Courtesy: Zach Edwards (Moscow, Idaho)
Connor Hill lifts a floater over Nevada's Dario Hunt.
Wolf Pack runs over Idaho
Courtesy: Idaho Athletic Media Relations
          Release: 01/05/2012
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MOSCOW, Idaho – University of Idaho men’s basketball knew it had a tough matchup with league-leading Nevada coming to town Thursday, but first-half miscues made it easy on the Wolf Pack in a 73-55 loss at the Cowan Spectrum.

“I thought they dominated us in every phase of the game tonight,” Idaho head coach Don Verlin said about Nevada after the game. “They played harder than us, they played with more energy than us. They’re obviously a very good team and they came in on a roll and took us out of everything we wanted to do in the first half.”

Idaho junior Stephen Madison put in a 3-pointer for the game’s first points, but Western Athletic Conference Preseason Player of the Year Deonte Burton answered with a triple of his own and it was pretty much all Wolf Pack from there.

The Vandals slip to 7-8 overall and 0-1 in the WAC with their fourth-straight loss, while Nevada wins its eighth in a row and improves to 11-3 overall and 1-0 in the conference.

After Idaho’s Connor Hill scored a driving layup at 10:52 in the first to make the score 18-14 in Nevada’s favor, the Wolf Pack systematically built up its advantage by outscoring Idaho 16-5 over the next eight minutes, then capped off the half with a Burton 28-foot 3-pointer as time expired in the period.

Idaho turned the ball over 13 times in the first half, which Nevada turned into 13 points, and the Vandals, which had owned the paint in most of their games this season, were outscored 18-8 in the first half and 34-26 down low for the game.

“I thought we were just really, really sloppy with the ball in all aspects of it,” Verlin said. “It wasn’t just one guy, it was a bunch of guys, and Nevada had 10 or 11 steals in the first half, so they had something to do with it, but we’ve got to execute better.”

Nevada shot an Idaho opponent season-high 54.0 percent from the floor (27-50) and 56.3 percent (9-16) from 3-point range. The Wolf Pack hit just 58.8 percent of its free throws, but still outscored Idaho by a 10-4 margin at the line.

Nevada’s field goal percentage is the highest allowed by Idaho since Washington State hit 57.6 percent last season, and it’s the highest percentage the Vandals have allowed to a conference opponent since the Wolf Pack shot 55.4 percent in its 87-71 win in the quarterfinal round of the 2010 WAC Tournament.

Idaho went 22-of-53 (.415) overall from the floor and 7-of-20 (.350) from 3-point range. The Vandals had season-low performances of four made and eight attempted free throws. Idaho held a 32-30 rebounding advantage.

As with the first half, the second stanza opened with an Idaho 3-pointer, but with a 42-28 lead, the Pack rattled off an 8-2 run to extend its lead to 20 at 50-30. Nevada held that standard until one final gasp by the Vandals produced a 7-0 run to pull within 14 at 60-46 with 8:58 remaining in the game, but it got no closer than that over the remaining nine minutes.

Burton led all players with 26 points and six assists, along with three rebounds, one steal, one block and just two turnovers.  He hit four of his five 3-point attempts and went 9-of-13 overall. Junior Malik Story put in 17 points, primarily from his 5-of-7 shooting effort behind the arc, while senior Dario Hunt added 14 points, six rebounds and three blocks.

“There’s things you’ve got to do to slow him down, and we didn’t do any of them,” Verlin said of Burton.

Sophomore Stephen Madison was Idaho’s only double-figure scorer with 13 points on 4-of-10 shooting, along with six rebounds, two assists, one block and one steal. Junior Kyle Barone and senior Deremy Geiger added eight points each, while senior forward Djim Bandoumel had a team-best and career-high seven rebounds.

Nevada’s Devonte Elliott was ejected with 6:12 remaining in the game after being assessed a Flagrant 2 foul. Elliott and Idaho freshman Matt Borton fell to the floor after a rebound and Elliott elbowed Borton in the forehead as the two stood up.

Idaho gets its shot at redemption on Saturday, when the Vandals host Fresno State (7-9, 0-1 WAC), which lost at Utah State on Thursday by a 72-53 margin. That game tips off at 3:05 p.m. at the Cowan Spectrum and will be broadcast on the WAC Sports Network.