DENVER, Colo. – When Kyle Barone doesn’t score until late the second half, it’s a sure sign things aren’t going well for the Idaho Vandals. So much so, the Vandals suffered their largest loss of the season as Denver extended its home win streak to nine in the 74-58 Western Athletic Conference game Saturday afternoon.
Turnovers were the initial problem as the Vandals turned the ball over on four of their first six possessions and wound up with 12 for the first half and 16 for the game. Denver used those bobbles to its advantage by shooting out to a 10-2 early lead, 36-14 halftime edge and second-half leads of as many as 30 points.
The biggest disappointment for coach Don Verlin was the Vandals’ uninspired play.
“We didn’t compete like we needed to against a good Denver ballclub,” said Verlin after Idaho dropped to 9-14 overall, 5-8 in the WAC and the Pioneers improved to 16-8 and 10-2.
“That was the thing that was most frustrating about it. For whatever reason, we didn’t compete like we needed to. No question about it. It’s very frustrating at this time of year.”
No one was exempt.
“It wasn’t one guy,” he continued. “It was a team effort.”
Jalen Love set the tone early for Denver by opening the scoring then staking the Pioneers to a 10-2 lead by scoring all of their first 10 points and 13 of their first 15. Meantime, it was a turnover flurry by the Vandals sandwiched around a Wendell Faines jumper and two Barone free throws. Adding to those woes, were just 14 first-half field goal attempts.
Barone had a difficult time against the steadfast Denver defense. He managed just the two free throws in the first half and had but one field goal attempt – at the 5:06 mark of the opening period. It didn’t get any easier in the second. He did have four free throws for a perfect six-for-six for the night from the line but again he had just one shot – a jumper he made with 5:55 to play.
Mike McChristian and Stephen Madison matched 14-point nights, with Habeeb Mansa adding nine and Barone finishing with eight. The Vandals did have the edge on the boards with Madison’s six helping Idaho to a 27-25 advantage.