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THURSDAY, JAN. 12, 2012, 7:05 A.M.

Can Idaho win at La. Tech or NMSU?

Winless in 12 games. That's what the Vandals are since joining the WAC in their 3,500 mile road swing to Louisiana Tech -- where they play today -- and New Mexico State. Can they breakthrough finally?

I have much more on that below.


Why does UI coach Don Verlin call this the toughest trip of the WAC season for Idaho? The travel has a lot to do with it. Idaho, because school had yet to start, was able to leave Tuesday afternoon for its game tonight at Ruston, La. Normally, if school is in session, schools can't leave more than 48 hours prior to a game unless they're traveling to Hawaii.

"It’s just a tough trip," Verlin said while also stressing "the No. 1 thing in our locker room is no excuses."

La. Tech, in transition under first-year coach Michael White, has been much better at the Thomas Assembly Center (6-1) than on the road. Its lone home loss came last week to NMSU, 83-73.

We've got more this matchup in our lookahead in this morning's paper (also see below) and a bit on Idaho PF Kyle Barone in this notebook (to sum up Verlin on Barone's struggles, "I’m not concerned about Kyle Barone. He’s our second-team all-league guy from last year. You know, when he starts playing a little bit better — and he hasn’t played awful — I think you’ll see our team really improve).



RECORD: 8-8 overall, 1-1 WAC

COMING UP: Today at Louisiana Tech, 4 p.m.; Saturday at New Mexico St., 6.

OUTLOOK: No wonder Vandals coach Don Verlin calls this the toughest trip Idaho faces every year. UI is 0-12 since joining the WAC in its annual 3,500-mile road swing to Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State. That includes a 15-point loss at Louisiana Tech last season after walloping the Bulldogs 77-47 in Moscow a month prior. LTU, after going 2-14 in the WAC last year, has a new coach in Michael White, who brought an up-tempo, aggressive style to Ruston. The Bulldogs are first in the WAC in steals while UI is last in the league in turnover margin. At New Mexico State, the Vandals will contend with 6-6 forward Wendell McKines, the WAC’s leading scorer at 18.4 ppg.


Here's more from Verlin on this week and injured guard/small forward Matt Borton:

On Louisiana Tech: "They’ve got some new guys and obviously a new coach. They’re playing a different style than they did before. The one thing La. Tech tries to do is they try to increase the possessions in the basketball game. They get off a ton of shots. They really try to turn you over; they’re probably going to press us for 40 minute. That’s what we expect. And they’re a very good offensive rebounding team. What they are banking on is to get more shots that you. It sounds very simple. It’s something that you think, Well, we should be able to stop it. But they’re very good at it.

"They shoot a very low percentage from two and three; they’re probably near the bottom of the league in those categories, but they make up for it by getting you to turn the ball over and get more shots that you. What jumps off the stat sheet to me is that they’re 6-1 at home, 1-6 on the road."

On the importance on this trip after splitting at home last week: "What you hope to do to win a conference crown or be right in the middle of it is take care of business (at home) and at least split on the road. So it’s a huge road trip early. I’m glad it’s now — I think it’s the toughest road trip of the year.

"They’re big games because if you get to far behind in the conference standings, it’s hard to catch up. And to be able to get out on the road and stretch out a win or two would be huge when we add them at the end of the season. Nevada’s got a huge leg up on everybody in the conference by sweeping their (first) road trip. And what you’ve got to do is stretch and fight and claw for every road win you can. That’s our mentality."

On the chances Matt Borton, who injured his knee last week at Nevada, playing tonight: "Not good. He went light (Monday). He was able to run around for 10 to 15 minutes. It’s day to day. Optimistically hoping he’ll able to play at La. Tech, but if I was betting man, I’d say he probably won’t play."

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