Vandal men fall to La Tech in WAC Tourney

Idaho (16-15, 9-7 WAC) capped off a phenominal turnaround this season - and its best record since the 1998-99 season - by earning the No. 3 seed going into the WAC Tournament, but couldn't hold off a hot shooting Louisiana Tech team tonight in the quarterfinals. With a sizzling 66.7% 3-point shooting barrage (including 7-of-10 in the first half), the Bulldogs defeated Idaho 70-62 in Reno.

Head Coach Don Verlin, point guard Mac Hopson, and center Marvin Jefferson, post game quotes

Coach V: "I think you've got to give La Tech all the credit tonight. I thought they did a great job with their game plan. They obviously out-rebounded us, but the thing I was most impressed about from La Tech tonight was how well they shot the basketball. They shot 54% from the field and 67% from 3 and 80% from the free throw line. They did an outstanding job of countering everything we had to do. The one thing I will tell you is this basketball team that we had at Idaho this year came a million miles. If you'd have told us at the start of this thing with 11 new players that we were going to get 16 wins and finish third in the WAC we would all have taken it. I'm just ecstatic about how this basketball team performed all year. They showed a lot of heart and a lot of courage, especially these two guys (Mac Hopson and Marvin Jefferson) sitting here next to me. How good a season they had is unbelievable. Like I told the team afterwards. They've got to feel really good about the things we've accomplished because we've set a nice foundation for years to come."

Q: Don, you closed to 37-35 on Mac's putback and they kinda went on a little surge there. What did you see that happened?

Coach V: "I thought we fouled ‘em a few times and they made their free throws. You've gotta give ‘em credit. I thought Kyle Gibson played a great game tonight. He's played very well against us every time he's played. I think he's averaged 23 points a game. He goes 4-for-6 tonight from 3, and then I thought Brandon Gibson was a key contributor for them off the bench tonight. Those 10 first half points really helped them get their momentum going early in the game. In the second half I thought (Magnum) Rolle came in after having some foul trouble, did a great job in the second half. When we'd get close he'd seem to come up with a big basket and a big rebound. Really I think you've got to give the credit to them. They made plays when they had to."

Q: Coach, you got ‘em in foul trouble. You got both big men from La Tech in foul trouble early. Why weren't you able to capitalize on that?

Coach V: "That's a good question. I thought they did a great job. They went small, they used their quickness. They drove around us at times coming out of our ball screen defense. We had to switch our ball screen defense tonight because they had gone small, and I thought they used their quickness. In a weird way maybe it was an advantage to them getting Magnum Rolle in foul trouble. They wouldn't probably tell you that, but for us it made them a little harder to guard."

Q: Olu (Ashaolu) came out and started the second half and he scored 8 points in the first 5 minutes. Talk about the impact he had getting them kick started in the second half.

Coach V: "It was huge. We came out and weren't able to get some stops. I think in the first 7 possessions they scored 5 times and he was a big part of it. He did a great job driving his ball to the basket, did a good job rebounding it, and that was a key stretch. I thought we needed to come out the first 5 or 6 minutes and get back in the game, and then we did a little bit later than that, but him coming out that first 5 minutes and scoring those 8 points was obviously a big help for them winning the game tonight."

Q: Marvin and Mac, you guys obviously were key in turning this thing around. Mac, I know you wanted to come here to try and get the program pointed in the right direction. Talk about what the foundation, like coach said, that you guys have laid this year. I know it's disappointing now, but so many positives, especially for the both of your coming back next year. How excited are you about the future of Vandal basketball.

MH: "I'm excited about next year. I don't really want to talk about next year right now, though, because we just lost, but I'm excited about next year. We've got a good coaching staff behind us or in front of us; however you want to put it. Coach V, I feel like he should have gotten coach of the year. They're good coaches. I love playing for them. I play my heart out for them every night. I can't wait until next year, though."

Q: Marvin?

MJ: "I think this year was really about us all coming together and fighting for the same cause. We accomplished something great this season even though it didn't end the way we wanted it to. We all came together. We did some things that not a lot of Idaho teams have done in a long time. I'm really proud of our coaching staff -- they did a great job -- and the entire team for how we turned this thing around and did it."

GAYLEN WOOD: Don, I know he's sitting right there, but can you talk about some of the progress that Marvin made this year from when he came in as a jaycee transfer?

Coach V: "Marvin's done a great job. Usually jaycee transfers, it takes ‘em a while to adjust to Division I, and it did Marv a little bit, but the one thing as you can see with both these guys here is they're hurting right now because of how much they care about winning and losing and how much they care about the passion of Idaho basketball. Marv and Mac both hung in there all year long. Marv, he'd be the first one to tell you that I've been on Marvin Jefferson harder than I've been on a lot of guys, but the one thing he did is he never gave up, and he kept plugging along. When we were able to keep him out of foul trouble, which we were on a big stretch when we won 6 out of 7 there to finish the regular season, that's one of the biggest reasons why. Marvin was out of foul trouble. His progress has been unbelievable, but they sky's the limit for Marvin Jefferson. He's got a lot of areas to improve in, and he will. That's what I'm so happy about. Both these guys will improve in each area that they need to improve in. Marv has done a great job and was a huge part of us playing a great bunch of basketball in the month of February."

Q: Marvin, you guys didn't seem to rebound as well as you'd want to in the first half. What was it in the first half that you guys weren't able to play too well on the boards?

MJ: "I can't really say what it was exactly. Really if you just look at it, the team that plays the hardest and hustles the most gets the boards, and I think that's really what happened. We got out-played and out-hustled."

Q: I know you guys probably don't want to talk about bright spots at this point, but talk about the free throw shooting, all three of you.

Coach V: "We shot it well when we were in Reno early in January, too, if I remember right. We've been working like crazy on it, and it was nice for it to pay off tonight. It dang sure kept us in the game late, and all these guys have been working hard on it; so it was nice to see us make some free throws tonight."

MH: "It was good to hit some free throws. This season I've kinda been struggling with my free throws, but I've been working hard at it, and all summer until next season I'm going to work hard at knocking down my free throws all next year."

MJ: "Free throws have been a spot where I've struggled a lot this year, and it felt good to actually get above 60 or 70% from the line during a game. It was a good way to end the season for shooting free throws for me. Hopefully I can keep working on it and doing better next year and keep that up."

Q: Coach, can you talk about the impact of (Luciano) de Souza's foul problems early in the second half?

Coach V: "That obviously hurt us with Luciano picking up his third late in the half, and that was probably a coaching error on my part. I should have had him out. The one thing that Luciano de Souza is able to do is stretch the defense for us and make some 3-point shots, and us having to go basically with Marvin and Brandon Wiley most of the second half it hurt us offensively tremendously. He (de Souza) is a guy who can really stretch the defense and open things up inside. Probably a little coaching error at the end of the first half and then him in foul trouble all night definitely hurt us in the second half tonight."

Q: Mac, can you talk a little bit. La Tech said they really focused their defense on you tonight. I think you only had four field goals. You were able to get to the free throw line. Tell us what they did to try to slow you down and take the shot away from you.

MH: "They played good defense, but I don't feel like they took anything away from me. I'm just trying to make plays and get my teammates involved and leading my team to victory, but they play good defense. I can't take anything away from them. They're a good team and they played hard tonight. I just missed a couple of shots. That's all it was. That's all it really was to me in my opinion, but … you all are looking from the outside."

Coach V: "I'll answer a little bit of that question too. You look at Mac Hopson's line tonight: 16 points, 8 assists, no turnovers. That's a pretty good .line; 8 for 9 from the free throw line. I thought they worked their tail off on him, but it's pretty hard to hold Mac Hopson down. All year long when we've needed a big play or a big half or someone to step up he's done that. Eight assists, no turnovers for a point guard against the way they were hawking him tonight is a pretty good effort."

Q: Mac, was there a problem with energy in starting the first half and the second half. In the first half you weren't quite shooting too well. In the second half they kinda went on that run. Was there any sort of a problem with that?

MH: "No, I don't think so. I thought in the second half they just made a run at the free throw line, I thought. We kept on fouling ‘em for whatever reason. The refs kept on calling fouls. I thought that's how they got it, because it was a 2-point game after I put a shot back. I remember that. They just kinda went on a run at the free throw line. That's what I thought."

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