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WAC newcomer Denver downs Idaho

Pioneers limit Barone, finish with 8-1 run to win

MOSCOW, Idaho – A pair of preseason All-WAC first-teamers were on display in the Cowan Spectrum Thursday night but the matchup was overshadowed by late drama, which turned Denver’s way in a 55-49 men’s basketball victory over the Vandals.

A Denver team that attempts 47 percent of its field-goal attempts from 3-point range was only 3 of 16 from long range until 3:21 was left in the game. But the Pioneers, who run a Princeton-style offense, still had two of their best shots in their pocket.

  Trailing by three, Denver senior Chase Hallam made consecutive 3-pointers, and the Pioneers won out by converting all six of their free throws down the stretch.

Despite a few blunders, Idaho coach Don Verlin thought the Vandals defended well most of the way against the complex anatomy of back-door cuts and slips that the Pioneers utilized on offense.

“We let Hallam get loose there late and he makes two big shots,” said Verlin. “Basically we ran out of gas, I guess. They just outplayed us the last 10 minutes of this basketball game.”

The Vandals went to Kyle Barone right at the start of the game, and the 6-10 senior forward banked in a lay-up over his preseason all-conference counterpart, 6-6 Chris Udofia, before converting the ensuing free throw. But Barone would score just two points the rest of the way.

While Udofia’s 10 points led all players after 20 minutes – he finished with 12 – Idaho was often able to stifle the unique Pioneer schemes. The Vandals led 28-24 at the half, the fewest points a Division-I opponent has scored against Idaho this season.

Coming off four consecutive double-double performances, Barone went scoreless in the second half while turning the ball over five times in the game.

When the visitors began to tilt the momentum in the second half’s opening minutes, Vandals sophomore Connor Hill drew the foul on a 3-point make, before converting from the line for his NCAA-leading fourth four-point play this season. He finished with 12 points.

It was junior guard Stephen Madison’s turn next as he went on a 9-1 run of his own, helping Idaho regain the lead, which reached as many as seven points as the eight-minute mark approached.

But Madison’s game-high 19 points weren’t enough as Denver finished with an 8-1 run and pulled out its second consecutive road win after the Pioneers had lost their first five away games.

The schools met for the third time, the first since 1966. This is Denver’s first season in the WAC.