Vandals surprise No. 21 Utah State in WAC showdown
MOSCOW, Idaho – They couldn’t be sure until the final 11 seconds. But once Brockeith Pane’s jumper sailed into the stands, ending a tumultuous shooting night for Utah State, Idaho fans unleashed a deafening roar.
Then came a court-storming that Cowan Spectrum hasn’t seen in years.
Playing on national television against the WAC’s powerhouse men’s basketball program, the Vandals sprang a 64-56 upset of the 21st-ranked Aggies in front of 1,512 on Wednesday night.
The loss snapped USU’s 17-game winning streak. The Aggies (22-3, 11-1) had won a conference-record 25 consecutive regular-season WAC games dating back to Jan. 4 of last year.
For the Vandals (14-10, 7-5), this was their first win against such a highly ranked team since March 14, 1982, when they beat 16th-ranked Iowa in the NCAA tournament in Pullman.
Idaho was led by Jeff Ledbetter’s 14 points. The senior guard hit key back-to-back 3-pointers late in the second half – his only two makes of the game from long range in 12 attempts.
“The coaches just kept telling, ‘If you’re open, fire it,’ ” Ledbetter said. “I’ve got to jump up and shoot like I’ve made the last five.”
Former Utah State guard Deremy Geiger contributed 12 points and a career-high nine rebounds. The first-year transfer point guard, celebrating his 21st birthday, had five points in the final 2:14 as USU tried to mount a charge.
The Aggies closed within 60-55 with 49 seconds left on Pooh Williams’ deep 3-pointer. But UI made its last four free throws to close out the win.
“What a great win for our program and for our players,” said UI coach Don Verlin, who spent 15 years with Aggies coach Stew Morril at USU and Colorado State.
It was especially sweet for Geiger, who left USU after his freshman year because of poor grades and came to Idaho after a season at a Texas junior college. He wore a broad smile as he dribbled during the final seconds before students mobbed the court.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling right now,” Geiger said. “Indescribable.”
The Vandals took advantage of an off-kilter performance for Utah State. The Aggies shot just 33 percent from the field and were 5 of 28 from 3-point range. Part of their struggles came while UI employed a box-and-one defense aimed at frustrating USU sharpshooter Brian Green.
“We decided to throw a little wrinkle at them and it worked,” Verlin said.
But Utah State used its interior muscle to snatch 20 offensive rebounds – 10 in the first 12-plus minutes. On one possession, the Aggies’ Tyler Newbold missed a 3-pointer before Nate Bendall collected two offensive boards (and two misses) and Brady Jardine rebounded and missed.
Jardine was fouled on an ensuing scrum before Utah State missed two more shots and Idaho finally snared the rebound.
Kyle Barone had 12 rebounds, four on offense, to go along with 11 points.
“I thought Kyle Barone played his best game as a Vandal,” Verlin said. “He had some huge offensive rebounds when we were struggling a bit.”
Late in the first half Ledbetter tied a school record with his 26th consecutive made free throw. The streak started on Dec. 31 against Louisiana Tech. He then missed his next two. Gary Simmons set the record in 1956.
Utah St. (22-3, 11-1)—Pane 5-10 4-8 14, Williams 3-12 0-0 9, Newbold 5-12 0-0 12, Bendall 0-3 0-0 0, Wesley 5-11 1-1 11, Walker 0-2 0-0 0, Grim 2-2 1-2 5, Jardine 2-7 1-2 5, Green 0-6 0-0 0. Totals 22-65 7-13 56.
Idaho (14-10, 7-5)—Ledbetter 3-14 6-8 14, Henderson 4-7 1-3 9, Wiley 4-7 0-1 8, Toledo 4-6 0-0 8, Geiger 4-10 3-4 12, Tatum 0-2 2-2 2, Barone 3-6 5-5 11, Madison 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-52 17-23 64.
Halftime—Idaho 27-24. 3-Point Goals—Utah St. 5-28 (Williams 3-10, Newbold 2-9, Walker 0-1, Wesley 0-1, Pane 0-2, Green 0-5), Idaho 3-17 (Ledbetter 2-12, Geiger 1-4, Henderson 0-1). Fouled Out—Wesley. Rebounds—Utah St. 42 (Wesley 10), Idaho 38 (Barone 12). Assists—Utah St. 9 (Pane 7), Idaho 7 (Henderson 3). Total Fouls—Utah St. 19, Idaho 14. A—1,512.