SAN JOSE, Calif. – In a game that featured 28 lead changes and 12 ties, Idaho wasn’t able to respond to a late San Jose State run and fell 78-75 in a Western Athletic Conference men’s basketball game Monday night at the Event Center.
“When it came time to make the plays tonight, they made the plays, we didn’t,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said after seeing his Vandals fall to 8-5, 1-1 in the WAC. “We didn’t come up with the big stops, and when we did come up with the big stops, we didn’t come up with the big rebounds.”
Senior Mac Hopson led the Vandals in scoring for the fifth game in a row, scoring 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting. He also dished out seven assists and led the team with eight rebounds.
Senior Steffan Johnson added 15 points, all on 3-pointers. He had four assists and two steals.
Both teams shot particularly well from the field, with Idaho hitting 50.9 percent of its shots and San Jose State 52.5. Idaho was 7 of 21 from 3-point range, while SJSU (8-5, 1-0) hit 5 of 12.
The WAC’s second-leading scorer, Adrian Oliver of San Jose State, scored 22 points on 8-of-17 shooting. C.J. Webster hit 10 of 14 for a season-high 21 points. He added 11 rebounds. Spartans center Chris Oakes hit 8 of 10 and contributed 18 points.
“Defense, rebounding, and free throw shooting are areas we concentrate and work on,” Verlin said. “I don’t think we defended well enough tonight, and I don’t think we rebounded it well enough in the second half.
“Third, and probably the most important, we didn’t make our (free) throws.”
After a dead-even first half, the difference in the second half was two areas for Idaho – rebounds and free throws. The Vandals went 8 of 14 from the charity stripe in the period while SJSU went to the line just three times. Idaho was outrebounded 18-8 the second half, including an 8-3 difference on the offensive boards. The Spartans scored 14 second-chance points in the half to Idaho’s four.
“Early in the second half we couldn’t get stops, so we went to the zone and we got them to miss, but we couldn’t rebound,” Verlin said. “They outrebounded us in the second half and that was really the difference in the game.”
The game featured a 22-minute, 31-second period during which neither team led by more than three points and the lead changed hands 27 times.
Idaho appeared to break free when a 3-ball by Johnson capped off an 8-0 run to put the Vandals up 56-50 at the 12:59 mark of the second half, but SJSU scored the game’s next nine points to go back up by three. Idaho forced one more tie a few minutes later, but the defense couldn’t get the stop it needed over the final eight minutes of the game and the Spartans held the Vandals at bay.
“We got Johnson some wide-open looks and he made them and we got a little bit of a lead, and then momentum changed and we let this one slip away,” Verlin said.
Idaho is home for a WAC game against Louisiana Tech on Saturday night.