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Turnovers loom large in Idaho loss

The Idaho Vandals were once again in the thick of a Western Athletic Conference game down the stretch on Thursday night. And again they were doomed by turnovers. UI dropped a 72-66 decision at Louisiana Tech — its fourth straight loss. The Vandals (6-10, 2-4) turned the ball over a whopping 23 times, which led to 33 points for the Bulldogs.

This is Idaho's worst record through 16 games in Don Verlin's five years as coach. Read on for more.


*****

Idaho's 23 turnovers were a season high. And just as bad for the Vandals, they tied a season low with eight assists (in fact, they've mustered just eight assists in the last three games, all losses). As we mentioned in Thursday's paper, Idaho was in the bottom five in the nation — and last in the WAC — in turnover margin (-5.07) coming into tonight's game. 

One of UI's big problems is that's not turning teams over (La. Tech had just 10 turnovers tonight). The Vandals' inexperienced guards aren't getting steals or creating pressure — and they aren't getting the offense into any kind of a flow, either. Too often Stephen Madison has to initiate a drive to the hoop on his own, or Kyle Barone holds the ball on the block while the rest of the lineup on the court stands around watching. It hasn't been pretty offense.

Other Idaho notes:

  • Connor Hill converted his fourth four-point play of the season, which leads the NCAA. He's one of only two players in the country that have multiple four-point plays this season. 
  • Madison and Barone combined for 40 of Idaho's 66 points. Barone has blossomed into a very good free throw shooter; he was 11 of 12 from the line tonight.
  • Five days after committing a foul with 2.7 seconds left that led to New Mexico State's game-winning free throw, Idaho power forward Marcus Bell did not play.
  • Wendell Faines returned from a brief suspension for a violation of team rules and logged three minutes.

*****

Here's Idaho's full media release:

RUSTON, La. – University of Idaho men’s basketball out-shot and out-rebounded Louisiana Tech on the road, but the Vandals gave away too many possessions in a 72-66 loss on Thursday at the Thomas Assembly Center.
 
Idaho (6-10, 2-4 Western Athletic Conference) turned the ball over a season-high 23 times – a majority of which were unforced – which gave Louisiana Tech (15-3, 6-0 WAC) 15 extra shot attempts and 33 points off turnovers.
 
“It’s one of those situations where we aren’t able to secure the ball,” Verlin said. “Our guards get a little loose with the ball and get going a little fast, we turn it over, they get easy baskets, the game swings and we’re on the wrong side of it again.”
 
Idaho led by as many as 10 points early in the game and held a lead for the game’s first 27 minutes by controlling the tempo, contesting jump shots and limiting the Bulldogs to just 2-of-15 (.133) shooting from 3-point range in the first half.
 
While LA Tech couldn’t make a long-range shot in the first half, it was the complete opposite case in the second 20 minutes. The Bulldogs went 8-of-18 (.444) from long range in the second half and capitalized on 14 Vandal turnovers in the period to get 20 extra points.
 
Vandal sophomore guard Connor Hill broke open a 42-42 tie with his NCAA-leading fourth four-point play of the season, then Idaho junior Stephen Madison went on a personal 7-2 run to give the Vandals a seven-point lead, 53-46, with 9:37 to play.
 
After a Kyle Barone three-point play dunk gave the Vandals a 56-50 lead at the 7:07 mark, Idaho struggled. The Vandals turned the ball over three times in their next four possessions and the Bulldogs scored eight unanswered points to take a 58-56 lead.
 
After a Madison free throw, Hill gave Idaho its final lead of the game at 3:08 with a baseline jumper to make it 59-58, but LA Tech’s Kenyon McNeail slipped free for back-to-back 3-pointers. Kyle Barone cut the lead to one point with a layup at 1:43, but Idaho turned the ball over on its next four possessions and LA Tech went on an 8-0 run to put the game away in the final minute.
 
Madison led Idaho with 21 points on 9-of-17 shooting. He also added a team-high eight rebounds and three assists in the game. Barone added 19 points and seven rebounds with an 11-of-12 free throw shooting night. Hill finished with nine points and six rebounds.
 
Guard Kenneth Smith led LA Tech with 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting and 5-of-8 long-range shooting. He also added eight assists and four steals. Preseason All-WAC guard Raheem Appleby came off the bench and scored 20 points on 9-of-17 shooting.
 
Idaho went 24-of-52 (.462) from the floor and 3-of-10 (.300) from 3-point range in the game. The Vandals went 15-of-18 (.833) from the free throw line. Idaho also out-rebounded Louisiana Tech by a 42-29 margin.
 
LA Tech went 27-of-67 (.403) from the floor and 10-of-33 (.303) from 3-point range, along with 8-of-11 (.727) 3-point shooting. The Bulldogs held a 31-4 bench scoring advantage in the game.
 
Louisiana Tech ran a full-court press defensively all game. Idaho managed the press well, but mistakes after breaking the press hurt the Vandals all night long.
 
“I thought we did a decent job of handling the pressure, but then we made a bunch of un-fundamental mistakes,” Verlin said. “We’ve got to be strong, we’ve got to be tough, we’ve got to find a way to take care of our basketball.”
 
Those mistakes included several traveling violations and off-the-mark passes, which gave away too many possessions and gave the Bulldogs too many extra chances.
 
“The bottom line is shot attempts,” Verlin said. “They get 67 and we get 52.”
 
Idaho continues the road trip on Saturday at UT Arlington, which is 8-7 overall and 3-3 in WAC play after taking a 61-44 home loss to Seattle U on Thursday.
  


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