|Vandals fend off Bengals|
BOISE, Idaho – If Idaho’s last two games are any indication, the Vandal men’s basketball team is going to be a lot of fun to watch when the program moves to the Big Sky Conference in 2014-15. Idaho secured its second straight last-minute win over a Big Sky foe Friday night with a 69-65 victory over Idaho State in Boise’s CenturyLink Arena.
The Vandals led by as many as 13 points in the second half before Idaho State chipped away and used an 8-0 to make it just a two-point game with less than a minute to play. But the Vandals made three out of four free throws in the final 33 seconds to seal the victory.
“We’re getting better offensively,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said after the game. “The last two games we’ve shot over 50 percent. Our offense is starting to click and I’m glad to see that.”
Idaho improves to 6-6 overall and has won back-to-back games for the first time this season after a 76-75 win at Portland State on Dec. 14. Idaho State falls to 3-5 on the season with the loss.
Four Idaho players scored in double figures, including a career-high 17 points off the bench from freshman Sekou Wiggs. Wiggs added six rebounds and two assists in the game and went 7-for-9 from the field.
Senior Glen Dean iced the game with a pair of free throws with eight seconds left to give him 18 points for the game. Senior Stephen Madison contributed 17 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two blocks in the game, and went 6-for-9 from the field and 2-for-3 from 3-point range. Connor Hill uncharacteristically went 0-for-5 from 3-point range but managed 10 points after going 6-of-9 at the free throw line.
After connecting on their first three 3-point attempts in the second half, the Vandals spent most of the period attacking the basket and drawing fouls, and were successful for most of the period, shooting 64.7 percent after the break and getting to the free throw line 21 times. The Vandals shot a season-best 54.8 percent from the field in the game.
“We came out after halftime and shot the ball well,” Verlin said. “We were able to knock down a couple of 3-point shots and then I thought they changed their defense a little bit and we were able to drive the ball and score.”
Both teams had 26 rebounds in the game but Idaho State led 9-4 in offensive rebounds, gaining a 7-2 advantage in second-chance points. The Vandals committed 14 turnovers in the game while forcing 11, and Idaho State owned a 24-14 advantage in points off turnovers.
“I figured it was going to be a close game,” Verlin said. “(Idaho State coach) Bill (Evans) does a great job, they play hard and they’re really hard to play. Against that zone you really have to work hard for your shots every single possession.”
Idaho junior Mike Scott added five points, and three rebounds in the game, going 2-for-4 from the field and 1-1 at the free throw line.
Idaho State connected on 44.2 percent (23-of-52) of its shots and 6-of-15 3-point attempts. The Vandals hit just four 3s on 11 attempts, but made up for it by converting four out of five 3-point play opportunities.
The Vandals will play away from Moscow for the ninth time in 10 games when they visit Cal State Northridge on Dec. 22. Idaho will then return home to face Montana on Dec. 28 in its final game before Western Athletic Conference play begins.