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Vandals never get going in season-ending loss

LOGAN, Utah – Idaho basketball coach Don Verlin knew his Vandals were playing against a stacked deck of sorts.

Not only did the Vandals have to travel on short notice to fellow WAC member Utah State for the second round of the tournament, Verlin was going up against a coach who had mentored him as an assistant coach for more than a decade and played a huge role in teaching the Idaho coach much of what he knew.

It wasn’t a huge surprise, then, that Utah State defeated the Vandals and ended Idaho’s season.

The surprise came in the way it happened – a dominating 76-56 drubbing.

“It’s a very tough place to play,” Verlin said. “They’re very well-coached. They haven’t won 92 percent of their games here for no reason at all.”

Idaho (19-14) didn’t score its first basket of the game until Wendell Faines hit a layup 5 minutes and 3 seconds into the contest.

The second basket didn’t come for another 6 minutes when Stephen Madison knocked down a jumper.

By that time, though, the Aggies were up 19-5 and few in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum had much doubt about what would happen over the next 29 minutes of play.

“We missed some open shots and they dominated us around the basket,” Verlin said.

“We knew we were going to have to battle them physically and we didn’t match them.”

The Vandals struggled to find any form of an effective offense in the first half and ended up shooting just 27.3 percent (6 for 22) before heading to the locker room a little shellshocked and trailing 39-16.

Combine that with a dismal second half the last time Idaho visited USU – a 67-50 loss on Feb. 24 – and the Vandals were outscored 84-37 over 40 minutes.

Idaho hoped to make a quick run to open the second half and slowly climb back into the game. Instead, it was the Aggies who scored the first seven points of the half, stretching the lead to 30 at 46-16, and Idaho never really challenged the rest of the way.

The Vandals’ leading scorers, senior Deremy Geiger (a former Aggie) and junior Kyle Barone, just could not get themselves going until the game was well out of reach.

Barone scored a few points down the stretch to match Landon Tatum as Idaho’s leading scorer with nine points and Geiger finished his Idaho career with a five-point outing.

Utah State rode the hot inside-out combo of Kyisean Reed and Preston Medlin for a combined 32 points on 12-of-22 shooting.

“I thought we came out excited to play,” USU (19-15) coach Stew Morrill said. “We had some energy and at this time of the year that is critical.”

That energy helped the Aggies compensate for a nearly empty arena – it’s spring break at USU and only 2,430 tickets were sold – and run away from the Vandals after building that huge early lead.

Verlin was quick to point out the positives of the season – namely posting the most wins in nearly 30 years.

“We’ve had the most wins since 1992-93 … 37 win in the last two seasons,” Verlin said. “We have 10 players coming back next year and I think we can be very proud of the foundation we’ve built.”

The Aggies find out today who they will play in the third round of the CIT.