New Mexico State handed Idaho its worst of the loss of the season on Saturday night, a 78-54 beatdown in Las Cruces. And the Aggies dominated even more than the final score indicates.
NMSU, the WAC's top team at 14-5 and 3-0, thundered to a 24-4 lead in the first 8 minutes and led by 32 midway through the second half. The Aggies converted 17 Idaho turnovers into 30 points and held UI to 35 percent from the field. And they did all this without 7-foot-5 center Sim Bhullar, who missed the game with a foot injury.
The Vandals (7-11, 1-3) have lost five of their last six heading back to Moscow to host Utah Valley and Cal State Bakersfield.
“You’ve got to learn from this,” Vandals coach Don Verlin said. “This is the best team in our league. Our game plan kind of backfired on us — they started out 6-for-7 from three, get the lead and it was never really a basketball game after that. I told our guys, this is what the best team in our league looks like. The thing that disappointed me is they were getting to the loose balls, the 50-50 balls.”
A few notes:
The Aggies ended up with 10 3-pointers while Idaho went just 4 of 14 from long range.
Redshirt freshman Ty Egbert of Coulee Dam, Wash., was ejected for the second time in three games after being called for a flagrant 2 foul. New Mexico State beat writer Jason Groves wrote on Twitter that Egbert kicked NMSU's Matej Buovac while Buovac was hanging from the rim. After last week's ejection, Verlin said Egbert would be punished severely if the tape showed that he had punched a Chicago State player — which was what officials had told Verlin.
The Vandals were led by reserve guard Mike Scott, who had 12 points. Leading scorer Stephen Madion was held to just nine points. He had a team-high five turnovers.
The full write-up from Idaho media relations:
LAS CRUCES, N.M. – The Idaho men’s basketball team was overmatched by New Mexico State in a 78-54 loss in Las Cruces, N.M., in Western Athletic Conference play on Saturday night.
The Aggies drained six of their first seven 3-pointers of the game and used a 16-0 run to open up a 20-point, 24-4, lead early and never allowed Idaho back within 10 points en route to their seventh straight victory, improving to 14-5 on the season and 3-0 in WAC play while the Vandals fall to 7-11 overall and 1-3 in the WAC.
“You’ve got to learn from this, this is the best team in our league,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said. “Our game-plan kind of backfired on us, they started out 6-for-7 from three, get the lead and it was never really a basketball game after that. I told our guys, this is what the best team in our league looks like. The thing that disappointed me is they were getting to the loose balls, the 50-50 balls.”
The Vandals shot just 34.6 percent from the field (18-of-52) and 28.6 percent from 3-point range (4-of-14). Idaho also gave the ball away 17 times and was out-rebounded 38-37 by the Aggies, including 15-13 on the offensive end, although the Vandals held a 17-16 edge in second-chance points. New Mexico State shot 42.2 percent (27-of-64) from the field, and 43.5 percent (10-of-23) from long distance.
“This is a very good New Mexico State team,” Verlin said. “They’re as good as advertised and when they shoot it like that they’re going to be awfully hard to beat.”
Idaho's 54 points are a season-low for the Vandals, and the 24-point loss is the largest margin of defeat of the season.
Mike Scott led Idaho with 12 points, including a 2-for-2 performance from long range and a 4-for-4 effort at the free throw line. Junior Bira Seck finished with nine points and nine rebounds for Idaho, coming up just shy of his third double-double of the season. Senior Stephen Madison failed to score in double figures for the first time in a month, finishing with nine points. He was last held below 10 points on Dec. 11 at Montana.
The Vandals return to Moscow for five out of their next games, beginning Jan. 16 against Utah Valley and continuing against Bakersfield on Jan. 18. Both games are at 7 p.m. in the Cowan Spectrum.
“It’ll be a tough game against Utah Valley,” Verlin. “Those are two big games for us as we’re sitting at 1-3 in the conference. It’s nice to get this trip out of the way and get a split. If you can get a split on every trip you’re doing alright.”