ISU MBB: NEVER IN DOUBT — ISU sets multiple season highs in blowout win over SUU
POCATELLO — The noise from Idaho State’s postgame celebration spilled into the hallways of Reed Gym.
As each player walked out of the locker room carrying their own Papa John’s pizza, a passerby asked Bengals point guard Ethan Telfair if that was their reward for winning by 20.
“Yeah,” Telfair said. “Something like that.”
ISU set season highs in points, 3-pointers made, 3-point field goal percentage and opponent field goal percentage en route to a 94-68 win Saturday over Southern Utah. The Bengals (5-17, 3-7 Big Sky Conference) drilled 15 treys, scored 31 points off 18 Thunderbirds turnovers and fell one point shy of having six players score 10 or more points for the first time in head coach Bill Evans’ five-year tenure.
Idhao State led for 34 minutes, 37 seconds and was ahead by as much as 30 points.
Telfair called it his team’s best performance at home this season, while Evans said there was no doubt it was ISU’s top defensive effort.
SUU (4-20, 2-9) shot 30.4 percent from the field and hoisted 28 of its 56 shots from beyond the arc.
Telfair, who finished just shy of a triple-double with 21 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and five steals, had a black and blue left eye while his right eye was missing its contact lens after the game.
ISU’s leading scorer went down in the first half after being hit in the eye during a blocked layup attempt.
“Played rest of game with one contact,” Telfair said.
Telfair and the rest of the Idaho State offense whipped the ball around the floor to find open shooters in half-court sets, while the defense’s 14 steals led to easy looks in transition. ISU owned points in the paint 34-14 and connected on 15 of 27 3-pointers, with four players sinking at least two.
“Our transition was good,” Evans said. “Defense got us a lot of easy baskets.”
Southern Utah’s Randy Onwuasor, the Big Sky’s second-leading scorer at 23.2 points per game, scored 19 points on 4-of-15 shooting Saturday. The redshirt junior transfer from Texas Tech was also held below his season averages in rebounds and assists and didn’t log a steal for the fifth time in 24 games this season.
“You’ve got to keep him off the foul line, and you’ve got to keep him out of the paint,” Evans said. “I think we did a pretty good job of that.”
Idaho State shot 52.5 percent from the floor to improve to 22-8 under Evans when shooting 50 percent or better. After netting one 50 percent game in their first 15 tries, the Bengals have hit at 50 percent or better in four of their last seven.
“We were so tough defensively, it gave a good rhythm to our offense as well,” ISU freshman Balint Mocsan said. “We have to make the open shots.”
Mocsan and redshirt freshman Brandon Boyd combined to score 31 points on 9-of-12 shooting from the arc. Robert Jones III added 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting, and Novak Topalovic chipped in 13 points with six rebounds. Geno Luzcando had nine points and five boards with a broken bone in his left hand, which he suffered in Thursday’s overtime win against Northern Colorado.
ISU is 4-0 in the Evans era when five players score in double figures.
Idaho State has won consecutive games for the first time this season, setting scoring season highs in both. Eighty minutes of good fortune in front of home crowds, or a sign of positive things to come?
The Bengals take on Portland State’s league-leading offense, along with middling Sacramento State, next week on the road.
“We’ve got to keep it rolling,” Telfair said. “I’m trying to convince my team that we still could win a championship in Reno.”