Stephen Madison and the other veterans for Idaho know what the Orleans Arena is like early on the first real day of the WAC tournament: lots of empty seats, quiet, kind of surreal in such a big venue. “You’ve got to bring your own energy, bring your own passion and just show what you’ve got,” Madison said.
We'll see what the Vandals have got at noon against New Mexico State in the quarterfinals. Keep reading below.
You can read our preview of the game here. Idaho would love nothing more to get back at NMSU after two stinging losses by a combined three points. In each game, though, the final score might have been a tad deceiving. Idaho came back from 17 down in Moscow to force a late tie with the Aggies, and it also rallied from 11 down in Las Cruces before falling.
As we noted in the story, the Vandals are 0-4 in the WAC tourney under Don Verlin. Is there a monkey on the coach's back? He doesn't think so. “No, not really. If you feel like there’s one on there, then there’s one on there,” he said. “You know what we’ve got to do is go play as hard as we can and worry about the task at hand. You know, we’ve lost some close games there. Last year was close. La. Tech the first year was close. We’ve got a tough game; we know that. What we’ve got to do is go focus on one possession at a time, and if we do that, I think we’ll be all right.”
Other quotes of note:
Verlin on his team's confidence: “I think it’s really good, and it needs to be good because it’s basically a one-game season if you don’t get it done on Thursday at noon. I think the guys are feeling good about themselves; we’re rested, we’re healthy and we’re excited to play in the WAC tournament.”
Verlin on what he expects from NMSU: “Really the same thing. You don’t get a whole lot of changes with New Mexico State. They are who they are. They’re big, they’re athletic. Marvin does a great job of coaching them. They put you in tough mismatch situations, and always against New Mexico State, you have to rebound your ball and you have set up your defense to stop Sim Bhullar, and really that’s what we’ve got to do on Thursday.”
Verlin on whether the early start will affect the Vandals: “Well, I hope not. We’ve practiced all week at 12 … and (Wednesday) we’re going early to get on a flight to get on out of here, so hopefully our guys have been able to get up and get moving around and feel good about the time.”
On Kyle Barone's WAC player of the year award: “Oh, it’s awesome. From where Kyle has started to where he has finished, it’s unbelievable. … I’ve said a million times: the thing I’m most proud of what Kyle has achieved is that he already has his degree. … Now everything is kind of icing on the cake.”
Madison on NMSU peaking: “Especially with (Tyrone) Watson coming back. I bet he’s eager to get back there and show what he can do since he’s been off. I think that probably brings them even close with him back, just leading them because he’s been there the longest. They’re playing their best basketball — that’s what you expect from every team this point of the year. If you don’t play your best, you’re going to go home.”
Christian Caple will be covering the game for us, and we'll be back with reaction here on the blog. Follow me (@SR_JoshWright) and Christian (@ChristianCaple) for updates.