With a minute left in the game, Kyle Barone had a chance to put Idaho ahead late. The ball found Barone wide open streaking down the court after Mike McChristian poked it away from Texas-Arlington. But instead of a momentum-changing lay-up, the ball rolled off the rim and the Mavericks took back control of the ball, and the game.
Idaho missed four of its final five shots with less than 90 seconds remaining in its 71-68 loss to UTA Thursday in the Cowan Spectrum.
“It’s the way ball bounced, I thought we had great looks, we just didn’t make them,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said. “We had three or four lay-up opportunities we didn’t convert there at the end, that’s not from a lack of effort or execution, we just didn’t get the job done.”
With 22 seconds remaining the Vandals had an opportunity to take the lead, again, when McChristian came down the court in transition and missed the lay-up with seven seconds remaining.
Even with two timeouts remaining, at the time Verlin wouldn’t have done anything differently.
“Arlington is the best defensive team in the conference, I thought we were better in transition, and I didn’t want to give them a chance to set up their defense,” Verlin said. “I’m not sure even if I had called a play we could have gotten a better look than that.”
Junior forward Stephen Madison was inserted back into the starting line-up after three games coming off the bench, and responded with a 25-point outburst, including a perfect 3-of-3 from beyond-the-arc.
“Our mindset this week in practice was energy, and we came out with energy. It was good practices up to this,” Madison said. “For the most part we played hard and energy, we just fell a little short.”
UTA lived up to its reputation as one of the best defensive teams in the conference, holding Idaho to 40-percent shooting from the field. But Idaho made up for it with 31 free throw attempts to the Mavericks’ 13 free throw attempts.
But it goes back to Idaho missing open looks at the end.
“I wish I could tell you there’s one or two things. I thought we played extremely hard tonight,” Verlin said. “I thought we did everything we could do to win the basketball game against a good Arlington team, and we just didn’t make the plays at the end.”
UTA’s Kevin Butler balanced the scales in favor of the Mavericks parlaying his 34 percent 3-point shooting average on the season to a perfect 7-of-7 from beyond-the-arc and 23 points in only 21 minutes of action.
Verlin said the plan was to play an effective zone defense as Idaho had in its win earlier in its win at Arlington, but Butler prevented that from happening
“He shot us out of it,” Verlin said.
The loss drops Idaho to 5-9 in conference play, and 3 1/2 games behind UTA for the No. 5 spot in the conference.
Idaho will face La. Tech, which is undefeated in conference play at 13-0, Saturday at the Cowan Spectrum
Sean Kramer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org