Kyle Barone notched his WAC-best eighth double-double of the season and gathered a career-high 18 rebounds to help Idaho breeze past UT Arlington 77-64 and break a four-game losing skid. The Vandals were dominant on the glass -- thanks in large part to Barone, a senior center -- and connected on 59.5 percent of their field goals, a season high.
More below on Idaho, which improved to 7-10 and 3-4 in the WAC with its next four games at Cowan Spectrum.
The Vandals hit a rough patch the last two weeks, with four close losses. But they have two winnable games at home next week (Texas State and UTSA) before hosting Utah State and San Jose State. They've already won at SJSU and led in the final second at Utah State before the Aggies' Preston Medlin forced overtime with a 3 and USU ran away with the game in OT.
So, though UI is tied for fifth in the conference at 3-4, it could be 7-4 in two weeks if things fall into place at home.
One note before I get to the game story from Idaho media relations: Marcus Bell, the Vandals' junior forward whose foul with 2.7 seconds left last week led to a game-winning free throw from New Mexico State, has not played since.
ARLINGTON, Texas – Behind a dominant rebounding performance and season-best offensive efficiency, University of Idaho men’s basketball led from start to finish in a 77-64 Western Athletic Conference road win at UT Arlington on Saturday.
Idaho (7-10, 3-4 WAC) shot a season-best 59.5 percent from the floor, went 8-of-19 (.421) from 3-point range, knocked down 86.4 percent of its free throws and out-rebounded UTA (8-8, 3-4 WAC) by a 38-26 margin to get the win.
“I thought we had a great team effort tonight,” Idaho head coach Don Verlin said. “We had a number of guys come in and give us some quality, quality minutes tonight. Everybody that came off the bench was enthusiastic and energetic.”
Vandal senior Kyle Barone notched his WAC-leading eighth double-double of the season with 14 points and a career-best 18 rebounds in the game, a total that is tied as the most by a Vandal in WAC play. Idaho sophomore Connor Hill pitched in a game-high 19 points on 7-of-9 overall and 4-of-6 three-point shooting.
“I thought he rebounded with a purpose and I thought he rebounded with aggression,” Verlin said of Barone. “That was one of our keys going in. We knew we had to rebound the ball at a high level.”
Idaho started the game on an 8-2 run and extended that lead to as many as 10 points in the first half, 18-8. UTA trimmed that edge as close as 20-18 at the 7:06 mark of the first half, but Idaho answered with an 8-2 run to go back up by eight.
After taking a 34-30 lead into the half, Idaho scored the first seven points of the second half to take a 41-30 lead. UTA trimmed Idaho’s lead down to six points, 62-56, with 6:49 to play, and had built some momentum. A pair of Barone freebies extended Idaho’s lead to eight, and then the next time down the court, Hill canned an off-balance, fadeaway 3-pointer from NBA range as the shot clock expired.
Hill’s triple swung the momentum back to the Vandals’ favor and they didn’t trail by less than eight points for the remainder of the game.
UTA entered the game ranked 12th in the NCAA in field goal percentage defense, but Idaho knocked down 25 of its 42 shots overall for a season-high .595 percentage and drained 13 of its 18 second-half attempts for a 72.2 percentage in the period.
“They (UTA) double the ball, but we did a nice job of moving the ball, finding the open guy and making the open shots when we needed to,” Verlin said. “We just made a bunch of shots tonight.”
On the other end, Idaho held the Mavericks to a 24-of-64 (.375) shooting percentage overall and a 6-of-25 (.240) performance from 3-point range. UTA also went just 10-of-17 (.588) from the free throw line, while Idaho converted its free throws at a 19-of-22 (.864) rate.
UTA also entered the game as the WAC’s top rebounding team. Through four weeks of WAC play, the Mavericks led the WAC in overall rebounding and both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. On Saturday, Idaho turned the tables with a plus-12 rebounding margin. Barone led the charge from the start and had six rebounds in the first five minutes alone.
“I wanted to come out and kind of set the tone,” Barone said after the game. “I knew they were going to come at us hard on the boards, like coach talked about before the game. I came out hard from the beginning and the ball just kind of found me and I found the ball.”
His 17 defensive rebounds are the most ever by a Vandal in WAC play and his 18 total rebounds are the most since David Dubois grabbed the same total at Boise State on Mar. 4, 2006. They’re tied as the most by a WAC player this season and push his league-leading rebounding average to 10.7 per game in conference play. He’s the only player averaging a double-double in WAC play so far this season.
Forward Kevin Butler led the Mavericks with 15 points on 4-of-12 shooting, while guard Shaq White-Miller was the only other UTA player in double figures with 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting off the bench.
For the eighth time this season, Idaho scored double-figure fast-break points. The Vandals held a 12-2 scoring advantage in transition. UTA outscored Idaho off turnovers, 14-6, on the second chance, 11-5 and in the paint, 30-26.
After playing five of its first seven WAC games on the road – the most in the conference to this point – Idaho now hosts four in a row on its home floor, starting next week with Texas State on Thursday and UTSA on Saturday.
The Bobcats are 5-14 overall and 1-6 in WAC play, while the Roadrunners are 4-13 overall and 0-7 in the league. Texas State beat UTSA in overtime on Saturday by an 81-78 margin. Both games tip off at 7:05 p.m. (PT) at the Cowan Spectrum.