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Vandals fall short of NCAA bid

Idaho's late-season mojo was no match for New Mexico State's size and athleticism.

The Vandals' best conference tournament showing in more than two decades ended one win shy of an NCAA tournament bid on Saturday when they fell quietly to New Mexico State, 77-55, in the WAC championship game in Las Vegas. Idaho shot just 38 percent and was outrebounded 38-21 by the much bigger and more physical Aggies.

After winning four straight and six of seven, Idaho's season ended at 16-18. This was its first conference title game since 1993. UI was seeking the school's first NCAA tournament bid in 24 years.

NMSU, which has won three straight WAC tournament crowns, controlled the paint with center 7-foot-5, 355-pound center Sim Bhullar and athletic big man Tshilidzi Nephawe. Bhullar, the tournament MVP, had 14 points and nine rebounds while Nephawe went for 12 and 7.

The Vandals knew they couldn't match up with NMSU's monstrous front line. But when the shots stopped falling after going up 8-3, Idaho was in trouble. The Aggies unleashed a 15-3 run and led by double digits most of the rest of the way.

Senior Stephen Madison led the Vandals with 17 points in his final game at Idaho, and point guard Mike Scott had 14 points. Shooting guard Connor Hill, who helped UI get on a late-season roll, was 0-for-5 from the 3-point line and finished with six points.


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Jim Meehan (@srjimm) Jim Meehan's coverage areas include Gonzaga University men's basketball, Spokane Shock football, golf and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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