The Vandals couldn't have asked for a more promising start Friday at Utah State. The last 25 minutes of game action, though, couldn't have been worse.
Idaho's 15-point lead melted quickly on Senior Night in Logan, and the Vandals were manhandled in the second half of a 67-50 loss.
Our recap for the paper is below.
Before we get to our story, UI coach Don Verlin had some interesting (and slightly funny) things to say after this one. Kyle Barone had a miserable night for Idaho. He was 2 of 9 from the field and had at least three shots blocked. But Verlin said the officials let USU get away with physical play. "I thought Kyle made some really strong moves to the basket tonight," Verlin said. "I didn’t think officials rewarded him with the strong moves he made. And that’s all I am going to say about that. I’m going to Forrest Gump it. That’s all I’m going to say about that."
Verlin was also critical of his own team for its defensive letdown in the second half. The Aggies, particularly Spencer Medlin, got one open look after another. "I thought they did a good job getting Medlin the ball. … We made a few mistakes in our defensive coverages and boom, they get ahead. They get the momentum and with this crowd, we couldn’t get them slowed down."
Verlin added, "We did a really poor job in about three or four instances. We ran over the top of a few screens we shouldn’t have. We messed up a couple ballscreens. Our (defensive) execution just wasn’t what it needed to be."
LOGAN, Utah – The Idaho men’s basketball team has shown a knack the last few weeks for mustering big rallies and closing out games.
Friday night, Utah State was the one that mounted a comeback against the Vandals. And boy, what a comeback it was.
The Aggies stormed back from 15 points down to blast Idaho 67-50 in a key WAC contest for the Vandals at Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.
Idaho (16-12, 7-5) looked helpless in the second half, as Utah State shot 75 percent from the field and Preston Medlin poured in 27 of his game-high 32 points.
The Vandals had won five straight after stumbling at Fresno State on Feb. 2. Now coach Don Verlin hopes they can bounce back in similar fashion.
The third-place Vandals dropped 1.5 games behind New Mexico State for second in the WAC with a trip next week to Hawaii and San Jose State to finish the regular season. UI is just a half-game ahead of the Warriors in the standings and it lost to UH in Moscow.
“What I challenged (the players) to do was let’s make we sure get that one half out of the way and let’s play the next five games like we played the last five games,” Verlin said. “And let’s make sure we don’t let one half of basketball take away from the things that we’ve done.”
After Idaho steamed to a 29-14 lead with 4:19 left in the first half, USU (15-14, 6-6) scored the final eight points of the first half and the first six points of the second half.
UI guard Deremy Geiger hit a 3-point at the top of the key to silence the crowd of 10,178 for a brief moment. But the Aggies then unleashed a 29-9 spurt over the next 10-plus minutes to put the game away.
“They made some good adjustments at halftime, and they come out and just really physically dominated us in every aspect of the game.” Verlin said. “And we just didn’t get the defensive stops that we needed to stay in this basketball game.”
Utah State held Kyle Barone, the Vandals’ leading scorer and winner of the last two WAC player of the week awards, to six points on 2-of-9 shooting. Geiger led UI with 13 points in his return to Logan, where he started his career before transferring to Idaho.
Medlin in the second half was 9 of 9 from the field with five 3s and five rebounds.