MOSCOW, Idaho – Idaho senior guard Jeff Ledbetter plopped down in his chair in the University of Idaho media room and immediately his eyes scanned across the scoresheet to the assist column.
He wasn’t concerned about his own tally in a 75-61 trouncing of Hawaii – no, just how many one teammate in particular had stockpiled.
“I want to see Deremy’s assists,” Ledbetter said, referring to UI point guard Deremy Geiger.
Geiger, as Ledbetter quickly realized, handed out a career-high 11 assists on Saturday night with 1,191 at Cowan Spectrum – and nine came during a sparkling first half that helped rouse the Vandals out of an early-game slumber and end a four-game losing streak.
With the WAC victory over the Rainbow Warriors, who had won four of their last five games, Idaho (13-10, 6-5) moved to fourth place in the conference. It’s just one-half game behind Nevada and New Mexico State in the win-loss column entering Wednesday’s home clash with No. 22 Utah State.
“We will be ready to go. I guarantee it,” Vandals coach Don Verlin said of the season’s first matchup against his mentor, USU coach Stew Morrill. “I won’t guarantee a win, but I’ll guarantee we’ll be ready.”
Geiger, who started at Utah State before transferring, has struggled with his shooting the past three weeks. He’s missed his last 10 shots from the field, including the only three he took Saturday. So he decided to shift to distribution mode.
Several of his assists came when pushing the tempo and finding Ledbetter or Stephen Madison on the perimeter. The Vandals hit 10 of 18 shots from 3-point range against UH, and all came from Ledbetter, Madison and Shawn Henderson.
“It was nice to make some shots,” Verlin said. “We just made a bunch of shots tonight, especially from 3. When you shoot it 10 for 18, you’re pretty hard to beat.”
Over the past few weeks the Warriors (13-10, 4-7) appeared to be a different team than the one the Vandals beat by 15 in Honolulu on Jan. 6. They looked sharp in the early moments, jumping to a 17-10 lead thanks to their length and 1-3-1 zone defense.
But sparked by Madison, a freshman reserve, the Vandals mounted a 15-0 surge with a wave of long-range shots.
In a key two-minute sequence midway through the first half, Madison canned three consecutive 3s to erase a seven-point deficit and give UI a lead it didn’t relinquish. The last triple, assisted by Geiger, was set up by Madison’s steal and out-of-bounds save.
“With Stephen Madison, Jeff (Ledbetter), those are guys who are great shooters,” Geiger said. “When I think of them, I just try to think, ‘Where would I like the ball? Where I would like it as a shooter?’ ”