Idaho State opened the second half of Saturday night’s game at Holt Arena on an 8-0 run, while Northwest Nazarene went ice cold from the field in what senior Kyle Ingram referred to as a “trap game.”
“They are a really good shooting team,” Ingram said on NNU (6-3), a team that shoots 45 percent and averages 87 points-per game. “They had a lot of mismatches and they went real, real small to begin with and for most of the game… We knew our scouting report and didn’t let them do what they wanted to do. That’s part of being a good defensive team.”
By the under-eight media timeout, two NNU players (Olamilekan ‘Spider’ Adetunji and Felix White) had fouled out.
Moments later another (Khalil Thompson) was called for a technical and the Bengals (3-5), who are now winners of their last three, had the game on cruise control, coasting to a 73-57 win, despite turning the ball over a season-high 24 times.
“It’s ridiculous to tell you the truth,” said head coach Bill Evans on his team’s turnovers. “I think it was our carelessness more than anything… We are our own worst enemy there.”
The Bengals have turned the ball over 20 or more times twice this season, both of which were against ISU’s only two opponents who are lower than a Division I level – 20 vs. Bethesda (NCCAA) and 24 vs. NNU (Division II).
ISU turned the ball over a season-low eight times against CSUN, a Big West school, on Wednesday night and only gave the ball away 10 times at Seattle.
“I think tonight we tried to do things too fast,” Evans said.
The up-tempo Crusaders offense, which looked to run even off made baskets, gathered 19 points off ISU turnovers, but by going with a smaller lineup, the Bengals slaughtered the Crusaders on the glass and in the post, outscoring NNU 38-12 in the paint and collecting a season-high 51 rebounds.
“We knew that we had an advantage in the post,” Novak Topalovic said. “So, we tried to kick it out for our teammates or go to work.”
Geno Luzcando’s 11 rebounds and Kyle Ingram’s 10 are both season-highs, while Topalovic’s 11 rebounds tied his season-high. Both Ingram and Topalovic had double-doubles.
“We knew we had a target on our back that if we don’t perform, we won’t play,” Topalovic said. “It was just that type of game and we did our jobs.”
By attacking the Crusaders in the post, the Bengals were able to work the perimeter when NNU brought extra help, which enabled Jared Stutzman to shoot 6-of-7 from the field for a game-high 17 points.
NNU shot 43 percent from three-point range in the first half, which was highlighted by Thompson as he arrogantly drained a deep-three early in the shot clock.
But the ISU defense held the Crusaders to seven second-half field goals, going 7-of-34 from the field and 1-of-10 from three in the game’s final 20 minutes.
The team is now off for the next nine days and will host Youngstown State on December 18, the longest layover of the season thus far.