Vandals drill Cal State Bakersfield

Sophomore forward Stephen Madison scored nine

THE VANDALS WON THEIR THIRD GAME IN A ROW, while improving their overall season record to 7-4 on the year with Saturday's dominant 72-44 victory over Cal State Bakersfield. Idaho carried a 5-point lead into the half, then erupted for a 20-1 run to start the second half and put the game away. Kyle Barone led Idaho with 13 points, while sophomore STEPHEN MADISON was solid in 21 minutes of action.

MOSCOW, IDAHO --­ At intermission Saturday night in the Cowan Spectrum the Idaho Vandals held a five point lead (31-26) over the visiting Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunners thanks to a three-pointer by Matt Borton off an assist from Stephen Madison.

During the first half the Vandals played okay but were not playing well in a few areas such as free-throw shooting and controlling the board. Idaho was 6-for-11 at the line including the front end of a 1-and-1, and they allowed the 'Runners to hold a 31-29 rebounding edge including 8 offensive boards.

At halftime Vandal coach Don Verlin made a few adjustments that lit a fire under his team. After trading buckets in the first 31 seconds the Vandals exploded on a 12-0 run led by dominant work in the paint by Kyle Barone and Stephen Madison to lead 45-28 just 4:30 into the second half.

The run didn't stop there. Verlin rotated players in liberally and Idaho continued to pull away. The dominance inside opened things up all over the floor as the Vandals unleashed their favored transition game to post a 53-31 lead with less than 10 minutes into the second half, a 22-5 blitz. The largest margin was 31 points with 4:29 remaining although 11 Vandals had at least 9 minutes of playing time and all 12 in uniform saw action.

"I thought that first eight to ten minutes of that second half we played very well, Verlin said after the game. "I thought we did a very, very good job of contesting shots, and they were only getting one shot in the second half. I thought if we had a weakness in the first half we held 'em to a pretty good percentage (32%), but they got eight offensive rebounds in that first, and that was just way too many. They had 12 more shots than us at halftime, and I thought that's the reason the game was as close as it was. We came out first eight to ten minutes and I thought we did a great job defensively contesting shots. I thought Kyle (Barone) and Steve (Madison) did a good job rebounding the ball and that ignited our break, and we were able to get a little bit of a lead."

Madison, playing with a custom-fitted face shield to protect a broken nose, was 0-for-4 from three-point range but played a dynamic 21 minutes with 9 points, 7 rebounds (three offensive), five assists and a steal without a turnover. He said the mask was not a factor but did prove useful in the second half. "My shot just wasn't there, he said. "You have those nights, but coach told me to keep attacking and finding my players and doing other things… I've been practicing with (the mask); you've got to get used to it…"

In the second half under the glass he got racked pretty hard but the clear plastic and elastic appliance was up to the challenge. "I got hit pretty good," he said. "Without it you never know. I could have rebroken my nose. He hit me pretty good."

"He can play inside and out," Verlin said of Madison. "I thought he had good looks tonight. He's been shooting it so well this year, I was kinda surprised when I saw the stats that he was oh-for-four, but he did a lot of things tonight. You look at Stephen's stat line. In 21 minutes he gets nine points, seven rebounds, five assists. That's a pretty good line. This was the first game with the mask. He broke his nose before the Eastern game. He's been playing with a broken nose, and we finally got our professionally fitted mask for him, and he shot it really well in practice this week; so I don't think that bothers him, but I was happy with the way Steve competed all night long."

Barone also drew praise from the coach. So did a number of Vandals, and most important to Verlin the Vandals stepped up on defense to hold the Roadrunners to 27% from the floor including an icy 2-of-18 (11%) from behind the three-point line. CSUB did not sink a three in the second half.

"I thought Kyle played solid all night long, Verlin said. "I thought Djim Bandoumel was solid, Stephen Madison rebounded his ball well, but I was most pleased with our defensive effort tonight. Bakersfield came in shooting almost 42% from three-point land and we held 'em to 11%. Tyrone Wright, Landon Tatum did a great job on him, one-for-seven. He had him most of the night. I thought Deremy Geiger did a real nice job on Issiah Grayson. Those are their two leading scorers and we pretty much shut them down, and I thought that set the tone for the entire game but most importantly in the second half.

Did the dominating performance indicate to Verlin the Vandals might have turned the corner after an up-and-down start to the season? "Let's hope, he said. We've got a long, tough road trip coming up (at Wright State in Dayton, Ohio and at University of Wisconsin at Green Bay. "We've played pretty good the last four games. We really have. The Washington State game probably could have gone either way. I thought we played well at Davis. We obviously shot it very well, and then we had a real nice road trip, and then tonight I thought we played very well in the second half; so let's hope that's case. One thing I told you guys all along. This team works hard, and if you work hard and you pay attention to details you're gonna get better, and we're finally starting to get better. We've got to get a little better at some detail things, but we're finally starting to see…I'm starting to see some progress with our team."

Asked if he thought the entire team has become comfortable with his systems, he said the team is doing "Better. Better. We've got a lot of new guys; so there are a few guys still a little bit behind, but I thought the veterans have done a good job helping the new guys through. Matt Borton was here last year. I thought he's played very well the last three games. I thought he played very well at Oregon State even though he didn't score. I thought he played great at Seattle U, and I thought he played good again tonight.

"I like the way Connor Hill is playing. He's really starting to come into his own. It was nice to see him make some three-pointers on the Palouse. It seems like when we go on the road and he makes every shot known to man, but we get here and he hasn't shot quite as high a percentage, but he can really shoot the basketball. I'm happy with the progress because the guys are working so hard. Again a tough, tough road trip coming up. It would be great to keep this momentum going as we head into Christmas break."

Barone agreed. Asked if this might have been the best game of the year, he said, "As a team, I think yeah. We played very well overall. We kept 'em there in the second half for a good amount of time I think and we shot the ball pretty well and everyone played, contributed pretty well. I think those types of games we've had a couple so far that everyone come in and contributed pretty well and contributed to the win as a whole and just had fun out there. We need more games like that."

Idaho will be at Wright State December 20 and Wisconsin Green Bay Dec. 22 before closing out 2011 against BSU Dec. 31 at the Idaho Center in Nampa in a neutral-court game.



POST GAME COMMENTS

STEPHEN MADISON:

Stephen, you missed a few three-pointers there early but it seemed like you kinda took a more overall approach of feeding your teammates and getting rebounds.

"Yeah, exactly. My shot just wasn't there. You have those nights, but coach told me to keep attacking and finding my players and doing other things."


Did the face mask bother your shot?

"Nah. I've been practicing with it; you've got to get used to it."


Did it help when you got hit in the face (under the basket in the second half tonight)?

"Yeah it did. I got hit pretty good. Without it you never know. I could have rebroken my nose. He hit me pretty good."


When did you break it?

"Two or three weeks ago."


Did you aggravate it against Oregon State?

"Yeah, when I got hit. I felt that pretty good for a couple of days; so I decided to get a mask and wear it and see how long…"


It seem liked they were zoning a lot early and Barone and you guys were able to get decent looks with Barone in there. Coming out in the second half you were in control.

"Yeah, definitely. When then went to that 2-3 we were trying to get it in inside and feed it to Kyle. He's a good player down there; so especially when you get the inside going it opens up that outside."


It looked like one of Barone's better games of the year. Do you think so?

"Yeah. He played really well. He attacked the rim hard and he attacked the board really hard which is big. He played really good."


What was the difference there? You were only five points up at halftime and then…

"Well, they attacked the offensive glass pretty hard; so we knew if we could just secure the rebound and get it down and push it we could get them in the fast break every time. That what our coaches talked to us about at halftime – get out on the break and get easy baskets, and that's what we did."


KYLE BARONE:

What kind of lit up there, Kyle, early in the second half?

"Coach challenged us rebounding-wise at the start of the second half because they were out rebounding us offensively; so my goal out there in the second half was just to get every board that I could, and I got a few (9)."


Would you consider this probably one of your best games of the year if not the best?

"As a team, I think yeah. We played very well overall. We kept 'em there in the second half for a good amount of time I think and we shot the ball pretty well and everyone played, contributed pretty well. I think those types of games we've had a couple so far that everyone come in and contributed pretty well and contributed to the win as a whole and just had fun out there. We need more games like that."


You sense after finishing off the road trip strong and then getting a break here but then coming out strong again…there's peaks and valleys to the season, but you guys are…

"Yeah. Definitely. I think at the beginning of the year we were learning because we've got a lot of new guys for sure, and this last road trip helped us out getting those wins, those two big wins on the road. I think we learned a lot as a team, what it takes to fight as a team together like on the road and at home, and think that those early games in the early season, those losses we took, those tough losses kinda helped us to where we are right now."


DON VERLIN:

Talk about stepping up in the second half…a five-point lead and then all of a sudden, wham.

"Yeah. I thought that first eight to ten minutes of that second half we played very well. I thought we did a very, very good job of contesting shots, and they were only getting one shot in the second half. I thought if we had a weakness in the first half we held 'em to a pretty good percentage (32%), but they got eight offensive rebounds in that first, and that was just way too many. They had 12 more shots than us at halftime, and I thought that's the reason the game was as close as it was. We came out first eight to ten minutes and I thought we did a great job defensively contesting shots. I thought Kyle (Barone) and Steve (Madison) did a good job rebounding the ball and that ignited our break, and we were able to get a little bit of a lead."


Was the idea kind of to wear them down?

"No question. Second night on the road. They've been on the road quite a bit. We talked a lot about that. We wanted to keep the pressure on 'em all night long and wear 'em down, and any time you're second night on the road you have to take advantage of that, a team coming in, they've played a lot of minutes. They've got a tough schedule. They're going to Colorado, but we felt like we needed to keep the pressure on 'em. I think we're good in transition, and I thought our transition game the second half was pretty good."


You seemed to be more dominating inside the second half.

"Yeah. I thought Kyle played solid all night long. I thought Djim Bandoumel was solid, Stephen Madison rebounded his ball well, but I was most pleased with our defensive effort tonight. Bakersfield came in shooting almost 42% from three-point land and we held 'em to 11%. Tyrone Wright, Landon Tatum did a great job on him, one-for-seven. He had him most of the night. I thought Deremy Geiger did a real nice job on Issiah Grayson. Those are their two leading scorers and we pretty much shut them down, and I thought that set the tone for the entire game but most importantly in the second half."


Madison oh-for-four from the three-point line…maybe he's becoming a more well-rounded player.

"Yeah. He can play inside and out. I thought he had good looks tonight. He's been shooting it so well this year, I was kinda surprised when I saw the stats that he was of-for-four, but he did a lot of things tonight. You look at Stephen's stat line. In 21 minutes he gets nine points, seven rebounds, five assists. That's a pretty good line. This was the first game with the mask. He broke his nose before the Eastern game. He's been playing with a broken nose, and we finally got our professionally fitted mask for him, and he shot it really well in practice this week; so I don't think that bothers him, but I was happy with the way Steve competed all night long."


What's up with Wendell (Faines)?

"Uh, Wendell did not get to play tonight because of violation of team rules. One game. He will be back for the Wright State game."


At halftime up five, did you maybe feel like you should been more in the lead with the way the free-throws were going and…

"Yeah. I thought Bakersfield…they're a scrappy team, and I thought that we didn't rebound it well enough number one. Number two we missed a couple front halves of one-and-one, and that's something that's baffling me right now. I mean, we're a really good shooting team and we can't make a free throw; so I think that'll change, but yeah…I felt like we gave 'em a couple easy baskets right there at the end of the half. I didn't think we made our free-throws. I thought it should have been a 10-point game at halftime, but it wasn't. The thing I'll tell you is our guys came out and played like it wasn't. They came out and battled. They didn't let any frustrations of the first half carry to the second half, and I was happy because of the form. No question about that."


Do you think this team has kinda turned a corner in the last four or five games?

"Let's hope. We've got a long, tough road trip coming up. We've played pretty good the last four games. We really have. The Washington State game probably could have gone either way. I thought we played well at Davis. We obviously shot it very well, and then we had a real nice road trip, and then tonight I thought we played very well in the second half; so let's hope that's case. One thing I told you guys all along. This team works hard, and if you work hard and you pay attention to details you're gonna get better, and we're finally starting to get better. We've got to get a little better at some detail things, but we're finally starting to see…I'm starting to see some progress with our team."


You played quite a few guys. Is the whole team now picking up really well on your system?

"Better. Better. We've got a lot of new guys; so there are a few guys still a little bit behind, but I thought the veterans have done a good job helping the new guys through. Matt Borton was here last year. I thought he's played very well the last three games. I thought he played very well at Oregon State even though he didn't score. I thought he played great at Seattle U, and I thought he played good again tonight. I like the way Connor Hill is playing. He's really starting to come into his own. It was nice to see him make some three-pointers on the Palouse. It seems like when we go on the road and he makes every shot known to man, but we get here and he hasn't shot quite as high a percentage, but he can really shoot the basketball. I'm happy with the progress because the guys are working so hard. Again a tough, tough road trip coming up. It would be great to keep this momentum going as we head into Christmas break."




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