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Vandals Finally Close Out A Close One

Idaho head coach Don Verlin was happy to see his team finally win a close one at home. Idaho head coach Don Verlin was happy to see his team finally win a close one at home.

by Idaho Athletics Media Relations

MOSCOW, Idaho – The Idaho men’s basketball team was finally on the right side of a down-to-the-wire game in the Cowan Spectrum, as the Vandals outlasted Bakersfield in a 64-61 win on Saturday night.

The Vandals lost five games by six or fewer points in their previous five games inside the Spectrum, but went 6-for-6 from the free throw line in the final 20 seconds on Saturday night to fend off the Roadrunners.

Idaho junior point guard Mike Scott finished with a career-high 20 points and added five rebounds and a career-high six assists in the game. He went 7-of-9 from the field, 4-of-6 from 3-point range and 2-of-2 from the free throw line, and committed just two turnovers in 38 minutes of action.

“Mike Scott played a heck of a game,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said. “He stepped up and played remarkably well the last two games, logging 37 and 38 minutes. Tonight he was phenomenal. The only two shots he missed were 3-pointers. Mike was the key to us winning the basketball game.”

Senior Stephen Madison notched his seventh 20-point performance of the season, with 20 points to go with five rebounds and two assists. Madison earned half of his points at the free throw line, where he connected on 10-of-14 attempts. Junior Connor Hill added 16 points on 4-of-8 shooting from 3-point range in the game.

The Vandals jumped out to a 15-point lead early in the game, leading 22-7 with just under 10 minutes to go in the first half. Bakersfield answered, however, with a 13-0 run to make it 22-20 with just under six minutes in the half before Idaho took a 32-28 advantage into halftime.

“We got out early in transition and I thought that was key to us winning tonight,” Verlin said of Idaho’s fast start. “Mike made a couple great plays in transition. After a couple [Bakersfield] baskets, I subbed a little bit and we lost momentum and never really got our break going again. This team needs to play more up-tempo than it does.”

After the Vandals scored on the first possession of the second half to take a six-point lead, Bakersfield went on a 13-1 run to take a 41-35 lead. The Roadrunners led for more than 10 minutes before a Scott 3-pointer put the Vandals ahead 55-53 with 5:42 to play. Bakersfield would tie the game on two more occasions, but never regained the lead, and Idaho hung on for the victory.

The Vandals improve to 8-12 on the season and 2-4 in the Western Athletic Conference with the win, while Bakersfield falls to 8-10 overall and 1-3 in the WAC.

The Vandals shot 42 percent from the field (21-of-50) and from 3-point range (8-of-19), while Bakersfield hit 44 percent of its shots (24-of-55) but just 29 percent (5-of-17) of its 3-pointers. The ‘Runners entered the game with WAC-bests of 7.94 made 3s per game and a 40.5 3-point field goal percentage.

“The stat I like the best is 29 percent from 3,” Verlin said. “They’re a good 3-point shooting team and I thought we did a great job of defending the 3-point line tonight. From a defensive standpoint that was the best thing that we did.”

Bakersfield out-rebounded Idaho 32-30 and held an 11-9 edge in second-chance points. Each team finished with eight turnovers in the game.

The Vandals have just one game the rest of January, as they visit Grand Canyon on Jan. 23. After that game, Idaho will be back in the Cowan Spectrum for three straight conference games, hosting Seattle U (Feb. 1), New Mexico State (Feb. 6) and Texas-Pan American (Feb. 8).