It was far from pretty basketball, especially offensively. But for Idaho, which came in 1-4 on the year, any win is big right now. Especially with a road trip this week that includes games at Eastern Washington and UTEP -- and a game looming at Boise State in a few weeks.
We've got our story below and an update on Antwan Scott, the Vandals' guard who will not play this year for personal reasons.
Idaho coach Don Verlin said Scott, a junior-college transfer who figured prominently in the Vandals' plans, will likely leave the team again to be with his mother, Theresa Scott, who remains in a coma in Texas. Scott has yet to play a game for the Vandals and had been away for several weeks before recently returning to Moscow.
"He’s really struggling," Verlin said of the shooting guard. "I think he’s going to go back to Texas and be with his mom. When I talked to him earlier this week, he’s not … it’s just too hard on him. And there’s some other family situations going on with father and his sister. I just think he’s going to go back and take care of his mom."
The fifth-year coach said Scott will hopefully finish his academic workload for the semester in the next week or two before leaving. "Whether he’ll come back next year or not, I don’t know," Verlin said. "I told him the other day ... 'I don’t know what I would do.' My job is to support him in whatever he decides because the most important thing is your family — and when it’s your mom, that’s pretty tough."
Other notes: The crowd at Cowan Spectrum was announced at 935, but it appeared even smaller than that. ... Idaho point guard Robert Harris made his first appearance of the season after battling a hamstring injury. Verlin said he would like to get Harris and the Vandals' other more athletic players on the court more often. He mentioned Mansa Habeeb, Marcus Bell and Denzel Douglas -- all reserves currently.
By Josh Wright
MOSCOW, Idaho — Denzel Douglas is pretty sure he'll never get an easier steal in his life. And as far as his first year at Idaho is concerned, he might not have a more important one either.
With UC Davis charging and the Vandals in danger of dropping their third straight game, Douglas swiped an errant inbounds pass with 19 seconds left and sank two ensuing free throws.
The steal was both heady and fortuitous, and it helped Idaho fend off the Aggies 73-66 on Saturday night at Cowan Spectrum in a nonconference men's basketball game.
Idaho (2-4) nearly let a 13-point lead fade away in the final 5 minutes. But it mustered enough defensive stops — something it was unable to do Wednesday night in a loss at Washington State — and made 5 of 6 free throws in the closing seconds to withstand UC Davis' rally.
The Aggies (1-4) got within two points, 68-66, on a 3-pointer in the corner from Ryan Sypkens with 1:11 left. After UCD missed another 3 that would have given it the lead, Douglas made 1 of 2 free throws to pad the Vandals' less-than-comfortable advantage.
The Aggies then inbounded the ball, and Douglas was startled when Ryan Howley's pass came right to him — and not to the UCD guard it was intended for.
"They were trying to hurry up," said Douglas, a 5-foot-10 junior point guard. "But I came up a little bit, and he curled and his big man (Howley) wasn’t on the same page. He just threw it to me."
Douglas was thrust into a bigger-than-usual role Saturday after starting point guard Mike McChristian turned it over twice in the first 90 seconds and was benched. Douglas brought stability to the position, finishing with eight points, three assists and just one turnover.
Junior Stephen Madison, the Vandals' leading scorer, poured in 21 points and center Kyle Barone struggled through a 3-of-9 shooting night to finish with 12 points.
Late in the first half, Barone eclipsed the 1,000-point mark in his career, becoming the first UI big man to reach the milestone since Deon Watson in 1994. Until checking his phone and seeing congratulatory texts afterward, the four-year contributor hadn't realized he had passed the mark.
"I just totally forgot about it this game too," Barone said. "It’s an accomplishment and I’m proud of myself for doing that."
UI coach Don Verlin wasn't pleased with the Vandals' offense, which repeatedly stalled, but he liked how his team shut down UC Davis when it needed to late. He acknowledged that the Vandals could have ill afforded to lose this game after dropping four of their first five.
"It was huge because our schedule has been tough," Verlin said of the win. "… This has been a tough preseason, and you worry about (losing) confidence."