MOSCOW, Idaho –The bundle of turnovers in the first half, the missed free throws, the repeated defensive breakdowns – all these disturbed Idaho men’s basketball coach Don Verlin on Friday night.
But the biggest source of consternation for Verlin was the Vandals’ intensity – or lack of it – in an 80-70 loss to Wright State in both teams’ season opener.
“Really, they just came in here and wanted it more than we did,” Idaho’s fifth-year coach said of the Raiders. “And that was disappointing.”
Wright State, a Horizon League team from Dayton, Ohio, coaxed 10 turnovers in the first half with its dogged ball pressure and kept Idaho at bay with nine 3-pointers.
The Vandals outshot and outrebounded the Raiders in front of an announced crowd of 1,303 at Memorial Gym. Yet they put up 16 fewer field-goal attempts and trailed by double digits for most of the second half.
“Basically, they beat us in every phase of the game tonight,” Verlin said. “They came here and out-pressured us. They pressured us out of our offensive sets. We turned it over for easy baskets in the first half.”
Center Kyle Barone had 18 points and nine rebounds to lead Idaho, but the 6-foot-10 senior got only sporadic looks from the field for long portions of the second half and went 4 of 9 from the free-throw line.
The Vandals, breaking in three new starters after a 19-win season, connected on just 19 of 29 attempts from the foul line. And they seemed to be startled in the opening minutes by Wright State’s quick and active perimeter defenders.
“These new guys have to come in and understand what it takes to win at this level,” said Barone, who was suspended for much of the preseason. “It’s not like high school or junior college or anything like that. … It’s what coach was talking about in the locker room. Just understanding how hard you have to play every possession on defense and offense.”
The Vandals played without junior college transfer guard Antwan Scott, whose mother remains in a coma after complications from surgery, Verlin said. In his absence, Post Falls native Connor Hill started and had eight points and four assists.
Verlin said he isn’t sure when Scott will return to the Vandals.