MOSCOW – University of Idaho men’s basketball couldn’t get stops early on one side and didn’t maintain any offensive rhythm in a 77-67 home loss to Utah State on Thursday at the Cowan Spectrum.
Idaho falls to 8-12 overall and 4-6 in the Western Athletic Conference, while Utah State moves to 15-5 overall and 6-4 in the WAC.
Despite falling into a deep early hole at 18-3 six minutes in, Idaho climbed back within two with a 15-2 scoring run of its own. After going into the half down 31-25, Idaho kept USU’s lead within two possessions for the first portion of the second half until a crucial stretch.
Vandal senior guard Mansa Habeeb hit a contested 3-pointer – just his second of the season – to pull Idaho within two, 46-44, with 10:55 to play. The Vandals would not make another field goal for the next seven minutes and 16 seconds of game time. Meanwhile, USU’s TeNale Roland notched back-to-back 3-pointers to spur a 17-3 Aggie scoring run that extended the lead to 63-47 with 3:46 to play.
“We make two defensive errors in a row – we go under two-consecutive ball screens – and give him (Roland) wide-open threes,” Idaho head coach Don Verlin said. “Then we turned it over a couple unforced times and it snowballed on us.”
Idaho extended the game by fouling for the final three-plus minutes, but could pull no closer than 10 after Utah State extended its lead to a game-high 17 points at the 3:27 mark.
The Vandals, which had out-rebounded their last six opponents, were held to a season-low 16 rebounds and a season-worst negative-11 rebounding margin. It was just the fourth time this season that Idaho has been out-rebounded. The team entered the game ranked 25th in the NCAA with a plus-7.0 rebounding margin.
“When we were able to get the stops, it seemed like they’d get the offensive rebounds,” Verlin said. “They missed 19 shots and they get eight of them back. It’s hard to beat a team when they get that. We weren’t quick enough in our rotations and they just physically dominated us in the paint.”
USU’s Jarred Shaw led all players with 27 points on 12-of-15 shooting, along with nine rebounds. Guard Marcel Davis added 16 points and Spencer Butterfield posted a double-double with 11 points and 10 boards.
Sophomore guard Connor Hill and junior guard Stephen Madison tied for the Idaho lead with 14 points apiece, while junior guard Robert Harris added 13 points and senior center Kyle Barone scored 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds while dealing with foul trouble a large portion of the game.
As a team, Idaho shot 25-of-47 (.532) overall and 10-of-19 (.526) from 3-point range. The 10 made 3-pointers were a team season high for the season. The Vandals entered the game shooting a WAC-best .775 from the free throw line, but went just 7-of-13 (.538) on Thursday.
Utah State went 28-of-47 (.596) from the floor – an Idaho opponent season high this season – and added a 6-of-13 (.462) clip from long range. The Aggies converted 15 of their 19 free throws for a 78.9 percentage.
Idaho will wrap up the home stand on Saturday, when the Vandals host San Jose State at 7:05 p.m. at the Cowan Spectrum. The Spartans are 9-12 overall and 3-7 in the WAC after a 56-48 road loss at Seattle U on Thursday. Idaho will be looking for a season sweep after its 64-55 road win at SJSU on Jan. 3.
“They’re very good defensively,” Verlin said of the Spartans. “I’ve seen in the stats that they’re a very good defensive team. They’ve got some good size, they’re a very good rebounding team and they play with a lot of heart.”