If Idaho's season wasn't slipping away before tonight, it certainly is now. The Vandals were poleaxed by Texas-San Antonio in the final 20 minutes of a 74-56 loss. It was another unsightly loss for UI -- its fifth in six games -- and suddenly the Vandals are in danger of falling into seventh place in the WAC and the play-in round of the conference tournament in two weeks.
We've got all the details below, including coach Don Verlin questioning his team's heart and effort.
After getting outscored by 20 in the second half by one of the WAC's worst teams, Idaho (10-17, 5-11) is just a half-game ahead of Texas State for the sixth spot in the conference. The two teams face each other Saturday in San Marcos, and the Bobcats have already won at Idaho. That means if Idaho wants to avoid a bottom-four seed and the opening round of the WAC tourney, it needs to snap out of its funk, and quickly.
The Vandals manufactured just 16 points in the second half against the Roadrunners -- six field goals and three free throws -- after leading 40-38 at the half. Kyle Barone posted his 14th double-double of the season with 13 points and 15 rebounds, but all but two of his points came before halftime.
Idaho's bench produced no points and the Vandals were outscored 38-22 in the paint against much smaller UTSA.
After the embarrassing second-half performance, Verlin said the Roadrunners "played with a lot more heart and played a lot harder" in the second half. It's not the first time Verlin has been critical of his team in what has been his worst season in Moscow in five years as head coach.
Here's more from Idaho media relations:
SAN ANTONIO, Texas – The University of Idaho basketball team that shot 53 percent in the first half and led by two at the break disappeared completely in the second half as UT-San Antonio won 74-56 in a Western Athletic Conference game.
Coach Don Verlin, whose team dropped to 10-17 overall and 5-11 in the WAC, was disappointed not only in the outcome but the effort.
“They came out and played with a lot more heart and played a lot harder,” said Verlin of UTSA’s 20-point dominance of the Vandals in the second half. “We had a couple guys that didn’t play very well.”
Offensively, the Vandals were sharp and effective in the first half. While Verlin wasn’t happy with the early defensive effort, Idaho still managed a 40-38 halftime lead with the directive coming out of the break to pick up the defensive intensity.
“I told them to lock it down defensively,” Verlin said. “I thought we were ready to go in the first half. We didn’t sustain that energy and intensity in the second half.”
The Roadrunners did, as they went on an 18-5 run and didn’t let up.
“We just couldn’t get them stopped,” Verlin said. “It’s becoming a broken record. It’s really frustrating.”
Senior guard Mike McChristian had a career night with 19 points off of seven-of-13 shooting (five-of-eight from 3-point range). He was backed by Kyle Barone’s 14th career double-double of 13 points and 15 rebounds. Connor Hill added 10 with eight points coming from Stephen Madison and six from Mansa Habeeb. But that was it for scoring – there wasn’t a single point from the bench and just six rebounds pulled down by the reserves.
Idaho’s defensive woes infiltrated the offense in the second half. Just two of Barone’s points and only five of McChristian’s were in the final 20 minutes. Madison had but one and Hill two during the same span.
In winning for the first time in a home conference game, UTSA improved to 8-19 and 3-12.