Idaho played superbly in stretches in polishing off Eastern Washington 76-54 at Memorial Gym tonight. The Vandals were plagued yet again by turnovers (21 this time) but it didn’t matter with Steffan Johnson’s lights-out shooting.
Click below for my game story that will appear in tomorrow’s paper.
MOSCOW, Idaho – Early in the second half, Steffan Johnson unfurled yet another 3-pointer and barely glanced at the rim as he stepped back. He and everyone else at Memorial Gym seemed to know what was going to happen.
If nothing else, the look in his eyes was telling enough.
Johnson was locked in Saturday night, knocking down 6 of 7 shots from beyond the arc in the University of Idaho’s 76-54 lambasting of Eastern Washington.
The Pacific transfer’s outing in front of a sellout of 1,500 was the third-best 3-point shooting performance in UI history. But he was far from the only Vandal with a hot hand.
Idaho (4-1) sank its first seven 3-pointers – five coming from Johnson – to put the game away within the first five minutes after halftime.
“After the first media timeout of the second half, there was no doubt who was going to win the game,” EWU coach Kirk Earlywine said.
Idaho’s early-season penchant for producing a high volume of mistakes manifested itself once again, but it hardly mattered. The club’s 21 turnovers were masked by stifling defense and a 40-23 rebounding advantage.
The Eagles (2-4) were led by Glen Dean’s 14 points, but they shot just 36 percent from the field and committed 17 turnovers to fuel Idaho’s quick-strike attack.
“We’ve turned the ball over way too much,” Vandals coach Don Verlin said. “Our assist-to-turnover ratio is not good enough. But it’s a heck of a win tonight. There were portions of this game where we dominated them, I thought.”
UI is off to its best start since 1988-89 entering a prickly non-conference stretch in which the club is at Cal State Northridge, home to Portland and at Washington State. Those three opponents should test the Vandals’ newfound depth and interior strength.
Luiz Toledo (10 points, five rebounds) and Kyle Barone (seven boards) have brought a rugged presence to the interior to go along with center Marvin Jefferson, who had 10 points, three steals and three blocks.
“I believe they are significantly better than a year ago,” Earlywine said. “They all got a year in Don’s system and (when) you add Steffan Johnson, you add a guy was an all-conference player at the last school he was at.”
The Vandals’ offense looked especially fluid for the first 30 minutes. Thanks to Johnson’s sure stroke – he finished with 18 points – and crisp passing into the post, UI led by as many as 31 points.
The huge cushion came against an EWU club that lost by just six points to Portland and Washington State.
“Coach made sure we were prepared tonight when we came out.” UI guard Kashif Watson said. “We had a great shoot-around. Everyone was ready to play. We knew what kind of game it was; we lost to them last year so we had to come out and be the aggressor.”