Update – March 14 – Men eliminated
Idaho coach Don Verlin said the five years he’s been at Idaho have been among the best stretches in recent Idaho memory. He may be right – after all, it’s been 23 years since Larry Eustachy delivered Idaho its last conference championship.
Idaho has finished with a winning record in three of Verlin’s five years in Moscow, accompanied with berths in to the CollegeInsider.com tournament.
What Verlin has yet to do is win a game in the Western Athletic Conference tournament. Idaho was once again sent home in the initial round of the Las Vegas bout, this time by No. 3 seeded New Mexico State, in a game that wasn’t much in doubt mid-way through the second half.
After defeating Idaho twice by a combined three points in the regular season, New Mexico State did it soundly, 65-49 at the Orleans arena on March 14.
In Kyle Barone’s last game as a Vandal he did his best to stave off elimination – 19 points on only 10 attempts. But foul trouble marred Barone’s ability to make a lasting impact on the game. He had two fouls quickly in to the first half, but was still able to play 32 minutes.
But at the end of the afternoon it was the lack of defense Idaho will lament. The Vandals crashed the boards early in the first half to get out in transition, finding offense running the floor and keep New Mexico State on its toes.
Daniel Mullings put an end to that, because when there are no missed shots to rebound there is no ability to run the floor. When Idaho went man, he sliced by Connor Hill and Mike McChristian by moving without the ball and bursting to the bucket. When Idaho played zone he found the holes in the zone and found open mid-range lay-ups. He led all scorers with 23 points on 14 shots.
The program will now have to move forward without Kyle Barone, one of Idaho’s five all-time leading scorers and first player to win conference player of the year honors at Idaho since Orlando Lightfoot won it in the in 1994.
Verlin spoke at length about returning Stephen Madison, Connor Hill and getting Ty Egbert off of his redshirt. Madison will be a senior and it would be a shock if he wasn’t named captain and tasked with being the leader on the team. What remains to be seen if Madison can bring the consistency night in and night out be an all-conference type potential he’s flashed over the last two years.