Monday, January 31, 2011

Let's not be Vandel-ized Thursday night

Idaho is current sagging with a three-game losing streak, this after earlier winning five consecutive WAC games. So as Willy Shakes might have put it had he been a WAC hoops fan: to Vandal-ize or not to Vandal-ize, that is the question. Of course, SJSU faces the same query, to Spartan-ize or not to Spartan-ize.

Vandal Coach Don Verlin is a Stew Morrill protégé, coming over from USU after 15 years in March 2008 and he utilizes the same flip card system offensively that Utah State employs.

So which and what is Idaho this season? Indications are it's a team still feeling its way and developing an identity -- one that must play together as a team in order to perform well as none of Verlin's players will be earning all-WAC post-season honors.

This is not a team that has players who can create for themselves -- Deremy Geiger can to a degree but most of the outside talent needs screens in order to get clean looks.

In matchups with teams that San Jose State has also played, the Vandals beat host Eastern Washington 70-60, lost to host Seattle 66-56, won at Oregon 69-65 and also beat host Cal State Bakersfield 78-77.

Here's our game report Walt McPherson Court from January 8:

Spartans fall to Idaho 75-67 It was 'Famous Potatoes' times two this week for San Jose State but neither game left a pleasant aftertaste as Idaho also topped the Spartans tonight 75-67. SJSU led 35-27 after the initial 20 minutes, looking in a degree of command if not control, but the Vandals lived up to their forebearers namesake in the second half with a 48-32 rampage. The last eight minutes of the matchup was an Idaho scoring blitz. Adrian Oliver led with 25 points. Justin Graham passed for nine assists while Brylle Kamen topped the Spartans in rebounding with 11, his second straight double figures outing. He played 29 minutes, making his first appearance as a starter. Calvin Douglas contributed 12 on 5-7 shooting from the floor, 2-4 on trey attempts. Deremy Geiger led Don Verlin's squad with 17 points but four other Vandals finished in double figures: Luiz Toledo and Jeff Ledbetter with 13 apiece and Shawn Herson and Kyle Barone each totaling 11. Toledo led the board effort with nine rebounds. Idaho shot 50% for the game to SJSU's 37%. Each of the other statistical categories were either a wash or close to it.

The Vandal Starting Five

These are overall, not WAC, statistics.

* Deremy Geiger 5-11 (on a long day) -- 10.0 ppg., 112 of his 175 shots have been three-pointers, is shooting 34% overall, 35% on treys, has a 52/39 A-to-TO ratio

* Jeff Ledbetter 6-2 -- 11.0 ppg., shooting 47% overall, 46% from long distance, 125 of his 160 shots have been three-pointers, typically needs screens to shoot

* Shawn Henderson 6-3 -- 8.9 ppg., shooting 41% overall, 27% on treys, a very solid 5.1 rpg., 60 assists to 47 turnovers

* Luiz Toledo 6-8 -- 9.6 ppg., shooting 53%, 4.8 rpg., the one big body upfront who plays major minutes

* Kyle Barone 6-10 -- 11.1 ppg., 5.8 rpg., shooting 62% from the floor -- he's slim but long and needs to be kept out of any sort of shooting rhythm in the paint

Barone and Toledo may start upfront or Verlin may go with one or the other plus Brandon Wiley -- all dependent on his desire for certain matchups

Off The Bench

* Brandon Wiley 6-5 -- 7.0 ppg., shooting 50%, 5.3 rpg., team-leading 24blocked shots

* Landon Tatum 5-11 -- 5.2 ppg., shooting 44%, hasn't attempted a three-pointer, his 66-30 assist to turnover numbers is best on the team

* Stephen Madison 6-5 -- a freshman reserve, not shooting particularly well

6-8 junior college transfer Djim Bandoumel, who was the most athletic frontcourter on the squad, was declared academically ineligible a while back. Plus, two players have departed since the beginning of the school year -- forward Renado Parker and guard Gary Winston both departed for Portland State. -- leaving the Vandals a bit shorthanded, especially upfront.

* As a team, the Vandals are shooting 46% to 41% for opposing teams, 37% to 32% from long distance but with 97 less attempts. The rebounding differential is 34-32 per game in favor of Idaho. Verlin's team has 60 more turnovers than opponents and 38 less steals.

The Idaho WAC schedule to date

Dec 29 New Mexico State 69 - 74 (L)

Dec 31 Louisiana Tech 77 - 47 (W)

Jan 6 @ Hawaii 59-44 (W)

Jan 08 @ San Jose State 75 - 67 (W)

Jan 12 Nevada 72 - 67 (W)

Jan 17 @ Fresno State 67 - 57 (W)

Jan 22 Boise State 67 - 70 (L)

Defense was Idaho's calling card during its six-game winning streak, but on Saturday, the Vandal men's basketball team couldn't make the plays it needed to late and fell by a 70-67 score to Boise State at the Cowan Spectrum. Idaho slipped into a second-place tie with the Broncos after the loss, and saw their program-best, five-game WAC winning streak come to an end in front of a crowd of 5,017 - the third-largest in Cowan Spectrum history. "Those are tough ones to swallow, no matter who you play, Idaho head coach Don Verlin said. "You lose to your in-state rival at home, it hurts." The Vandals raced out to a 12-point first-half lead and held the Broncos to just 30 percent shooting overall and 15.4 percent from 3-point range, but Idaho couldn't make the same stops in the second period, where BSU hit 51.7 percent of its attempts and 44.4 percent of its 3-pointers. "We didn't lose this game offensively," Verlin said. "You look at the stat sheet and we shot 51 percent - we had 18 assists, 13 turnovers. We didn't get our job done defensively, and that's what we've been hanging our hat on."

Jan 27 @ Louisiana Tech 56 - 71 (L)

In its previous five-game road win streak, the Idaho men's basketball team made the hustle plays, rebounded well and played efficient offensively - but that wasn't the case on Thursday at Louisiana Tech. Idaho lost its second in a row after giving up 16 second-chance points and sending Louisiana Tech to the free throw line 24 times in a 71-56 loss at Thomas Assembly Center. "For whatever reason, we weren't mentally on our game like we should have been," Idaho head coach Don Verlin said after the game. "I thought we got completely dominated in the post, and when you do that, you're going to lose by 15 on the road, and that's what happened to tonight." The Vandals shot just 38.2 percent for the game, turned the ball over 15 times and shot a season-low 46.2 percent from the free-throw line. Senior guard Jeff Ledbetter went for a career-high-tying 20 points, mostly from a 6-of-10 effort from 3-point range, but no other Idaho player cracked double digits. Aside from Ledbetter's 7-of-12 shooting performance, Idaho went just 14-of-43 (.326) from the floor. The Vandals also tied a season low with just six made free throws on 13 attempts.

Jan 29 @ New Mexico State 65 - 73 (L)

The energy and intensity was there, but the University of Idaho men's basketball team couldn't protect the ball in a 73-65 loss at New Mexico State on Saturday at the Pan American Center. Idaho lost its third in a row and slipped to 12-9 overall and 5-4 in the Western Athletic Conference after turning the ball over a season-high 24 times, which led to 25 points for New Mexico State. "Tonight, we were ready to go, and we played extremely hard," Idaho head coach Don Verlin said. "We did a lot of really, really good things, we just didn't play smart. We got a little sloppy with the ball a few times and had a few defensive lapses." Both teams shot 49 percent from the field and both made six 3-pointers, but the real advantage came at the free throw line, where the Aggies went 19-of-27, while Idaho was just 9-of-11. Rebounds were also identical at 29 each. NMSU turned the ball over 19 times, but Idaho turned those opportunities into just 13 points. "Basically, they win this game at the free throw line, scoring 10 more points than us and that's the difference in the game," Verlin said.

The Vandal roster (alphabetized, by position)

Matt Borton G 6-5 180 Fr
Deremy Geiger G 5-11 170 Jr.
Shawn Henderson G 6-3 178 Sr.
Jeff Ledbetter G 6-2 195 Sr.
Shayne Sheridan G 6-0 170 Jr. (walk-on)
Landon Tatum G 5-11 196 Jr.

Brandon Wiley F 6-5 218 Sr.
Paul Jorg F 6-8 200 Fr. (walk-on)
Stephen Madison F 6-5 215 Fr.
Luiz Toledo F 6-8 225 Jr.

Kyle Barone C 6-10 220 So.
Joe Kammerer C 6-9 241 Fr. (redshirted last year)

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