In some ways, Idaho's 91-47 rout of Walla Walla University — an NAIA Division II school that lost its first 14 games of the season — seemed like a glorified scrimmage. But the Vandals were happy to be playing nonetheless. Especially after a week of grueling practices in which Don Verlin had one goal: “We've just got to get a little more nasty.”
A few quick notes before my game story: Verlin said Antwan Scott, who hasn't played this season after his mom fell ill, has been released from his scholarship and will return to Texas. Verlin said it's likely that if Scott chooses to play again, it will be closer to home so he can attend to his mom. … The Vandals play Boise State in a neutral-court game in Boise on Thursday. Verlin said BSU is comparable to 17th-ranked New Mexico, which beat UI by 15 earlier this year, except that the Broncos might not be as good inside.
By Josh Wright
MOSCOW, Idaho – Idaho has played so poorly coming out of halftime this season that Don Verlin decided to try something new Saturday night in a 91-47 whitewashing of Walla Walla University.
The Vandals coach told his starting lineup if they gave up one bucket – or even committed a shooting foul – to start the second half, he would bring in five fresh players to try to get a defensive stop.
And as became apparent against an outmanned NAIA Division II school, Verlin held his reserves to the same stringent standard.
After the first possession of the second half, with the Vandals well in control but not meeting Verlin's expectations, the UI starting lineup was benched. Moments later, the starters were brought back in after the second group did no better.
All told, Idaho (4-5) mass substituted four times in the first four minutes after halftime.
“(Walla Walla) scored about the first six possessions of the second half,” Verlin said, laughing, “so the plan didn’t really work, did it?
Actually, his message was sent, even if the results didn't show it at the moment.
The Wolves (2-16) shot a meager 26.2 percent from the field and didn't connect on a field goal the last five-plus minutes of the game, when UI had its second team – and walk-ons – on the court.
Kyle Barone (15 points) and Stephen Madison (14 points) once again paced the Vandals, who were happy to get back on the court after an intense week of practices and final exams.
Verlin's emphasis after a shaky start to the season has been on building toughness, particularly on the defensive end.
“We got to get a whole lot tougher, and we’ve got to get a whole let better defensively,” he said. “We’re giving up way too high a percentage from two and three.”
The Vandals' defensive shortcomings have been especially noticeable late in games in losses to Montana, UTEP, and Washington State. And they even irked Verlin in an overtime win at Eastern Washington.
“All week we've been talking about how to get better as a team,” said senior Mike McChristian, “and (Verlin) has been talking about being disciplined on defense and having some toughness about us. And I think we tried to bring that energy tonight on the defensive end.”
Defense will once again be the focus in preparing for Boise State on Thursday at CenturyLink Arena in Boise. The Broncos (7-2) scored 89 points in a win over LSU on Friday, and Verlin said this is the best BSU team “in a while.”