Boise, ID - University of Idaho men's basketball led by as many as 11 points and had control for much of the game, but the Vandals couldn't get the stops they needed in the second half against Boise State in a 78-68 loss at CenturyLink Arena.
Idaho held an eight-point halftime lead, but the Broncos chipped away at the start of the second half, first with 10 quick points from guard Derrick Marks, a three-point play by forward Ryan Watkins and then back-to-back triples by guard Jeff Elorriaga that tied the game at 52-52 with 12:13 to play.
A careless pass by Idaho at the 10:29 mark of the second half gave BSU's Igor Hadziomerovic a free fast-break layup and the Broncos a 54-52 edge. Idaho tied once with seven minutes to play, but never regained the lead.
Marks scored 21 of his game-high 25 points after halftime.
"You've got to give them credit, Marks made some good plays and Leon (Rice) got him isolated in some great situations and we just couldn't make the stop when we needed to," Idaho head coach Don Verlin said after the game. "They went to their guy and he delivered. They were able to drive the ball to the basket and either get us to foul them or make the shot."
With the loss, Idaho finishes the non-conference slate with a 4-6 record, while Boise State improves to 8-2.
The Broncos only made four field goals in the game's final eight minutes, but Idaho still wasn't getting stops because of fouls. Boise State went to the line 15 times down the stretch and converted 10 of them. Idaho went just 4-of-12 from the field and 6-of-6 from the line over the same span.
Senior center Kyle Barone led Idaho with 24 points on 9-of-11 shooting, along with 10 rebounds, three blocks, two assists and one steal. It was his second 20-10 game of the season. Senior guard Mike McChristian added 14 points and six rebounds on 5-of-9 shooting, while junior guard Stephen Madison put in 12 points and grabbed five rebounds.
"We did a good job of finding him (Barone) and getting him the ball," Verlin said after the game. "We did a great job of executing in the first half and not as a good of a job in the second half. They got the ball to their best player and we didn't, down the stretch."
Idaho went 23-of-45 (.511) overall from the floor, but a season-low 2-of-10 (.200) from 3-point range. The Vandals' 20-of-22 (.909) performance at the free throw line was its best clip of the season and is the best single-game free throw performance in the Western Athletic Conference this season.
In addition to Marks' line, BSU got 17 points and seven rebounds from Watkins, 11 points from guard Mikey Thompson and 10 more from Hadziomerovic.
The Broncos finished the game shooting 27-of-55 (.491) overall and 5-of-15 (.333) from 3-point range, but its second-half line was .609 overall and .625 from long range. BSU went 19-of-25 (.760) from the free throw line.
Idaho held a 29-24 rebounding edge, but BSU outscored the Vandals off turnovers (17-13) and on second chances (5-3). Idaho had a 12-5 edge on the fast break – its fifth game this season with double-figure transition points.
The game featured a capacity crowd of 5,548 at the downtown Boise venue that was split down the middle between Idaho and Boise State fans.
"This is a great building and it was a great atmosphere," Verlin said. "This is what college athletics is all about."
With the non-conference schedule completed, Idaho now looks forward to the start of WAC play next Saturday, Dec. 29, at Seattle University. That game will tip off at 7 p.m. (PT) and will be broadcast on ROOT SPORTS.
The Redhawks entered the week with a 4-5 record after a 75-48 home win over Northern Illinois on Wednesday. SU will host Campbell on Saturday before playing the Vandals.
Verlin said the biggest key moving forward will be improving upon the small details and working harder on the defensive side of the ball.
"We've got to get recharged, first and foremost, and then we've just got to come back and keep getting after it," Verlin said. "Our system is proven to work and what we've got to do is just keep getting better at the things we do. It's not rocket science, it's about going to work and finding a way to get the stops when you need to get them."
The players all fly home either Thursday night or Friday morning for the holiday, then return to Moscow on Dec. 26 to resume practice.