It was just over two weeks ago that the Idaho Vandals surprised most everyone by pasting then-No. 25 University of Portland 68-48. Tonight, the Pilots get another shot at Idaho (this time in Portland), and it would be shocking if this isn't a much more competitive game.
Read on for a preview.
The Pilots have lost four of five during a fairly brutal stretch, including an 89-54 loss at Washington on Saturday. The skid has come after they became early season darlings by shellacking UCLA -- not a great win in retrospect -- and upending a ranked Minnesota team.
Meanwhile, the Vandals (6-3) haven't played since outlasting Eastern Oregon on Dec. 12. Some of the time off was spent focusing on finals, and some was no doubt spent trying to tweak playing rotations and individual roles. Coach Don Verlin has mentioned twice to reporters that his biggest goal is to find consistency. It's no wonder. Idaho has performed spastically -- looking like a legit WAC title threat one moment and disappearing the next.
Also, if you look at Idaho's statistics, you can see why the team has been up and down. Mac Hopson has just 42 assists against 31 turnovers after being so sure-handed last season, and he's shooting just .290 from 3-point range. Then there's the defense, which has struggled in three of the last four games.
The one recent defensive gem came against Portland, actually. The Vandals held UP to 22 points below its season average, while point guard C.J. Campbell had an especially dreadful day. Expect him and the rest of the Pilots to be amped up for this one.