Idaho men’s basketball displays solid defense in last two wins
Solid defense has been one of the keys to success in the last two games when the Vandals beat Washington State 77-71 Dec. 3 in Pullman and UC Davis 79-71 Saturday at the Cowan Spectrum.
Both games were against decent opponents. The Vandals had lost the last 11 games to the Cougars before they beat them Dec. 3. UC Davis was undefeated before it played Idaho Saturday.
Before picking up wins against the Cougars and the Aggies, the Vandals were on a three-game losing streak. During that streak, Idaho allowed an average of 81 points per game.
Idaho’s offense has the ability to score 81, but that’s usually too much to overcome. The Vandals stepped up their defense against Washington State and UC Davis.
Against Washington State, the Cougars shot 35.2 percent from the field and only 16.7 percent from 3-point range.
UC Davis actually shot the ball well, but still scored 71 points. The Aggies shot 44 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from behind the arc.
Allowing 71 points isn’t exceptional from a defensive standpoint, but it’s an improvement for the Vandals. Seventy-one points are the lowest point totals allowed by the Vandals since they beat Eastern Oregon 77-65 in their first regular season game of the season.
Idaho’s defense doesn’t have to be exceptional anyway because their offense is there to back it up. The Vandals averaged 75.9 points per game, which ranks 46th in the nation, heading into Thursday’s game.
Idaho’s offense consists of great guard play, especially by senior point guard Mike Scott.
Scott led the team in points per game with 17.1 heading into Thursday’s game. He also led the country in assist-to-turnover ratio with 36 assists to three turnovers going into Thursday.
Guards Connor Hill and Sekou Wiggs also put a lot of points on the board. Hill devastates defenses with his 3-point shot and Wiggs drives to the hoop for short-range baskets.
Senior forward Bira Seck is a force on the offensive and defensive end. Going into Thursday’s game, Seck was almost averaging a double-double with 9.4 points per game and 9.7 rebounds per game.
But the Idaho defense should be praised right now.
As the saying goes, “Defense wins championships.” That is holding true right now for the Vandals as long as you replace “championships” with “games”.
Scoring points usually isn’t an issue for Idaho, and recently, neither is defense. If the Vandals can keep the pace at both ends of the court, they will be scary come Big Sky Conference play.
Garrett Cabeza can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org