MOSCOW, Idaho – The first step in settling into a shooter’s rhythm?
Well, it helps when you get the ball.
Now, it wasn’t as if Deremy Geiger was getting the freeze-out from his Idaho teammates Thursday night – but when they made a point of finding their senior sharpshooter, Geiger made points in multiples, and the Vandals edged away for a 74-66 basketball victory over San Jose State at the Cowan Spectrum.
Just 1,173 turned out to watch the Vandals climb into a share of second place in the Western Athletic Conference, helped by New Mexico State’s 68-60 loss at home to league-leading Nevada.
The absentees missed a solid effort inside and out by the Vandals (11-9 overall, 4-2 WAC), and especially on the defensive end in the second half when they went zone exclusively and paralyzed the Spartans (7-14, 0-6).
“We got into a zone maybe the second possession of the game and they throw it to the high post and we were slow getting to our coverages and they knock down a 3,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said. “After that, I’m not sure we gave another one up in the zone. Our guys did a good job of finding their shooters and contesting and getting them to move out farther than they’re normally used to shooting.
“More than anything, we just needed to wear them down.”
And they did. After shooting 52 percent overall and 5 of 10 from 3-point range in the first half – led by freshman guard D.J. Brown, who would finish with 18 points – the Spartans’ percentages nosedived to 30 and 12 in the final 20 minutes.
In the meantime, Geiger heated up – complemented by an inside-out approach that saw both starting big men, Kyle Barone and Djim Bandoumel, record double-doubles.
All three played a major part in an 18-2 run that bridged the halves and turned a nine-point deficit into a 44-37 lead.
Half of those points belonged to Geiger on 3-pointers – he would make seven of 10 for all of his 21 points – including a couple of plays Verlin called “to get him some open looks.”
And after that, the Vandals seemed to locate him every time he was open – sometimes a little too soon.
The Spartans wouldn’t go away despite their offensive issues, and trailed just 65-61 after Keith Shamburger’s free throw with 2:43 left. In a stage of the game when it might have been prudent to run some clock, Geiger instead launched a 3 from the corner just 8 seconds later.
“I just got into a rhythm and felt that one, kind of let it go,” he said. “It was probably a little early in the clock. Good thing I made it.”
San Jose took timeout after Wil Carter’s jump hook got the Spartans back within five, and Verlin used the occasion to design another look for Geiger that settled the issue.
“Coach called a good play in the huddle and I got a good screen,” Geiger said.
Good because he was the one pulling the trigger?
“Any play that works is a good play,” he said with a smile.
Idaho 74, San Jose St. 66
San Jose St. (7-14) – Shamburger 1-8 4-6 7, Smith 3-6 0-0 6, Carter 5-9 5-5 15, Brown 7-15 0-0 18, Kinney 5-14 4-4 15, Douglas 1-4 0-0 3, Jones 0-0 0-0 0, Ballard 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 23-57 13-15 66.
Idaho (11-9) – Tatum 0-3 1-3 1, Bandoumel 4-8 3-4 11, Barone 8-14 5-6 21, Madison 4-9 0-0 9, Geiger 7-10 0-0 21, Habeeb 0-0 0-0 0, Hill 3-6 0-0 9, McChristian 0-1 0-0 0, Borton 0-2 0-0 0, Kammerer 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 27-54 9-13 74.
Halftime – SJSU 37-36. 3-point Goals – SJSU St. 7-27 (Brown 4-10, Douglas 1-4, Shamburger 1-5, Kinney 1-8), UI 11-23 (Geiger 7-10, Hill 3-6, Madison 1-3, Tatum 0-2, Borton 0-2). Fouled out – None. Rebounds – SJSU 28 (Carter 9), UI 36 (Barone 11). Assists – SJSU 7 (Carter 3), UI 19 (Tatum 6). Fouls – SJSU 14, UI 16. Tech. – Shamburger. A – 1,173.
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