Suddenly the Idaho Vandals are playing quality basketball. They bagged their third straight win — and fourth in five games — tonight by steamrolling Cal State Bakersfield 72-44 at Cowan Spectrum. The only loss during that stretch: a two-point setback to Washington State in the final seconds.
Catch an early look at my story below.
First, a couple of notes: Idaho forward Wendell Faines was held out due to a violation of team rules. It was only a one-game suspension — he'll be back for UI's game with Wright State on Tuesday in Dayton, Ohio. … I led my story with the solid overall play of sophomore Stephen Madion. Yet another second-year player, redshirt frosh Matt Borton, continues to play well too. He was 3-for-3 for eight points tonight and hasn't missed a shot in his last two games.
By Josh Wright
MOSCOW, Idaho – It was clear from the earliest moments Saturday night: something was amiss with Stephen Madison’s usually reliable 3-point stroke.
That might have been an issue last season. But not so far this year.
Madison, like he has through the first month of the season, showcased a more well-rounded approach in the Idaho’s 72-44 trouncing of Cal State Bakersfield at Cowan Spectrum in nonconference men’s basketball action.
The sophomore from Portland tallied nine points, seven rebounds and five assists with no turnovers – all while wearing a face mask for the first time after breaking his nose three weeks ago. His contributions came despite an 0-for-4 effort from the 3-point line.
“My shot, it just wasn’t there,” Madison said. “You have those nights. My coaches told me to keep attacking and find my players and do other things.”
With Madison’s savvy around the basket and Kyle Barone’s assertiveness, the Vandals (7-4) overpowered the Roadrunners in the second half in front of a winter-break crowd of 815.
Idaho uncorked a 23-3 run in the first 81/2 minutes of the second half, a back-breaking flurry capped by two Connor Hill 3-pointers. After leading by just five at halftime, the Vandals suddenly found themselves up by 24.
“I thought that first 8, first 10 minutes of (the) second half we played very well,” UI coach Don Verlin said. “I thought we did a very, very good job of contesting shots. And they were only getting one shot in the second half.”
Idaho held Bakersfiled (5-5) to 27-percent shooting and 18 points in the second half, a season-low for a Vandals’ opponent. The Roadrunners missed 10 straight shots from the floor as Idaho opened up the game, and they weren’t feasting on second and third opportunities like they had early on.
Instead Idaho capitalized on CSUB’s aggressive offensive rebounding tactics by getting out in transition and wearing out an opponent playing its second road game in three nights.
“At the start of the second half, they were outrebounding us offensively,” said Barone, who finished with a game-high 13 points and nine rebounds. “So my goal out there in the second half was just get every board that I could. And I got a few.”
The Vandals felt they should have been in a comfier position at the break. Still, Verlin liked how his team didn’t let the frustration linger.
“I thought it should have been a 10-point game, but it was wasn’t,” Verlin said. “And the thing I’ll tell you is our kids came out and played like it wasn’t. They came out and battled.”
The fourth-year coach would nonetheless appreciate crisper shooting from the free throw line. The Vandals came in as the fifth-best 3-point shooting team in the nation and they shot 57 percent from the field Saturday – but only 56 percent (10 of 18) from the stripe.
“Something that’s baffling me right now: we are a really good shooting team and we can’t make a free throw,” he said. “I think that will change.”