The Idaho men’s basketball team ended its season Thursday night in San Marcos with a 64-55 loss to former WAC opponent Texas State in the second of round of the CollegeInsider.com postseason tournament.
Although the Vandals kept it close and even led for a portion of the game, spotty shooting and a three-minute scoring drought ultimately resulted in their downfall.
“I thought my guys gave one heck of an effort. I thought they fought like crazy and that’s what I told them in the locker-room after the game,” Idaho head coach Don Verlin said in a news release. “It’s always hard when it comes to an end, but this team, more than anything I’ve had at the University of Idaho, is a bunch of great guys who really believe in doing things the Vandal way and I couldn’t be more proud of this group.”
Idaho got off to a hot start with a couple quick hooks from junior forward Arkadiy Mkrtychyan and stout team-defense. The Vandals attained a six point lead in the first seven minutes.
Texas State would go into the half with a 24-23 lead. Idaho shot 40 percent from the field, eight percent better than the Bobcats and outrebounded them by three, but points off turnovers and fouls proved to be the game-changers. Texas State scored nine points off turnovers and only committed four fouls, compared to no points off turnovers and nine fouls for Idaho.
Texas State would amplify its already aggressive defense late in the game. While Idaho’s contested shots would not fall, the Bobcats seemed unable to miss midway through the half. A 57-44 lead with 5:30 remaining marked Texas State’s takeover of the game.
It looked all but over for Idaho until the three-minute mark when Sanders knocked in a triple and followed it up with a steal. A three-minute field-goal drought down the stretch for Texas State allowed the Vandals to claw back into the game, cutting the lead to 58-53.
Idaho struggled to hit from anywhere in the last two minutes, including the free-throw line. While the Vandals were experiencing scoring woes, the Bobcats continued to play tough defense, holding Idaho to two points in the final two minutes.
With the crowd heavily at their back, the Bobcats hit just enough down the stretch to hold off Idaho. Like several games earlier in the season, this one came down to the free-throws. Idaho went 7-14 from the line while Texas State was 14-18 at the line. The Vandals also committed 21 fouls compared to 13 for the Bobcats.
The Vandals ended the game shooting 43 percent from the field and 31.6 percent on 3-pointers. Texas State shot 47 percent from the field, 66.7 percent in the second half, but 21 percent from deep. The Bobcats did most of their damage inside, scoring 28 points in the paint compared to 14 for Idaho.
Sanders led the game in scoring, finishing with 17 points on 5-13 from the field and 3-8 from downtown. He would also turn the ball over five times, contributing to Texas State’s 20 points off turnovers.
Mkrtychyan scored 14 and was the only other Vandal in double-figures.
For Texas State, Pearson finished with 16 points on 50 percent shooting. Forward Kavin Gilder-Tilbury scored 14 and had six boards. Guard Ojai Black rounded out the three in double-figures, finishing with 13 points and five assists.
“It’s been a good season, no question about it.” Verlin said. “The thing that probably sticks out in my mind the most is that they never wavered in their belief. They never wavered in their belief of who they are, they never wavered in their belief of being Vandals.”
Colton Clark can be reached at email@example.com