Senior Night is a sweet one for Vandals

Deremy Geiger among NCAA leaders from behind arc

IT IS NEVER A BAD THING when you have a guard that is one of the nations best at knocking down three-pointers, and a center hauling in back-to-back Western Athletic Conference Player of the Week honors. The Vandals are hitting stride, having won five in a row, including knocking off the top two teams in the conference (Nevada and NMSU). Up next is a three game road swing to close out the season.

GETTING INSIDE

Throughout the season, an Idaho sponsor -- Jamm's Frozen Yogurt -- has featured a promotion that any night the Vandals had five or more slam dunks everyone in attendance would get a certificate good for a discount.

The Vandals finished their home schedule in style Feb. 18 with junior Kyle Barone and senior Djim Bandoumel collecting five dunks to meet the promotion's criteria by halftime of their 77-68 win over the Big Sky's Portland State in an ESPN BracketBusters game.

The Vandals made 10-of-12 free throws in the final 85 seconds to help the senior class of Bandoumel, Deremy Geiger, Landon Tatum and walk-on Sheridan Shane (who was on the floor at the end) finish their career at home with a victory.'

Idaho coach Don Verlin is now 4-0 in Senior Night games.

"You know, that's interesting," Verlin said. "I don't know if I do anything special. I really talk about it being a celebration week, because sometimes if you're a senior you can think about 'Well, this is my last time I'm gonna play here,' and we didn't want it to be a funeral.

"So I talk a lot about them celebrating the fact that they've had great careers, and I try not to make a big deal of Senior Night to be honest with you. I just kind of treat it as another game, and I thought our seniors did a really good job of being focused and ready to play. Let's keep winning on Senior Night. That's a good thing."

The motivation for Senior Night and the yogurt discount was enough for Idaho to outlast Portland State.

"I think we were able to reward them with jams tonight," Tatum said with a laugh about the 3,081 in attendance (the second-largest crowd of the season) at the Cowan Spectrum.


NOTES, QUOTES

Barone continues dominating stretch

--Junior C Kyle Barone was named the WAC Player of the Week last week as was predicted by coach Don Verlin after Barone's three-game performance of 15.3 points, 11.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocked shots per outing against Seattle, New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech. Barone continued to dominate Feb. 18 in a 77-68 win over Portland State. He scored a career-high 25 points on 10-of-11 shooting from the field with eight rebounds.

Verlin, when asked if this was the type of play he has expected out of Barone, said, "No question. He's a good player, and he's really come into his own, especially here in the last little bit. The WAC player of the week last week, and 10-of-11 tonight, that was the third (tied for third) best single game individual shooting performance in Idaho history. I've really been happy with the way Kyle is playing."


--Idaho had four players score in double figures against Portland State on Feb. 18 and almost had three with double-double performances. Junior C Kyle Barone was only two rebounds away from joining senior G Landon Tatum (10 points and 10 assists) and sophomore F Stephen Madison (15 points and 11 rebounds) in posting a double-double.

"This team likes each other," Idaho coach Don Verlin said of the balance. "This team has good team chemistry. They're a good passing team. I thought our guys did a good job making the extra pass tonight."


BY THE NUMBERS: 0 -- The amount of turnovers for senior guard Landon Tatum in a 77-68 win over visiting Portland State on Feb. 18. Tatum tallied a career-high-tying 10 assists in 35 minutes.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're getting closer. I don't know if we're all the way there yet, but we're getting closer. I like where our program is at right now. Two of our three seniors graduate on time. Landon (Tatum) just needs three units, Djim (Bandoumel) will need the summer to graduate, maybe a little bit more after that, but I really like where it's at it. I like the guys we've got in the program. I think we've got some youth. We were fortunate enough to sign one real good high school player, and hopefully we can continue to build." -- Idaho coach Don Verlin


STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
--at Utah State, Feb. 24
KEY MATCHUPS: The Vandals play only four games in a 19-day period, including this showdown in Logan. Idaho managed to beat Utah State 57-54 last month in Moscow on a last-minute 3-pointer by sophomore G Stephen Madison. Idaho will need a repeat performance by senior F Djim Bandoumel (career-high 16 points in the first meeting) to help emerging junior C Kyle Barone combat the inside presence of Utah State frontcourt players Kyisean Reed and Morgan Grim (who combine for 19.3 points and 11 rebounds per game).

FUTURES MARKET: Idaho's Class of 2012 verbal commit Ty Egbert, a 6-foot-8 center from Coulee Dam (Wash.) Lake Roosevelt, led his team to a district title last weekend by scoring 32 points in a 79-55 win over White Swan.


PLAYER NOTES

--Senior G Deremy Geiger entering the week has made 43.2 percent of his 3-point attempts (73 of 169), which is a vast improvement from his 31 percent mark last season.

--Junior C Kyle Barone earned the Vandals' first WAC Player of the Week honors for the season last week. It is the first for Idaho since Jeff Ledbetter claimed the honor for the week of Jan. 10-16, 2011.

--Barone hit several career milestones last week when he was selected the WAC Player of the Week, including his 800th point, 500th rebound, 300th made field goal, 200th made free throw and 75th block.



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