GAME NOTES: A pair of Western Athletic Conference teams hovering near the bottom of the standings will square off on Saturday afternoon, as the Texas State Bobcats close out their home slate with a matchup against the Idaho Vandals.
Discounting their 75-69 win over Idaho State as apart of the BrackBuster event last weekend, Idaho has dropped five straight WAC bouts to fall to 10-17 overall and 5-11 in league play, with its latest setback coming against Texas- San Antonio on Thursday, 74-56. Given the Vandals' disappointing record this season, they have had limited success on the road (5-8).
At 9-19 overall and 4-11 in conference, Texas State is one of the few teams in the WAC putting together a worse season than Idaho, but it has turned things around somewhat lately, posting back-to-back wins over Lamar (74-61) and Seattle (67-65). The Bobcats won't be sad to say goodbye to Strahan Coliseum, as they have gone just 4-10 at home this year.
Texas State won the first-ever meeting between the two programs, 78-73, in Moscow on Jan. 24.
After leading its latest game at intermission, Idaho lost control in the second half by shooting a woeful 6-of-25 from the field (.240) on its way to the 18-point setback. In defeat, Mike McChristian showed up by connecting 5- of-8 from 3-point range on his way to a career-high 19 points. Kyle Barone was also impressive with 13 points and 15 rebounds, while Connor Hill chipped in 10 points. The Vandals offensive output this season has been fairly strong, as they rank fourth in the WAC in scoring (68.0 ppg), third in field goal percentage (.465) and first in free throw percentage (.746), but those positives have been overshadowed by a lackluster scoring defense (68.9 ppg). Barone is in the midst of a potential All-WAC season, as he ranks third in both scoring (16.4 ppg) and field goal percentage (.579) while hauling in the most rebounds in the league (9.6 rpg). Stephen Madison is a strong second scoring option with 14.7 ppg, while Hill brings 11.5 ppg to the table thanks to his prowess from 3-point range (74-of-168, .440).
After trailing Seattle for most of the second half, Texas State grabbed a 58-57 lead with under three minutes to play on a Deonte' Jones layup and it held on to that advantage down the stretch to capture its second straight win. It wasn't an especially strong shooting night from either the floor (.400) or the free-throw line (.583), but the team stayed out of foul trouble, which allowed it to outscore Seattle at the stripe, 14-2. Jones and Joel Wright each netted 16 points in the triumph, with Wright chipping in seven rebounds and two steals as well. Matt Staff poured in 14 points, while Reid Koenen added 12 points. Much like Idaho, the Bobcats have one of the strongest offenses in the conference (70.0 ppg) only to be let down by their porous defense, which not only ranks last in the WAC but is one of the worst in the nation in allowing nearly 76 ppg. Wright is tied for the league lead in scoring with 17.5 ppg, and while he also helps out with 6.7 rpg and 1.4 spg, he has been turnover prone as well (3.8 tpg). Staff adds 11.0 ppg and 6.0 rpg to the mix, while six others average between 4.2 and 8.3 ppg.
With Texas State honoring its seniors in this matchup, it will have a little extra motivation to record a win in its home finale. Wright and company should be able to put up enough points against the Vandals to keep the Bobcats' hot streak going.
Game Date and Time