GAME NOTES: Instate rivals collide in a BracketBusters matchup, as the Idaho State Bengals play host to the Idaho Vandals at Reed Gym.
Idaho comes into this matchup with a four-game losing streak in tow. The Vandals, who dropped a 67-61 decision to Louisiana Tech last weekend, are now just 9-16 on the season, with a less than stellar 5-10 record in Western Athletic Conference play, good for just sixth place in the conference.
The Bengals have struggled all season long, sporting an ugly 5-20 overall record. Idaho State has lost eight of its last nine games, including a 61-54 setback at home to Montana last weekend. With the loss to the Grizzlies, Idaho State fell to just 4-5 at home and 4-12 in Big Sky Conference play.
This game marks the 101st meeting between these two instate rivals. Idaho holds a 52-48 advantage all-time, but Idaho State has closed the gap with wins in each of the last five meetings, including the last one, a 61-59 decision in Pocatello in 2008.
Despite being seven games under .500 on the year, the Vandals have been an efficient squad offensively, shooting .472 from the floor overall, ranking 29th nationally in that category. The strong shooting has still only resulted in a modest 68.2 ppg and when taking into account the team's scoring defense of 68.7 ppg, it's no wonder wins have been hard to come by. The bulk of the scoring comes from three starters, led by the low post play of forward Kyle Barone, who leads the team in scoring at 16.7 ppg on .588 shooting. Barone is also tops on the WAC in rebounding at 9.4 rpg. Stephen Madison is next in the scoring column at 14.8 ppg on just under 50 percent shooting. Connor Hill is the team's resident sniper, shooting .455 from behind the arc and netting 11.1 ppg.
Barone scored 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds, but it wasn't enough in a six-point loss to Louisiana Tech. Madison added 13 points, while Mansa Habeeb finished with 10. The Vandals lost the game from long range, as LaTech converted 12-of-23 3-point attempts, while Idaho was just 3-of-15 from behind the arc.
The Bengals struggled to find an offensive rhythm against Montana last time out, shooting just .362 from the floor. Melvin Morgan led the way in defeat with 14 points. Chris Hansen added 12 points, but the team failed to provide much offensive punch behind that.
It is no surprise that a team that has collected just five wins on the season has struggled scoring points. Idaho State is shooting a rather mediocre .403 from the floor and is averaging just 55.4 ppg. That mark ranks 341st nationally, better than only four other teams at the Division I level. The team does possess three players averaging double digits, but none are considered prolific scorers. Morgan leads the way at 12.0 ppg. Hansen and Tomas Sanchez round out the top offensive threats, with 11.2 and 10.1 ppg, respectively.
Barone will be the best player on the court and behind his strong interior presence, the Vandals should be able to win a close game on the road.
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