Idaho continued to impress in the early stages of the WAC season, bolting past Hawaii 67-47 at the Kibbie Dome on Thursday night. There were only 652 folks on hand, but I get the feeling more people will start showing up to the Dome.
Keep reading for my recap of the game.
By JOSH WRIGHT
MOSCOW, Idaho – Now here’s something for downtrodden Vandal fans to chew on. An afterthought since entering the WAC four years ago, the Idaho men’s basketball team is showing signs of a renaissance.
And it’s doing so with some pizzazz.
The Vandals on Thursday night posted their most convincing win as a WAC member, smacking Hawaii 67-47 in front of a quiet crowd of 652 at the Kibbie Dome.
Once again the backcourt duo of Mac Hopson and Kashif Watson played superbly for Idaho (8-8, 2-1), combining for 33 points and nine assists. The juniors fueled a pivotal 12-0 flurry midway through the second half with several splashy plays in transition.
The fanciest came with with nine minutes left, when Hopson – a transfer from Washington State – fed Brandon Wiley on a fast break by lofting an alley-oop over two Hawaii defenders. Wiley finished with a layin and the Rainbow Warriors never threatened again.
“Give Idaho credit,” Hawaii coach Bob Nash said. “They played their basketball. They played controlled tempo. And they’re a much-improved basketball program. Don (Verlin’s) got them playing well together.”
Playing just their second game off the island of Oahu, the Warriors dropped 9-6 and 1-2 in the conference.
Meanwhile, Idaho matched its win total from a year ago by setting the tone with energetic defense and rebounding. It held Hawaii to 29.8-percent shooting from the field and outboarded the Warriors 37-26.
“The key to the game was getting some defensive stops and getting some rebounds,” said Verlin, in his first year at UI. “They’re a very good rebounding team … and we were able to get some stops and get our transition game going.”
Hitting the glass had been a sore spot for Idaho, which was ranked eighth in rebounding margin in the WAC heading into the game. It helped Thursday that Hawaii showed the lingering effects of a 16-hour trip to get to Moscow.
“I thought our energy level was down,” said Nash, whose team was held to its lowest point total of the season.
Idaho fought through some ragged play of its own. The Vandals never seemed to find a groove in the first half with Hopson saddled with three fouls. They committed 10 turnovers and shot just 2 of 7 from the 3-point line, yet somehow led 30-24 at the break.
“It was pretty physical,” Watson said. “Coach told us before we came out, ‘They’re 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.”
Thanks largely to Watson’s defense, Hawaii standout Roderick Flemings was never a major factor. He finished with 16 points, but disappeared as Idaho pulled away.
Watson tied a season high with 19 points on 6 of 9 shooting from the floor. He completed a key three-point play during the Vandals’ defining run and also moved over to point guard with Hopson on the bench.
The Vandals made the push despite Marvin Jefferson’s technical foul with 13:22 remaining that gave Hawaii four free throws. Jefferson flailed his arms in protest of his fourth foul and his ensuing T amounted to his fifth and disqualifying infraction.