Vandals find win, but not a point
No guard steps to front in fight for starting spot
MOSCOW, Idaho — The Idaho men’s basketball team is no more settled at point guard than it was at the start the season two weeks ago.
But at least the Vandals now have a win to their name as they sort it out.
Despite shaky guard play in the final moments again, Idaho dispatched Wisconsin-Green Bay 72-62 on Tuesday night in front of an announced pre-Thanksgiving crowd of 762 at Memorial Gym.
The nonconference game was the third in a row at home to start the season for the Vandals (1-2), who travel to unbeaten New Mexico on Friday night.
UI coach Don Verlin has alternated between starting point guard Mike McChristian and junior-college transfer Denzel Douglas, both of whom showed their inexperience against the Phoenix (2-3) of the Horizon League.
Robert Harris, Jr., another JC transfer, also will be in the mix at point guard when he returns from a strained hamstring, possibly next week.
“(I’m) trying to figure out which one I want to play more,” Verlin said. “I’ve just got to get them experience. Denzel hasn’t played any Division I basketball, and Mike has, but all at the small forward. And so it’s just going to take time. It always does.”
One of Douglas’ three assists was a highlight-reel alley-oop pass to Stephen Madison after poking the ball away on defense to start a fast break. But the 5-foot-10 junior also made a few questionable decisions as Green Bay hacked away at a 19-point deficit late in the second half.
McChristian, meanwhile, had five points, two turnovers and one assist – solid numbers in Verlin’s eyes. But as in his first two starts, the senior was momentarily benched because of mistakes.
Both point guards, though, have had no problem feeding Madison and center Kyle Barone. Idaho’s two best players continued their productive play early in the season, combining for 34 points.
Barone had a double-double with 10 rebounds, while Madison distributed a career-high seven assists.
Madison’s biggest assist of the night came after the Phoenix had cut UI’s lead to 58-47 with 7:51 remaining. Madison penetrated the lane and found Douglas alone on the left wing for a 3-pointer.
That started a mini 8-0 run to put UI in what appeared to be full control. But Green Bay, playing for the fourth time in five nights, got within single digits, 70-62, by taking advantage of Idaho miscues.
The final minutes were reminiscent of Saturday night, when UI saw a 15-point lead melt away in a 69-66 loss to Montana. This time, though, the Vandals got the stops they needed.
“We just had to execute down the stretch, execute our game plan and keep our exposure,” Douglas said.
The Vandals outrebounded Green Bay 34-27 and held a major advantage on the offensive boards in the first half. Much of that was due to Marcus Bell, an athletic JC transfer who started for the first time.