MOSCOW, Idaho –The frustrations continued for the Idaho men’s basketball team on Saturday night as the team erased a 14-point second-half deficit to tie the game with 30 seconds left, only to fall at the hands of a put-back with three ticks on the clock, losing 57-55 to Chicago State in the Cowan Spectrum.
The Vandals fall to 6-10 on the season and 0-2 in the Western Athletic Conference after their fourth consecutive loss, three of which came in two-or-less possession games. Chicago State moves to 6-8 and 1-0 in the WAC.
The Cougars shot 54.2 percent from the field in the first half en route to a 38-28 halftime lead, but Idaho clamped down in defense, holding CSU to a 34.6 percent (9-of-26) clip in the second half, but it wasn’t enough to get the win.
“It’s frustrating for me,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said. “In the first half our defense was atrocious, in the second half we came out and guarded the heck of them, hold them to 19 points and we can’t hit an open shot or make a free throw.”
After trailing by as many as 14 points early in the second half, the Vandals got right back into the game with a 13-4 run that made it 46-41 with 11:21 to play. The Cougars kept their lead between six and eight points for the next eight minutes before the Vandals used a 7-0 run that lasted 1:22 to tie the game at 55-55 with 1:05 to play. Junior Mike Scott converted driving layups on back-to-back possessions to finish the run.
Chicago State’s Quinton Pippen missed a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession but the long rebound was corralled by the Cougars, who then got a fresh shot clock and about a two-second differential between the shot and game clock. After an Idaho foul with 12 seconds left, the shot clock was off, giving the Cougars a chance at the final possession. With five seconds left CSU’s Corey Gray missed a layup but Matt Ross grabbed the rebound and got the put-back to go, giving the Cougars the decisive points. The Vandals attempt at a play to get a buzzer-beating shot ended when Glen Dean’s pass to Mike Scott was mishandled as time expired.
“Well we ran the same home run play three or four times so we ran a decoy,” Verlin said of the final three seconds. “(Dean) was supposed to drive the lane and try to hit the open guy. We only had three seconds to shoot it so, get as far down the court as you can and hit the open dude. We got what we needed to get we just couldn’t make a play.”
Idaho senior Stephen Madison led the team with 17 points, nine rebounds and three assists, going 6-for-11 from the field. Junior Connor Hill broke out of somewhat of a shooting slump, finishing with 14 points on 5-of-10 shooing including 4-of-7 from 3-point range. Junior Bira Seck added 10 points and six rebounds.
The Vandals shot 40.4 percent (19-of-47) in the game while CSU hit 22-of-50 (44 percent) of its shots. Idaho owned a 36-24 rebounding advantage and both teams connected on five 3-pointers in the game. The Vandals struggled from the free throw line hitting just 12-of-22 free throws, a trend that has Verlin puzzled.
“I can’t tell you the reason we are missing free throws,” Verlin said. “Maybe we need to not shoot any at all (in practice). Each of our guys made 500 this week. I don’t know.”
Idaho hits the road for the first time in conference play next week when it visits Texas-Pan American on Jan. 9 and New Mexico State on Jan. 11.