Idaho kept pace with Grand Canyon University at the free-throw line in the first half. But the Antelopes, a Division I and WAC newcomer, got to the line 10 more times after the break — and made more 10 more free throws to pull away from the Vandals in a 86-73 win in Phoenix.
Grand Canyon, coached by former NBA star Dan Majerle, went on a decisive 20-3 outburst after Idaho briefly took the lead early in the second half.
The Vandals (8-13, 2-5) were called for 31 fouls, and the Antelopes made them pay. Grand Canyon connected on 35 of 41 foul shots, the most makes at the line for an Idaho opponent this year. Idaho, meanwhile, went 26 of 35 from the line, with five misses alone from reserve guard Sekou Wiggs.
Stephen Madison, Mike Scott and Connor Hill each scored in double figures for the Vandals, but they combined to go just 12 of 33 (36 percent) from the field. Madison led the Vandals in points (17), rebounds (seven) and assists (three). Yet he was 2 of 10 from the floor and had a team-high four turnovers.
The Vandals have lost seven of nine games heading into an eight-day break. They start a three-game homestand by hosting Seattle U on Feb. 1
Here's a full recap from Idaho media relations:
PHOENIX – A 20-3 Grand Canyon run midway through the second half was too much for the Idaho men’s basketball team to overcome Thursday night in an 86-73 loss in Western Athletic Conference play.
The Vandals fall to 8-13 on the season and 2-5 in the WAC with the loss while GCU improves to 8-10 overall and 3-2 in the WAC.
Idaho shot just 33.3 percent from the field in the first half, but trailed by just three, 40-37, at the break. The Vandals used a 7-0 run early in the second half to briefly take a 45-43 lead, but Grand Canyon answered with its 20-3 run to take control of the game with a 63-48 advantage with less than 11 minutes to play.
“We came out at halftime with some good adjustments and went up two and then they responded and we didn’t,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said. “When the heat of the game turned up they out-toughed us, they were more physical, they beat us to the punch, they played harder. The bottom line is they wanted it more than we did for whatever reason.”
Idaho made a push with a chance to make it a close finish, closing the gap to eight points on two occasions, but the Vandals just couldn’t get stops when they needed them, and GCU used a 9-0 run to put the game out of reach in the final 90 seconds.
The Vandals shot 40 percent from the field for the game while GCU connected on 48 percent of its shots. Idaho made just 3-of-12 3-pointers and hit 26-of-35 free throws. Each team finished with 33 rebounds, and despite Idaho’s 13-8 advantage in offensive rebounds, the ‘Lopes held an 18-9 lead in second-chance points. The Vandals and ‘Lopes each committed 11 turnovers.
Four Idaho players scored in double figures, led by Stephen Madison who hit his average with 17 points to go with seven rebounds and three assists. Madison went 13-for-13 at the free throw line, the third best single-game free throw performance in Idaho history. However, Madison was just 2-of-10 from the field.
“They made him shoot over them and work for his points,” Verlin said of GCU’s defense on Madison. “They did a good job with those things. I told our guys exactly what was coming, and were just more physical than us.”
Mike Scott added 15 points, two rebounds and two assists, Connor Hill had 12 points. After missing most of the last three games with a minor injury, Sekou Wiggs chipped in with 10 points, five rebounds and two steals, but connected on just 2-of-7 free throws.
“Sekou Wiggs played pretty good for being hurt,” Verlin said. “He drives his ball and does some good things but we’ve got to get him to where he can make a free throw.”
Grand Canyon made 35-of-41 free throws in the game, the most makes at the free throw line by an Idaho opponent this season, and one shy of the most attempts. A total of 57 personal fouls were called in the game, including 31 against the Vandals, matching Idaho’s season-high.
Idaho has some time to rest before it returns to game-action, as the Vandals will be at home for their next three contests beginning Feb. 1 against Seattle U. New Mexico State will visit the Cowan Spectrum on Feb. 6 and Texas-Pan American will make the trip to Moscow on Feb. 8. All three games tip off at 7 p.m. in the Cowan Spectrum.