Idaho has dropped three games in December, and all three were two-point decisions. The nail-biting losses – two on last-second shots – are partly a result of having few returners who have been on the court in pressure situations, coach Don Verlin said.
Deremy Geiger and Kyle Barone, Idaho’s leading scorers, are the exceptions. Point guard Landon Tatum also has been part of tight games. But the rest of the roster is made up of junior college transfers and underclassmen.
“I think we’ve just got to get them more seasoned where they feel more comfortable and more confident so they can make those plays,” Verlin said.
Mark his words
When Jim Hayford was officially introduced as Eastern Washington’s head coach at a press conference in March, he said to those in attendance that he had never had a losing season at any level, adding, “And I’m not going to have one.”
Hayford, whose Eagles became the first Eastern team since 2006-07 to post a .500 or better record (6-6) prior to the start of Big Sky Conference play, remembers some strange looks from the audience that day.
“Some of them looked at me like I was crazy,” he said. “But with the start we’ve had, it’s looking kind of doable right now, isn’t it?
Eastern finished 7-9 in conference play under coach Kirk Earlywine last winter, but Hayford has four starters returning from that team, along with first-year junior college transfer and leading scorer Collin Chiverton.
Enquist’s stock on rise
The most improved player in the Pac-12 as conference play begins just may be Washington State’s Charlie Enquist.
A fifth-year senior, Enquist has been an on-and-off again scholarship player since walking-on from King’s High in Edmonds, Wash. The 6-foot-10 post came into the season having totaled 50 points and 63 rebounds in his first three years.
But getting extensive playing time for the first time in his career (he’s started 11 of WSU’s 12 games), Enquist has scored 89 points and grabbed 69 rebounds, more than doubling both career categories.
For the first time, the WCC tips off in December as a result of the addition of BYU and a 16-game conference slate. Eight of nine WCC teams are in action this week. The biggest game on the conference schedule has newcomer BYU (11-3) visiting Saint Mary’s (11-2) tonight in Moraga, Calif.
The last time a team lost its conference opener and won the WCC was in 1997, when Santa Clara dropped its first game at Gonzaga. The Broncos rebounded to share the title with Saint Mary’s.