Idaho men need defense to step up in WAC tourney

STATESMAN STAFFMarch 13, 2014 

LAS VEGAS - Idaho is playing some of its best offense heading into Thursday's first round of the WAC Tournament, but if the Vandals want to advance, it's defense that will get them there.

The Vandals (14-17) face Kansas City (10-19) at 3:30 p.m. MT after averaging 82.6 points during a 4-1 stretch to end the regular season. The game is on 630 AM and will be streamed at wacsports.com.

Idaho is tied for 269th in the nation in field-goal percentage defense, allowing teams to shoot 45.7 percent from the field.

"You can't go to the conference tournament and allow people to shoot 50 percent on you," Idaho coach Don Verlin said.

During the regular season, the Vandals and 'Roos split two meetings, with each winning on the road. Kansas City shot 45 percent and closed on a 12-5 run in an 80-74 win in Moscow to open conference play Jan. 2. The two teams finished the regular season when Idaho won 87-80 at Kansas City on Saturday.

"Both games with them were very close, they're a very explosive scoring team," Verlin said.

Idaho will counter with the WAC's leading scorer in conference games in Stephen Madison (19.9 ppg), and also has senior guard Connor Hill, who is scoring 14.8 ppg this season and is seven points short of being the 15th Vandal to score 1,000 in his career.

Thursday's winner faces top-seeded Utah Valley or eighth-seeded Texas-Pan American at 7 p.m. Friday in the semifinals.

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