Posted on November 20, 2012 at 11:49 PM
MOSCOW – This time, Idaho men’s basketball took the lead and kept a firm grasp, and the Vandals got their first win of the season with a 72-62 victory over Green Bay on Tuesday at Memorial Gym.
Three days removed from fumbling a 15-point second-half lead in a home loss to Montana, Idaho (1-2) shot lights out, held a positive rebounding margin and, most importantly, got the defensive stops it needed against Green Bay (2-3).
“It was good to get our first win and I’m happy about that,” Idaho head coach Don Verlin said. “I know the guys are relieved and hopefully, we can continue to go.”
The Vandal men went 27-49 (.551) overall and 9-15 (.600) percent from 3-point range in the game, out-rebounded the Phoenix by a 34-27 margin and dished up 20 assists on 27 made field goals. Idaho also turned it over just 10 times and tallied 11 fast-break points in the game.
After a back-and-forth first five minutes, Idaho used a 10-0 run, in which four different players scored, to sprint out to a 21-11 lead at the 11:30 mark of the first half. The Vandal lead climbed as high as 13 points and no lower than eight before the Vandal men took a 39-29 lead into the half.
Another quick scoring run, this time a 7-0 spurt, put the Vandals ahead by 16 at 49-33 at the 14:01 mark. Idaho would extend its second-half margin to as many as 19 points, 66-47, with 6:37 to play, but Green Bay scratched back with a 13-4 run to pull within eight in the final 80 seconds.
The game was a mix of quick scoring runs by both sides and long droughts, and Verlin said that despite the start-and-stop pace of play, he was happy that his team maintained two key stats – rebounds and possession.
“The game was a little choppy and it didn’t have a lot of flow to it, but you look at our stat sheet at the end of the game … we out-rebound them by seven and number two is we have 20 assists and 10 turnovers,” Verlin said.
Another positive of the team totals is the fact that the 20 assists came from eight players. All but one Vandal scored, and even though senior guard Mansa Habeeb didn’t net a point, he did serve up three assists and grab one steal.
Junior guard Stephen Madison led Idaho with 19 points and a career-high seven assists, along with four rebounds. Senior center Kyle Barone earned the 11th double-double of his career and his first of the season with 15 points and 10 rebounds on 7-of-9 shooting, while sophomore guard Connor Hill hit four of his six shots for 12 points.
Forward Brennan Cougill led Green Bay with 19 points, six rebounds and four assists, while guard Keifer Sykes added 13 points and four assists. Alec Brown and Kam Cerroni added nine points apiece for the Phoenix, which shot 42.6 percent from the floor and 33.3 percent from 3-point range.
The games only get more difficult from here for Idaho. The Vandals play at New Mexico (4-0) on Friday – a team that is receiving Associated Press Top 25 votes and just knocked off No. 21 Connecticut on Monday in the Paradise Jam Championship Game.
“Steve Alford has got a great program and I’ve been to The Pit a number of times,” Verlin said. “It’s quite special to go down there. We’ve played pretty well in our guarantee games in the past and it’s going to take one heck of an effort to stay close in that game and have a chance to win.”
Friday’s game at Albuquerque, N.M., tips off at 7:30 p.m. (PT).