Idaho had little trouble dispatching the Northwest Christian Beacons, posting an 81-37 exhibition win Saturday night in Memorial Gym to christen the 2010-11 basketball season. Vandal head coach Don Verlin, starting his third season at the helm of the men's program, saw many positives in the win and said what fans saw Saturday should be indicative of what he expects from this edition of Vandals.
"I got to see a lot of things, " coach Don Verlin said. "A lot of good things came out of this game because I got to play all 12 guys. I got some guys out there that don't have any division I game experience; so I felt like this game was real helpful for us as far as finding out what guys can do. I thought we did some really good things, especially rebounding the basketball [Idaho held a 51-23 edge], and I thought we passed the ball very well tonight with 24 assists on 34 baskets. That's pretty good. I think that's one thing you're going to see with this team. They're really unselfish, and that's going to enable us to grow, our unselfishness."
Idaho never trailed in the game scoring the first 8 points and shooting 49.4% from the floor compared to 28.8% from the Beacons. All 12 Vandals scored, led by Kyle Barone with 15, Jeff Ledbetter with 12, Luiz Toledo, Matt Borton, and Djim Bandoumel with 8 each, Landom Tatum and Brandon Wiley with 6 each, Deremy Geiger with 5, Renado Parker and Shawn Henderson with 4 each, Stephen Madison with 3 and Joe Kammerer with 2. As a team Idaho scored 52 points in the paint and had 42 bench points as Verlin substituted liberally through the contest (total minutes played ranged from a low of 11 to a high of 22).
Eleven of the 12 Vandals also grabbed at least one rebound led by Barone with 10, Wiley with 7, Bandoumel with 6 and Parker with 5. Tatum and Geiger each handed out 5 assists, Wiley and Barone had 2 blocks each, and Toledo and Tatum had 4 and 3 steals, respectively.
Verlin opened the game with a lineup of Tatum at the point, Henderson at a wing, and a front line of Wiley, Toledo and Barone, but said he's a long way from settling on a starting 5 for the regular season opener on Nov. 13 against Eastern Oregon. "I started all the returners tonight," he said. "We're still fighting for positions, but…I started all the guys that had returned and had been here awhile, and probably a guy who deserved to start as good as he's played in the scrimmages, and tonight is Jeff Ledbetter. Deremy Geiger has played very well in the scrimmages and in practice, but I felt I owed it to the guys that had been here awhile; so that's kinda how it worked out."
Verlin touched on a variety of subjects in his post game media comments. Asked if the 2010-11 team has a the potential to play his style of basketball compared to his previous two teams, he quickly responded, "No question. We'll be a lot more skilled. I think we'll execute better than we have in the past, and I think you'll see a lot more variety in our sets and our defensive schemes.
"Yeah, I like where this team is at," he continued "I've got some guys that now are in the program for three years. Luis Toledo is in three years, Kyle (Barone) only played two but he's been here three, Brandon Wiley is three; so we're getting some veterans that way. Even though we've got a bunch of new guys, we've got some guys that have been around here for three years; so that's a good thing."
In terms of execution and the overall style of play Verlin hopes to see this year, the Vandal coach said, "We're not going to play quite as fast this year. We'll hopefully play more efficiently. I'd like to see us shoot a higher percentage offensively. I'd like to see us rebound the ball better and hold…I think last year we held our opponents to about 45% field goal percentage on defense, and that needs to be down in the low 40s if we're going to contend for a WAC title. But I think this team can do that…maybe not quite as overpowering from a quickness standpoint as last year's team, but from a scheme standpoint I think we'll be able to do some of those things.
To help reach that goal defensively, Verlin said "I'm gonna try to play as big as we can," he added. "I think that’s important for us in the WAC. Maybe not all the time, but I'm gonna try to be out there and try to be big on the court. I've got to help our defensive field goal percentage." Much of the time Saturday night both Barone (a 6-10 sophomore) and Kammerer (a 6-9 freshman) were on the floor at the same time.
He also said he feels size and strength on the inside will be a key to success this season. "That has to be our strength this year," he said. "That's where our returning veterans are at. That's where our size is at. That's where I think the strength of our team has to be, is with our inside guys. I think all five of 'em are physical and strong and can do some things around the basket."
The Vandals will host Lewis-Clark State next Saturday at 7:05 p.m. in Memorial Gym in their second exhibition game of the season.