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Mixed bag of success for Idaho hoops, football teams

It was more of the same for the Idaho football team this afternoon -- a fifth straight loss, and another blowout to boot. Meanwhile, the UI men's basketball team gave 1,326 fans a taste of what might be in a 67-63 win over Western Illinois in its season opener. 

We have our unedited game stories we filed from the Kibbie Dome and Memorial Gym on a busy Saturday afternoon/evening after the jump.

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Let's start with basketball first. Just a note before the story: This was the debut for Glen Dean and his half-brother Perrion Callandret at Idaho. Callandret, a freshman, struggled with his shot, so he went back to the court to do some shooting after the game. And who fed him the ball for around 10 minutes? Yep, Dean, after he talked with reporters.

By Josh Wright
Correspondent

MOSCOW, Idaho – When Idaho's Connor Hill came off a hard screen from Joe Kammerer and contorted his body to get set for the biggest shot of the game, Western Illinois coach Jim Molinari noticed something.

"He literally wasn't even looking at the hoop when he started to jump," Molinari said.

Hill's eyes, though, were locked in on the basket after releasing the 3-point attempt with a little over a minute left. And he let out a yelp after vaulting the Vandals to a lead they wouldn't surrender in a season-opening 67-63 victory over WIU on Saturday night.

Hill, a junior from Post Falls, saved his first 3-pointer – and only field goal of the game – for the most opportune moment. Utah transfer Glen Dean followed with four free throws, and Stephen Madison put the game away with a pair of freebies with 4.4 seconds left.

A lively crowd of 1,326 at Memorial Gym watched the Vandals win their first-ever meeting with WIU, a team from Macomb, Ill., that won 22 games last year and shared the Summit League regular season crown.

"It was a great final few minutes," Idaho coach Don Verlin said. "To come out of here with a win is awesome for this young team."

The Vandals have 12 first-year players, including three freshmen who saw action Saturday night. But the team's two returning starters, Hill and Madison, provided a steady hand in the closing minutes.

Madison, a fourth-year senior, was masterful with 21 points, a career-best 14 rebounds and five assists. He connected on 4 of 6 shots from long range and showed no hesitation on his last trip to the line.

"We made our foul shots and we grinded hard on defense," Madison said. "I think that was the key. We stepped up and made big shots when (we had to) and got the outcome we wanted."

Dean, a former Eastern Washington standout, tallied 15 points on 8-of-9 shooting from the foul line in his Idaho debut. He had just two assists, but Verlin and Molinari credited him for guiding Idaho's offense at point guard.

"He really did a good job of running the show," Molinari said.

The Vandals also received solid contributions from Paulin Mpawe and Bira Seck, two newcomers in the post. Mpawe put in nine points, six of which came early in the second half when UI surged to a 10-point lead, while Seck finished with eight points.

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Next, here's our story on Idaho's 59-38 loss to Old Dominion. The Vandals are starting to get healthier at a few positions, but they're losing players at others. Starting offensive tackle Cody Elenz missed the game with an apparent shoulder or arm injury (redshirt freshman Mason Woods starting in his place), and running James Baker appeared to be hurt at the end of the game. QB Josh McCain returned to relieve Taylor Davis at different moments; it was McCain's first game since getting injured on Oct. 5 versus Fresno State. Defensive end Quinton Bradley also returned from injury.

By Josh Wright
Correspondent

MOSCOW, Idaho – Dropped passes and blown coverages.

Those two things don't fully explain Idaho's 59-38 loss to Old Dominion on Saturday, but they were the dominant story lines on senior day in front of perhaps 9,000 at the Kibbie Dome.

The Vandals (1-9) lost their fifth straight game despite rolling to a 14-0 lead less than 4 minutes into the game and forging a tie, at 31-all, before halftime. They've now yielded at least 59 points three times this season and six times the last two years.

And it doesn't get any easier. After a bye, the Vandals travel to meet Jameis Winston and No. 2 Florida State, easily the most lethal offense they'll see this year.

"We either got to improve or get guys that run faster, one or the other," said UI coach Paul Petrino, after his team gave up 533 passing yards to ODU quarterback Taylor Heinike. "They just ran by us. There's not a whole lot to analyze."

It wasn't just the secondary that had a long afternoon. Idaho receivers and tight ends dropped five surefire catches in the second half alone, when ODU outscored Idaho 28-7.

Junior receiver Dezmon Epps had a career-high nine catches for 175 yards and senior QB Taylor Davis racked up 308 yards through the air. But Epps had two critical drops, one of which led to an interception, and Clayton Homme and Jacob Sannon couldn't corral passes on consecutive drives with the Vandals trying to rally in the fourth quarter.

"I don’t really look the ball in – that’s my problem," Epps said. "I could have willed us to victory. I could say my mistakes really hurt (us)."

Heinicke, a 71-percent passer coming into Saturday, was especially on point to start the second half for the Monarchs (7-3), who registered their first FBS win in program history. He completed his first 12 attempts of the third quarter, and his 39-yard TD pass to a wide-open Marquel Thomas on fourth-and-3 early in the fourth was a back-breaker for Idaho.

Thomas waltzed into the end zone when Idaho's Roman Runner, a senior receiver who switched to cornerback in the second half, stopped covering him on a sideline fly route after he expected a safety to come over and help on the play.

"As a defense, we got to play together," junior defensive end Maxx Forde side. "We didn’t do that at times today and it hurt us."

The loss stings even more, Forde said, because it was the final home game for 17 seniors. But Petrino had less flattering words for the senior class.

"It’s always a sad day when it’s the last game for the seniors," the first-year coach said. "I thought a few of them would step up and play harder, to be honest with you."




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