MOSCOW, Idaho – In the best of circumstances, Southern Utah (12-7, 5-3 Big Sky Conference) is a tough matchup for Idaho.
“They are a big, strong, mature team. We knew that coming in,” Vandals center Jack Wilson said.
Circumstances could not have been much worse, as Idaho (5-14, 1-7) shot abysmally, 26.2% (16 of 61), in getting rolled by the Thunderbirds, 73-45.
If a single image captured Idaho’s frustration, it occurred early in the second half. With the Vandals trailing 46-26, Quinton Forrest missed an open jump shot from the top of the lane. Idaho coach Zac Claus rocked back on his heels and looked long at the ceiling.
“I thought we had some good looks in the first half running off screens,” Claus said. “We had some good looks off penetration and post touches.” But the Vandals made only 9 of 29 shots in the opening period and tailed off from even that poor performance in the second half to 7 of 32.
“Our guys were not ready, and that falls squarely on me,” Claus said.
Southern Utah, by contrast, was. The Thunderbirds outscored the Vandals everywhere. They had 15 points off turnovers to Idaho’s 10, 36 points in the paint to Idaho’s 24 and 14 points off fast breaks to the Vandals’ seven.
“They are a dangerous offensive team. They can score all over the place,” Claus said.
Andre Adam, a 6-9 senior, owned the inside with 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Thunderbirds. He was 7 of 8 from the floor. Cameron Oluyitan led all scorers with 15 points, and Maizen Fausett (13) and Dre Marin (11) also hit in double figures for Southern Utah.
Trevon Allen, the Big Sky’s second-leading scorer, was held under his 20-point-per-game average in leading Idaho with 12 points – and he had to struggle for those on 4-of-15 shooting. Wilson came off the bench for 10 points and a team-high eight rebounds. Playing nearly 30 minutes, the 7-foot Oregon State transfer had his biggest workload since his Vandals career started at the beginning of the current semester. But Wilson left short jumpers and hooks on the front of the rim all night in going 4 of 11 from the floor as the Thunderbird defenders forced him to set up further from the rim than he wanted.
“I settled for a hook. That’s on me,” Wilson acknowledged.
The Thunderbirds’ height gave Idaho trouble from the beginning. SUU opened with a 13-2 run, and the Vandals played from behind the entire first half.
With great effort, Idaho got back into it. Going much of the way without starting post Scott Blakney, who picked up two early fouls, the Vandals got as close as 16-9 with 11:33 to play. Wilson, who replaced Blakney, canned a jumper in motion, drew a foul from Adams and hit the free throw. However, the Thunderbirds scored the next six points. The Vandals got back within 10, 24-14, on Gabe Quinnett’s 3-pointer before SUU pulled away to take a 43-24 lead at intermission.
Any thoughts Idaho had of reversing momentum in the second half were swept away early, as the Thunderbirds kept growing their lead, and with 6:29 to play the Vandals were looking at a 38-point deficit, 71-33. Even though the Vandals made a 12-2 run to close the game, it was an impossible situation, and a scattered and uninspired Idaho crowd began drifting away.
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