San Francisco ends Vandals’ season at CollegeInsider.com
SAN FRANCISCO – Idaho men’s basketball coach Don Verlin never hesitated afterward: The Vandals, he said, had a remarkable year given the expectations.
Still, they no doubt would like a redo on the end of the season.
After a stinging defeat in their first game of the Western Athletic Conference tournament, the Vandals were bounced from the CollegeInsider.com tournament Wednesday night with an 81-73 loss to the University of San Francisco.
With the opening-round setback at USF’s War Memorial Gym, Idaho closed the season at 18-14. It piled up the most wins since 1993-94 and finished tied for third in the WAC after being picked eighth, but also lost just two fewer games than last year’s team.
“It’s not the most talented team (I’ve had), but they were the best team,” said Verlin, who completed his third season at Idaho. “I couldn’t be prouder of the way they played.”
Operating at a frenzied pace for much of the night, the Dons (18-14) picked apart the Vandals’ zone defense. They connected on 10 3-pointers – three in the opening minutes to build a 14-4 lead – and outrebounded Idaho 44-26.
USF, a team that had struggled at the foul line, also buried 25 of 28 free throws. It went 6 of 6 from the line in the final 1:04 as Idaho tried to mount a rally after trailing by 14.
Deremy Geiger and Jeff Ledbetter hit back-to-back 3s and Ledbetter was fouled going up for another 3 – he made all three free throws – but the Vandals never got closer than six points in the last minute.
“You’ve got to give them credit. They hit a ton of free throws tonight,” Verlin said. “When we (made) our run, they would make some big shots.”
Idaho couldn’t fully capitalize on 24 turnovers from San Francisco. The Vandals scored 24 points off USF’s miscues – but also botched numerous opportunities to close on the Dons.
The loss marred a glimmering final game for Ledbetter. Early in the second half the senior set a single-season school record with his 97th 3-pointer, eclipsing Gordon Scott’s mark in 1999-2000.
Ledbetter finished with five 3-pointers – 99 on the season – while amassing 22 points, five rebounds and four steals. Fellow senior Brandon Wiley, playing in front of a home crowd, added 11 points and three assists.
“I think this team has done a great job of building our foundation,” Verlin said.
The Dons will play at Hawaii in the second round of the CIT on Saturday.
USF had five players in double figures, led by Rashad Green’s 16 points.