After a 16-win season last year and losing one starter, the Idaho State men’s basketball team backed up one of the best seasons in recent program history with six total wins, four which came from Division I schools.
The Bengals were the only school in the Big Sky to not have any player receive an All-Conference award after two players, Ethan Telfair and Geno Luzcando, were named preseason All-Conference selections.
“We have to do something a little differently within our program,” said head coach Bill Evans following the team’s 91-76 loss to Sacramento State in the conference tournament. “We have to get the guys a little tougher, more determined and disciplined. There is only one person to blame for that and that is me. I have great support from Jeff Tingey. I need to do a better a job.”
The season looked promising after a close loss at The Pit, where ISU lost to New Mexico by nine in a game where Telfair had a triple-double.
Soon after, the season began to unravel.
As the Injuries Piled up, so did Losses:
ISU was without 6-foot-8 Kyle Ingram, who started 26 games as center last season, and three-point specialist Gary Chivichyan for most of the year.
Ingram never suited and will return on a medical redshirt next season.
Chivichyan appeared in seven games, starting five of them, before he was lost for the season due to a groin injury.
Following Chivichyan’s injury, ISU lost eight consecutive games to Division I schools.
It took 51 days to beat another Division I school, as teams torched the Bengals from deep and in the post all season long.
The Bengals finished the season on a nine-game losing streak and managed to beat three Division I schools at home.
No Defense and Minimal Rebounding:
The Bengals finished the regular season 10th in the conference in scoring defense, only ahead of Southern Utah and Portland State.
ISU gave up 80 or more points 17 times this season and gave up over 90 seven times.
The Bengals ranked last in the Big Sky in scoring margin, defensive field goal percentage and 11th in defensive three-point percentage.
The Bengals ranked 11th in the conference in defensive rebounding and last in both offensive rebounding and rebounding margin.
In the first round of the conference tournament, a game which ISU led at halftime, Sacramento State beat ISU 25-2 in second-chance points as the Hornets scored 50 points in the final 20 minutes of the basketball game, ending the Bengals’ season in a manner which seemed to sum the season perfectly.
“I have to do a better job with the way they walk, talk, dress, work and communicate with one another,” Evans said. “They seem like little things but they are important things and maybe those things this year weren’t as important as they should have been.”
Not Enough Assists and Too Many Turnovers:
The Bengals ranked last in the conference in assists to turnover ratio.
For every ten assists, the Bengals had 14 turnovers which opponents regularly cashed in on.
During conference play, the Bengals gave up an average of 16.5 points per game off turnovers and ranked last in the conference in assists per game while averaging 13.9 turnovers per contest throughout the season.
For how often ISU turned the ball over, the Bengals did not make nearly enough baskets.
ISU was fifth in the conference in three-point percentage while the Bengals shot 43.3 percent from the field, good for ninth in the conference.
This team is young.
ISU will only lose one senior in Telfair this year, will return four starters and will see Ingram and Chivichyan return to the lineup.
In the Sacramento State loss during the conference tournament, two freshmen, Brandon Boyd and Balint Mocsan scored 26 points between them.
Ideally, next season the Bengals will work Ingram and the 7-foot Novak Topalovic in the post, with a 6-foot-8 Robert Jones working in as a small forward while Chivichyan torments opponents from behind the arc with Luzcando running the show as a point guard.
Mocsan and Boyd would be an ideal six and seven while the 6-foot-9 Stephen Lennox plays as a reserve to the post.
That lineup combined with offseason training would solve a lot of problems the Bengals had this season.
However, ISU will lose Telfair, who finished 17th in school history in scoring in two seasons on campus.