Kansas City men’s basketball opened conference play with a bang, taking an 80-74 road win against Idaho on Thursday night. The ‘Roos went 8-of-8 from the line in the final 22 seconds to seal it, while committing a season-low eight turnovers.
“That’s tough when the game is on the line to step up and make free throws,” UMKC Head Coach Kareem Richardson said. “This was a big win for us on the road; we’ll enjoy it for a few hours then get ready for Seattle on Saturday.”
The ‘Roos (4-9, 1-0 WAC) jumped all over the Vandals (6-9, 0-1 WAC) in the opening minutes, running out to a 10-3 lead with 16:12 on the clock after a three from junior Frank Williams. After UI cut it to three, UMKC answered with a 5-0 spurt to make it 15-8 with 12:42 to play in the half.
Idaho came right back though, and eventually tied the contest at 20 a few minutes later. The ‘Roos answered with seven straight points though, highlighted by two buckets from senior Trinity Hall. The Vandals sliced it back to two, but a Hall jumper with 1:07 on the clock gave UMKC its largest lead of the game at nine, and took a 40-32 advantage into the half.
It was the second-highest scoring first half of the season for Kansas City, who shot 53 percent. Martez Harrison paced all scorers with 10 points in the half, while Hall had eight.
The ‘Roos really took advantage inside in the period, getting 22 points in the paint, including seven second-chance points.
The Vandals took advantage of a poor Kangaroo shooting stretch to open the second half to get back in it. They chipped it down to a two-point game with 16:33 on the clock, and took their first lead with 11:39 remaining at 50-48. Two Stephen Madison free throws capped a 20-8 run over the first nine minutes of the half to take a three-point lead. Kansas City made only three field goals during that stretch of time.
Williams busted the ‘Roos out of it though, hitting for eight points in a four minute stretch, including a three that tied the game at 61 with 6:34 left. UI would match its largest lead of the game at five just a minute later, but turned it up on defense to take that lead back just 1:24 later, capped by a Nelson Kirksey old fashioned three-point play to make it 68-66.
The Vandals grabbed the lead back one more time on the next possession, but an offensive rebound and layup by Fred Chatmon put the ‘Roos back up with 2:55 on the clock for good. After both teams missed a pair of free throws, Kansas City got a huge bucket to extend the lead to three when Caleb Johnson got a dunk off a feed from Hall with 2:02 left.
From there it was defense and free throws for the ‘Roos, who held the Vandals to only one field goal over the final four minutes. Harrison and Kirksey both went 4-of-4 from the line in the final 22 seconds to seal it.
Madison, the Vandals leading scorer and three-time WAC Player of the Week, tallied 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Kirksey led the ‘Roos with 20 points, the second time in his career with 20-plus points, while Harrison had 18 and Williams had 14. Hall tallied 12 points and 10 boards, his second double-double of the year, and fifth of his career.
Kansas City will continue the conference road swing on Saturday at Seattle. Tipoff from Key Arena is set for 9:00 p.m. CT.