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Sports >  Idaho basketball

College basketball 2022-23: Idaho men hope to build on the modest gains they made a year ago

Nov. 3, 2022 Updated Thu., Nov. 3, 2022 at 2:35 p.m.

Guard Rashad Smith is one of two returning starters for an Idaho team looking to take the next step in its rebuilding plan.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
Guard Rashad Smith is one of two returning starters for an Idaho team looking to take the next step in its rebuilding plan. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
By Peter Harriman For The Spokesman-Review

Idaho’s moderate but encouraging resurgence last season died on the rim at the conclusion of the Vandals’ Big Sky Conference Tournament first-round men’s basketball game against Sacramento State.

A 9-2 run with two minutes remaining gave Idaho a chance to tie a 57-54 game in the closing seconds. But Rashad Smith’s 3-point effort missed as the clock ticked down.

Along the way to that disappointing finish in Boise last March, however, the Vandals emerged from the disaster of a one-win campaign two years ago to finish 9-22.

They went 8-7 in their new ICCU Arena, including a signature win over nationally ranked South Dakota State, and they fashioned a three-game win streak against Big Sky foes Weber State, Montana and Eastern Washington, three of the best programs in the conference.

From that foundation, the Vandals hope a retooled lineup with a dozen new players, featuring junior college transfer Isaac Jones and returning starters Smith and Yusef Salih, will provide the speed, power and shooting to take the next big step to a winning season.

“We have the ability to get out and play in transition,” Idaho coach Zac Claus said. “We have size and length.”

Jones, at 6-foot-9, averaged more than 25 points and 13 rebounds per game at Wenatchee Valley a season ago. He’s joined up front by 6-8 sophomore Terren Frank.

Perimeter play will be keyed by the 6-4 Smith, who averaged 10.1 points and 5.1 rebounds last season.

He’ll be joined in the backcourt by 6-2 Yusef Salih and 6-3 transfer Divant’e Moffit, who averaged 19.3 points per game at Seattle Pacific a year ago.

“We have quickness on the perimeter,” Claus said. “That is where we can make a considerable jump. We want to play as fast as we can play smart. We are a more talented group across the board than we were a year ago.”

Missing from Idaho’s schedule this year is its traditional Battle of the Palouse against Washington State. The series had been played at least once annually since 1906 before the Cougars declined to renew it this year, citing Pac-12 nonconference scheduling standards. Thus ends the oldest continuous rivalry in the country.

The Vandals go on the road to open the season on Nov. 7 at the University of Denver.

But Idaho has seven of 13 nonconference games at home, including likely tough matches with Northern Illinois, Dixie State and UC Riverside before beginning league play with daunting road games at Montana State and Montana on Dec. 29 and Dec. 31.

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