Another night, another second half that saw Idaho watch another victory slip away. A 74-56 loss at Texas-San Antonio drops the Vandals to 5-11 in WAC play with only two games remaining before the conference tournament.
The frustration of Idaho coach Don Verlin showed in his post-game radio interview, stumbling through his words to assess his team’s performance.
“It’s becoming like a broken record, it’s really frustrating. You give them 60 percent from the field you’re not going to win,” he said. “We just couldn’t get them stopped, that’s exactly right.”
Idaho allowed UTSA to comfortably score and didn’t contest the Roadrunners’ shots on many occasions. The Vandals were only able to turn the Roadrunners over six times while allowing them to go 30-of-55 from the field.
Idaho was able to go back-and-forth with the Roadrunners in the first half, feeding Kyle Barone and making shots from 3-point range to go in to the half with a 40-38 lead.
The second half was a completely different story.
Barone, who finished with a double-double, only had two second-half points. Idaho as a team scored 16 points in 20 minutes, finishing the game going 22-of-55 from the field and only attempting eight free throws.
“Our ball stopped moving, we didn’t take good shots,” Verlin said. “…We didn’t do a good job finding Kyle around the basket. We have to do that, he’s our best player. We have to get the ball in to him, they were fronting him, doing some things but we didn’t do a good job getting it to Kyle.”
Keeping up the intensity and consistency in the second half has been a problem for Idaho all season, whether it has been getting run off the court in the second half or not coming up with the key plays to win close games.
“That was the difference of the game, they played with a lot more heart, played a little harder and we had a couple of guys who didn’t play very well,” Verlin said. “…I thought we were ready to go in the first half but we didn’t sustain that intensity.”
In the first half it seemed like Idaho was going to be able to run with UTSA and make it a high-scoring affair. Senior guard Mike McChristian made his first four 3-point attempts, but only made one in the second half. He finished with a career high 19 points.
Sophomore guard Connor Hill scored 8 of his 10 points in the first half, but Idaho received no points from its bench.
“This time of year is when people know what you’re doing, but what you’ve got to do is make sure we get better shots,” Verlin said. “This is when your defense has to shine and our defense is not shining. We’re not defending it nearly well enough.”
Idaho’s defense has played a large part in its five-game conference losing streak. In four of its last five losses in conference play the Vandals have let their opponents shoot 49 percent or better, and in four of the last five Idaho has given up at least 71 points.
With the loss, Idaho still has much to play when it comes to positioning for the conference tournament. Should Idaho lose its final games, both UTSA and Texas State would have an opportunity to catch Idaho for the No. 6 seed in the conference tournament.
But Idaho could clinch the No. 6 seed, and avoid playing the first day of the conference tournament, with a win against Texas State in San Marcos on Saturday.
“No question it is (a big game). We’re going to find out what kind of character this team has got,” Verlin said.
Sean Kramer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org