After scoring a season-high 85 points Thursday night against Eastern Washington, the Idaho State Bengals struggled in every offensive category Saturday night at Reed Gym, falling to the University of Idaho 77-62.
The Bengals (3-13) shot 34.6 percent from the floor, went 8:20 without a made field goal in the second half, turned the ball over 14 times and managed nine assists. Those numbers are good for a .642 assist/turnover ratio, down .058 from its season average, which ranks last in the Big Sky.
“They were slowing us down,” head coach Bill Evans said. “Especially when they got the lead. Then, they really slowed us down.”
Coming into the night, the Bengals averaged 14.4 turnovers to 10.6 assists.
Thursday night, the Bengals shot 50.8 percent from the field. Saturday night, the Vandals defense held ISU 34.6 percent shooting and cashed in on 20 point off of ISU mistakes.
The Vandals (6-9) opened the ball game on a 7-0 run before ISU went on its only shooting streak of the night when Brandon Boyd, who finished the game with 15 points on 4-10 shooting, knocked down three consecutive three balls on three straight ISU possessions to tie the game at nine in less than a minute of game action.
The hot outside shooting was short-lived, as the Bengals went 8-28 from three-point land the rest of the way after opening the contest 3-4 from behind the arc.
“We couldn’t score baskets,” Evans said. “They are a good defensive team.”
While the Bengals struggled to find an offensive rhythm, defense kept the Bengals in the game.
While ISU spent over eight minutes of the second half without a made field goal and Idaho slowly extended the lead, pushing it to as many as 15 when the clock hit the 4:00 mark. The Vandals knocked down five of seven of their field goals during that stretch.
“They wouldn’t let us get it in there and see what we had,” Evans said. “That’s what they made us take.”
The Bengal defense held Idaho’s Victor Sanders, who averaged 18.8 point per game, in check for most of the night.
Sanders finished with eight points from the floor on 3-11 shooting, but added 14 from the charity stripe. He finished the night with 22.
“We did a really good job on Sanders, early,” Evans said. “Then he got to the foul line. He is a terrific free throw shooter.”
Coming into Saturday’s game, Idaho averaged 68.7 percent from the line, and shot 85 percent Saturday night, as Sanders knocked down 14 of his 15 attempts, most of which came in the second half.
ISU scored 10 point in the paint to Idaho’s 22. The stifling Vandal defense forced the Bengals to throw the ball around the perimeter for lack of open passing lanes down low.
Seven-foot Novak Topalovic scored four points on six shot attempts, while the 6-foot-9-inch Steven Lennox was also held scoreless from the field, with all four of his point from the line.
“We don’t throw the ball in the post very well and when they do, they double us,” Evans said. “We can’t make people pay. We can’t shoot 34 percent from three.”
The Bengals will travel to Northern Colorado and North Dakota next week in desperate need of a conference win.
Last season, the Bengals started conference play 1-3 and finished in fourth place at the season’s end. Right now, ISU sits at the bottom of the conference with Northern Arizona, which is 0-4 in conference play.