Glen Dean needed a second to gather himself when asked how his team would rebound from this loss. An excruciating, one point loss to a bunch of guys eight miles away that Dean said he regularly hangs out with. Yeah, Saturday’s 67-66 loss in the Battle of the Palouse was difficult for all of us, considering the Vandals had built a double-digit lead in the second half — only to see it slip away.
With a game against a good Montana team on Wednesday, Dean finally summoned the words he wanted his teammates to know about it.
“I don’t want to take anything from ‘Wazzu’ — but if this one doesn’t sting and you’re not ready to come to practice Monday and to bust your butt to get better and to eliminate the small things that we did wrong in this game and correct them moving forward, no disrespect to any of my teammates, but you’re not the teammate I’m looking to play with,” Dean said.
Make no mistake about it — this one hurt on all levels.
The atmosphere was there for Idaho to make a statement on its entire season. With a nearly sold out Cowan Spectrum, a loud and raucous crowd, this should have been Idaho’s night. With a 10 point lead, this should have been Idaho’s night. With 21 second-half free-throw attempts, this should have been Idaho’s night.
The atmosphere was there for a roster with seven new members in its rotation to make a statement against a Pac-12 program that it’s come so close to beating over the past decade.
But with a Connor Hill 3-point attempt clanking off the rim, so did the chance for Idaho to make a statement.
I’m not the first to say this, but Idaho should have won that basketball game.
Games where Idaho holds its opponents to 39 percent shooting from the field, it should win.
Games where Idaho takes 19 more free throw attempts and makes 17 more of them, it should win.
Games where you have your best home crowd in over two years, you should win.
Give Washington State credit though. Its Seattle kids got the better of Idaho’s Seattle kids, which played a factor in how emotional the contest got. Davonte Lacy, specifically, who nailed five 3-point shots and ended with 23 to lead Washington State.
The Cougars were also dominant on the glass, with 15 second-chance points. That was clearly the difference in the game.
The game revealed weaknesses that Idaho still needs to work on. Assists, for one. I’m thoroughly impressed with the work ethic, attitude and passion that Dean has brought to Idaho as its starting point guard, which is sorely needed. But what is also needed out of Dean is distribution. To lead the team in shot attempts but end with only one assist does not get it done for the senior if he is going to be a starting point guard.
Dean’s aggressiveness in taking it to the bucket opens up a lot for Stephen Madison and Hill. But Dean passed up the final look of the game with only seconds left to see if Hill could hit his fade-away 3-point attempt to no avail. And for him especially, who got into it after the game a little bit with Lacy, this one definitely stings.
There will be more opportunities for a signature out-of-conference win to build momentum on. How about against a future Big Sky Conference rival? The Montana Grizzlies are next up for this team looking to build chemistry.
Sean Kramer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org