in the game we were able to get him the ball and get him fouled and he knocked down some free throws. I thought Trevor played very solid tonight. He's a good shooter, and he's just been really struggling with his shot. I thought we got him some great looks and he just missed ‘em, but I thought they were all on line, I thought he executed his fundamentals; so he'll make those shots. He's due to break out, and hopefully it's gonna happen sooner than later."

Q: You lost the rebound battle, you won the turnover battle. How did that sorta balance out?
DV: "One of our game keys was to win the rebounding battle. One of the things I'll tell you is they missed more shots than we did, and they ended up getting some more offensive rebounds, but another one of our keys was to win the turnover margin, and we did that tonight. I thought Mac Hopson was the key to the game as far as his pressure on Anthony Thomas from start to finish tonight. He really gave Anthony, I thought, a lot of problems, and he turned it over five times. I thought that was a huge stat in the game. Mac's a warrior. If you've seen him play all year like we have, you'd say it wasn't one of his best games tonight, but defensively and just from a toughness standpoint I thought it WAS his best game; so I was real happy with the way Mac Hopson played tonight. Obviously that was one of the keys to the game."

Q: Talk about being the first Vandal coach since 2001 win to get a win in the rivalry with BSU.
DV: "A lot of people have talked about this rivalry, but it's all new to me. It feels great. Really good, but you know like I told our guys all week I know BSU, I know how big it is. Everybody has told us all week, but it was another game for us, and we've got another game on Saturday, but it's huge. It's huge for not me personally but more for our players. I think the hardest thing on the players…people talk and come up to you, ‘Are you gonna beat Boise State this year,' or '14 in a row.' All this stuff; so it's really important for our players to feel good about it. That's what I told ‘em in the locker room after the game. ‘Feel good about the win. You earned it. Now let's take the next step and go beat Nevada on Saturday.'"

Q: Do you feel a little bit more like you might understand this rivalry more than you did?
DV: "Yeah. I think the more you get into it and over time…I think rivalries are built over time. At Utah State we had BYU and Utah and those were fierce rivalries, and I think as I've gotten to know more people here and we've gotten ourselves acclimated, and obviously the crowd tonight, yeah. I can see there's a lot of animosity, a lot of hatred between the two schools. Yeah, I'm starting to understand it a little bit more for sure. I think our guys are, too, by the way the fans came out tonight. That was awesome tonight. Unbelievable how good they were."

Q: Do you worry at all about a little bit of letdown before you take on Nevada again?
DV: "No. Not at all. Our guys are maturing in that area. Like I told ‘em in the locker room afterwards, this is a game coming, a team that's coming in ahead of us in the standings. They're gonna be mad. They lost a game at Utah State tonight - sounded like a pretty good ball game - and we upset them the first game of the conference season. If you aren't ready to play, there's something wrong, because we're gonna get a mad Nevada team on Saturday night who needs, and will – I know their coach – will try to prove something to us on Saturday night. We need to be up for the challenge; so I think we'll be ready. If they aren't ready it's my fault. They will be ready. Guaranteed."

Q: Speaking of guarantees…Boise State players said that they guarantee they'll never lose to you guys again, citing that you guys had guaranteed a win today. Your thoughts on all that.
DV: "Uh, I don't know. Did we guarantee a win today? I don't know about that. It's good that there's some of that going on, because obviously that builds the rivalry. One thing I'll tell you is I've known (BSU coach) Greg Graham for a long time, and he does a great job at Boise. What he's done there with their program, and to lose four seniors and to be as good as they are, it's unbelievable. You've gotta give credit to coach Graham. He's keeping them at a high level. They're one of the best teams in the conference as shown by the record. You've gotta give credit to the Boise program. They've got a nice program there and a very good basketball coach in coach Graham."

BSU Head Coach Greg Graham, post-game quotes

GAYLEN WOOD: From the perspective of somebody who's been in the WAC as long as you have, how good is it when Idaho starts coming up like this and starts to catch up the rest of the group?
GG: "I think it's good for the league for everybody to move up, because if you can win then you've got a better chance. I mean four years ago, I think, we have five teams in the post season in the conference. We had two NCAA teams and three of us went to NIT. I think as the league gets better and we get more wins the strength of the RPI and the schedule everybody goes up; so we get more chances at more post season games. I think next year it's really going to go up because unfortunately we lose the most again. We'll lose 2-1/2 of our starters and everybody else is losing one or none; so the league is really dominated by underclassmen. The league is really on the increase with everybody. Last year at this point we might have had some team with the same league records but we had teams with 4 and 5 overall wins, and everybody else now is right around ,500, 8 and 9 or 8 and 10 is the worst record in the conference, and it hasn't been like that for a while. You want to make sure you get your wins, but it's good when everybody's got to play every night now."

Q: Coach, a couple of your guys said that they guarantee they're not going to lose to Idaho the rest of their career.
GG: "I hope those are the freshmen (laughs)."

Q: Your thought?
GG: Those are just…I mean we heard that they were guaranteeing wins up here from their kids and I think that's kids getting themselves psyched up to play and ready to go. That's what college basketball is all about, people getting fired up. It was a good atmosphere tonight, best in the seven years I've been here. We need to move the benches back (to the north sideline) because we won on the other side, not on this side, but I thought it was a good atmosphere, and it was a good college game. We just came out on the wrong end of it."

Q: Did the guarantee make it into print?
GG: "I don't know. I mean, it's just kids talking, playing, and getting after each other. We have two guys that played with each other in college with Kashif (Watson) and La'Shard (Anderson). Since I've been here it's been a good rivalry. Obviously and fortunately we've been on the upper end since I've been here, but the games have been close. We've had overtime games. It's always been a battle, and it'll probably continue that way."

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