It wasn't a pleasant return to Logan, Utah, for Idaho's Don Verlin or point guard Deremy Geiger. The Vandals were manhandled by No. 23 Utah State, which evened the season series with UI with a 84-68 conquest at Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. The Vandals moved to 16-12 and 8-7 in the WAC. They're still in line for at least the No. 4 seed in the conference tournament with a win over Fresno State on Thursday.
Read on for more.
Here's the full release from Idaho. The Fresno State game is the Vandals' WAC regular season finale. With Boise State about to finish off Nevada, the Vandals will be a half-game ahead of the Wolf Pack and one game behind BSU in the standings. ... Geiger, a former Utah State point guard, went just 1 of 7 from the field for six points. He was the catalyst in the Vandals' upset of USU in Moscow.
LOGAN, Utah – Idaho’s defense couldn’t slow a red-hot Utah State shooting performance and the Vandals fell to the Aggies on Saturday by a score of 84-68 in front of a capacity crowd on Senior Night at Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.
Idaho (16-12, 8-7 Western Athletic Conference) hit 41 percent of its total shots and 40 percent of its 3-pointers, but a second-half surge by USU (26-3, 13-1 WAC) proved the difference.
The Aggies hit 63.2 percent of their second-half attempts and made 18 trips to the free throw line in the second 20 minutes.
The Vandals made just 15 trips to the free throw line and converted 10, while the Aggies attempted 30 total free throws and converted 26. That was the main difference in the game, as USU made just one more field goal than Idaho and the Vandals made two more 3-pointers than the Aggies.
“We battled all game long, and you’ve got to give them (USU) the credit,” Idaho head coach Don Verlin said. “They’re a high-powered, strong, physical team and they play with a tremendous amount of confidence in this building.”
Senior guard Shawn Henderson led Idaho with 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting, along with four rebounds, while fellow senior Jeff Ledbetter put in 16 points on 5-of-11 shooting, with three assists, three rebounds and one steal.
“Shawn was energetic – he played extremely hard and shot the ball really well,” Verlin said. “I thought Jeff kept his composure with the crowd on him.”
Tai Wesley led USU with 22 points, 10 of which came on free throws, as well as seven rebounds, two assists and two blocks. Brockeith Pane added 18 points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals for the Aggies.
As a team, Idaho went 25-of-61 (.410) from the field and 8-of-20 (.400) from the 3-point line. The Aggies hit 26 of their 52 attempts for a 50 percent clip, and went 6-of-15 (.400) from 3-point range. Utah State out-rebounded Idaho, 37-31, but the Vandals held a 14-5 edge in second-chance points and a 32-28 advantage in the paint. Utah State also converted Idaho’s nine turnovers into 18 points.
The Aggies jumped out to a 17-7 lead to start the game as Idaho missed six of its first seven shots. When Wesley hit a jumper to put USU up 21-10 at the 8:34 mark, the Vandals responded by scoring the game’s next eight points to draw within three at 21-18, with 6:04 left in the period.
Utah State stretched its lead back out after closing the half with a 7-for-8 shooting performance. The Aggies closed out the first half on a 13-3 run over the final four minutes to go into the break with a 39-23 advantage.
The Aggies took advantage of five Idaho turnovers in the first half and turned those opportunities into 10 points.
Idaho will return home next week to close out the regular season at the Cowan Spectrum, where the Vandals will host Fresno State (13-15, 5-9 WAC) on Thursday, then Seattle University (10-17) on Saturday for Senior Night, where the team will honor its three seniors in their final home game.
“If we can continue to grind and get to nine wins in conference, that’s a heck of a year for us and I think that gets us into the top four (in the WAC standings),” Verlin said.
Both games will tip off at 7:05 p.m., and Saturday’s Senior Day ceremony will be during pregame.