|Vandals hang on for win at PSU|
PORTLAND – The Idaho men’s basketball team escaped with a thrilling 76-75 victory at Portland State behind 26 points from Glen Dean and 21 from Connor Hill on Saturday night.
The Vandals (5-6)trailed by as many as seven points twice in the first half, but cut that deficit to just two at the break, setting the stage for a back-and-forth second half that featured nine lead-changes and three ties.
“I was really proud of our guys finding a way to win,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said. “It was nice to see us passing the ball tonight, 18 assists on 27 field goals, that’s a tribute to our team tonight. It was a good second half. I knew it was going to be a game like this, Portland State has some good players.”
Idaho had the ball with a 76-75 lead in the final minute, but Glen Dean’s jumper near the end of the shot clock didn’t fall, and PSU’s Tim Douglas grabbed the board, giving the Vikings (4-4) a chance at the final shot. But looking for a back-door cutter, Douglas’ pass was tipped by Mike Scott and corralled by Connor Hill, who held the ball as the clock expired with Idaho securing the one-point victory.
“We made a great defensive stand,” Verlin said of the final possession. “They ran a high ball screen play and Mike Scott did a great job of tipping the ball and time ran out. We did a great job of executing defensively to get that stop.”
The Vandals shot a season-high 54.0 percent from the field and matched their season high with 18 assists, an area Verlin was happy to see improve, as the Vandals entered the game averaging a Western Athletic Conference low 9.8 assists per game.
“That’s where we have to get better,” Verlin said of Idaho’s assist average this season. “We’re typically a high assists team, and that’s what’s really been bothering about this team. We average nine assists per game, and usually we average 14 or 15 a game.”
Glen Dean and Connor Hill each had five assists in the game, a career-high for Hill who also had a team-high five rebounds, and Stephen Madison added three to go with 14 points and three boards.
Idaho connected on 11-of-20 3-pointers in the game, mostly from Dean and Hill as Dean went 5-of-7 from long range and Hill went 5-of-9. Hill’s five 3-pointers give him 163 in his career, just five shy of tying and six shy of breaking Idaho’s all-time record of 168 held by Orlando Lightfoot since 1994.
The Vandals started the game hot, making their first six shots from the field while opening a 17-6 lead, but the Vikings answered with a 19-2 run to take a 25-19 lead. Idaho chipped away over the final seven minutes of the first half and the Vandals’ last three baskets before the break were 3-pointers, closing Portland State’s lead to 36-34 at the half. The Vandals were hindered by PSU’s 18-12 rebounding advantage in the first half and 13 fouls, as PSU went 9-of-15 from the free throw line before the break while Stephen Madison and Bira Seck each picked up three first-half fouls.
Portland State shot 49.1 percent (27-of-55) from the field and held a 32-28 rebounding advantage, including a 13-7 edge on the offensive end that led to an 11-10 advantage in second-chance points. Portland State equaled Idaho’s 18 assists and 12 turnovers, but the Vandals held a 21-16 lead in points off turnovers. Idaho held the Vikings to 38.9 percent from 3-point distance.
The Vandals return to action with their third consecutive game against a Big Sky opponent when the face Idaho State in Boise’s CenturyLink Arena on Dec. 20. Idaho visits CSU Northridge on Dec. 22 before hosting Montana on Dec. 28 in its final game before WAC play begins.