MOSCOW, ID – The University of Idaho men’s basketball team defeated UC Santa Barbara 86-83 in the opening round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament on Wednesday in Moscow.
The Vandals raced out to an early double-digit lead, but had to fend off a furious rally by the Gauchos.
Idaho led by as many as 17 points in the first half at 35-18 with 4:42 to play in the period and took a 13-point advantage, 43-30, into the break. UCSB roared back in the second, shot 61.8 percent in the period and outscored Idaho, 53-43, but the Vandals got the key plays they needed down the stretch.
“Our administration, Vandal nation and the Vandal boosters stepped up to allow us to host this game,” Idaho head coach Don Verlin said after the game. “I think it shows a real commitment to our basketball program and I was very, very happy we were able to deliver a win for them.”
“We wanted to give back to our school, because they were able to put on the home game for us,” said guard Landon Tatum. “We wanted to come out and have a good showing for them, as well.”
Tatum himself put on a show. The senior finished with 10 assists and zero turnovers, setting the tone for the Vandals who only gave the ball away five times all game - its fewest amount in seven years.
“I thought he was excellent,” Verlin said of Tatum. “Any time you go 10 assists, no turnovers, that’s a good basketball game.”
Senior guard Deremy Geiger led the Vandals with 22 points on 5-of-7 shooting from long range, while sophomore forward Stephen Madison chipped in with a career-high 20. Junior center Kyle Barone added 19 points on 6-of-11 shooting, helping coach Verlin notch his second postseason victory since coming to Idaho four years ago.
The Vandals (19-13) now advance to the second round of the tournament for the second time in three appearances, and will face a familiar opponent in Western Athletic Conference rival Utah State (18-15) on Wednesday.
The Vandals and Aggies split the season series in WAC play this year, with the home team winning each time.