MOSCOW, Idaho – University of Idaho senior center Kyle Barone had the best shooting performance in Idaho history, but his assist on a crucial 3-pointer with 1:00 remaining was the biggest play in Idaho’s 74-70 home win over UTSA on Saturday at the Cowan Spectrum.
Barone went 10-of-10 from the floor to break Idaho’s single-game field goal percentage record and finished with game highs of 25 points and 16 rebounds, along with three blocks and two assists. Senior guard Mike McChristian was 0-for-3 from long range before a driving Barone found him in the corner for a wide-open triple late in the shot clock. McChristian drained it to give the Vandals a 69-65 lead with a minute to play.
“I had missed my previous three 3-point attempts to that point, but I just wanted to make sure I stepped up and still was confident while shooting it,” McChristian said. “That late in the shot clock, you don’t really have much of an option.”
On the ensuing possession, Barone came up big on defense with a swat on a Michael Hale III 3-pointer with 45 seconds to play, then ran the floor to earn a transition layup that put Idaho ahead by six, 71-65. Sophomore guard Connor Hill sank three of four free throws to close out the Vandal win.
Idaho moves to 8-11 overall and 4-5 in the Western Athletic Conference, while UTSA slips to 5-14 overall and 1-8 in league play.
“It feels great to win a close game, no question about it,” Idaho head coach Don Verlin said after the game. “It was nice to see our guys make some plays down the stretch to win the ball game.”
Idaho went 26-of-50 (.520) from the floor and made nine of its 20 long-range shots for a 45 percent clip, but the Roadrunners stuck around by virtue of their long-range shooting. UTSA went 13-of-28 (.464) from beyond 3-point range and went just 10-of-29 (.345) from inside the arc in the game.
Despite UTSA going 7-of-15 (.467) from long range in the second half, Verlin said he thought the defense put forth a solid effort by limiting the Roadrunners to just two offensive rebounds and by limiting their easy shot opportunities.
“Even though they make seven threes (in the half), I thought we did a pretty good job defending it,” Verlin said. “And when we got them defended, we rebounded the shots.”
In addition to Barone’s stat line, Hill went 4-of-9 from 3-point range and finished with 15 points, while junior guard Stephen Madison went 6-of-10 from the field and kick-started Idaho with 11 of his 13 points in the first half. McChristian scored just five points in the game, but added four rebounds, seven assists and zero turnovers.
Hale III led UTSA with 21 points and seven assists on 5-of-11 shooting from 3-point range, while Kannon Burrage added 16 points and five rebounds. Edrico McGregor and Hyjii Thomas put in 10 points apiece, while Jordan Sims scored nine and grabbed 11 boards.
Idaho held a 38-24 rebounding edge in the game for its sixth plus-10 or better rebounding margin of the season. The Vandals outscored the Roadrunners in the paint by a 32-20 margin and on second chances, 11-9. Fast-break and bench points were both split at 10-10, while UTSA had a 17-2 scoring edge off turnovers. There were five ties and eight lead changes in the game.
Barone’s 10-of-10 shooting performance bested the previous record by one field goal. Phil Hopson went 9-of-9 from the floor against Boise State on Jan. 30, 1982, and then Tanoris Shepard posted a matching 9-of-9 night on Nov. 26, 2002, against Montana Western.
“I had no idea until I just looked at it right now,” Barone said of his shooting performance. “My teammates really got me some easy shots tonight – I don’t think I’ve ever not missed a shot in my life.”
It was a historic night for Barone on multiple levels. In addition to passing Hopson’s single-game percentage record, Barone also jumped Hopson into fourth in Idaho’s career rebounds list (763) and seventh on its career points list (1,234).
With a pair of home games next week, Verlin said Thursday’s game against Utah State and Saturday’s matchup with San Jose State will be key if Idaho wants to climb back into the top tier of the WAC. The injury-bitten Aggies have lost three games in a row, but Verlin said he’s expecting a strong challenge on Thursday.
“[USU coach Stew Morrill] has won 580 games or whatever and they’re not going to come in here and lay down,” Verlin said. “I can’t ever remember him losing four in a row. He’ll come in with his guys ready to play, he’ll come in here with a trick or two – there’s a lot of pride in that program.”