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Idaho basketball blow 15-point lead, loses

MOSCOW, Idaho – The University of Idaho men’s basketball team held a 15-point lead and all the momentum, but it all turned quickly and Montana came back to beat the Vandals at Memorial Gym on Saturday evening, 66-63.

Idaho (0-2) started the second half on an 11-2 run to take a four-point lead to 13 points at 45-32 with 16:32 to play, then extended its lead to 50-35 at the 12:27 mark of the half. From that point on, it was all Montana (2-1).

“You’ve got to give the credit to them (Montana),” Idaho head coach Don Verlin said. “We didn’t execute nearly as well as we needed to. They put a little 1-3-1 halfcourt trap on us and we didn’t move the ball quite well enough, and then when we did have some good possessions, we didn’t knock down the open shots.”

The Griz scored 10 unanswered points to pull within five points, 50-45, at 9:58 of the second half. Idaho’s Stephen Madison dropped in a 3-pointer at 9:37 to put the Vandals back up by eight, but UM went on an 8-0 run minutes later to take the lead at 4:12.

Idaho stayed within two possessions for the game’s final 4 minutes and got back possession with 9.4 seconds left after a missed Montana free throw, but Verlin said Idaho ran the wrong play in the final seconds and the Vandals weren’t able to get off a shot before time expired.

Madison finished with a game-high and career-high 22 points, along with eight rebounds, two assists and two blocks. Senior Kyle Barone put in 19 points and snagged seven rebounds.

Senior guard Mike McChristian put together a solid all-around line of 10 points, five assists, four rebounds, three steals and one blocked shot in 35 minutes.

Idaho went 24 of 57 (.421) from the field, but shot just 34.5 percent in the second half and was 5 of 19 (.263) from the 3-point arc. Montana hit 47.9 percent of its shots overall (23 of 48) and went 7 of 15 (.467) from 3-point range.

“The thing I was disappointed in is that we let our offense affect our defensive performance in the second half,” Verlin said. “We gave up way too high of a percentage.”

Guard Kareem Jamar led UM with 17 points, seven rebounds and three assists on 5-of-7 shooting, while forward Mathias Ward added 16 on a 6-of-9 shooting.

After missing 10 of its first 12 shots in the second half, Montana finished the period by sinking 12 of its final 14 attempts in the last 12 minutes of the game. Idaho made just 10 of its 29 second-half shots and four of its 14 attempts beyond the arc.

“I thought for 30 minutes, we were pretty sharp and then for whatever reason, the shock of the zone, we ran out of gas, whatever the reason may be, we just didn’t execute the way we needed to down the stretch,” Verlin said.