| March 17, 2018

M. Basketball: Sticking Like Glue

December 5, 2016

The stat summaries from the Idaho men’s basketball team’s recent games don’t tell a happy ending. It shows a team that’s disjointed, not communicating and simply, not scoring enough points.

The Vandals struggle to reduce turnovers, allowing 15 against Sam Houston State Nov. 25 and 17 against San Jose State Nov. 29.

The Bearkats scored 18 points on turnovers. Idaho lost to Sam Houston State by seven points, points the Vandals could have easily prevented.

Injuries are already a problem too. Senior guard Perrion Callandret is out indefinitely with a bone bruise as of Nov. 29. Callandret plays point guard and is one of the team’s top scorers.

With the Cougars giving up offensive rebounds, Idaho could spend much more time on offense. Without Callandret, Idaho may not be in the best position offensively.

It’s easy to say the Vandals won’t be able to win against Washington State based on all these details.

Even if Idaho is missing a big piece of its offensive and defensive push, there are plenty of little pieces ready — all it needs is some glue.

Former guard Chris Sarbaugh’s most important role was, as Idaho men’s basketball coach Don Verlin called it, being the “glue guy.” Sarbaugh held the team together. He may not have been the star player, but he sweated the details and it showed.

Junior forward Brayon Blake, a transfer from North Idaho College, has filled the role seamlessly.

Even though this is Blake’s first season on the team, he plays well. He demands the respect of his teammates through hard work and that’s why his calls on the court are met by action.

Blake’s ability to play offense and defense makes him an invaluable asset for the Vandals right now. He sweats the details, just like Sarbaugh.

Junior guard Victor Sanders remains Idaho’s top scorer, earning a season-high 29 points against South Dakota State Nov. 21.

The Vandals have dealt with injuries before too.

It was the theme of a long stretch of conference play. Initially, Callandret was out and Sanders stepped up and averaged almost 30 points a game. Then disaster struck and Sanders was out as well. Those injury-ridden weeks were some of my favorite, because the Vandal bench really stepped up and played great basketball.

Freshman guard Trevon Allen, who stepped in Callandret’s place at point, scored a career-high 10 points in 21 minutes against Sam Houston State Nov. 25.

Freshman guard Myles Franklin, also playing point guard, earned seven assists versus Little Rock Nov. 18.

Senior point guard Pat Ingram came off the bench for a career-high 23 points against South Dakota State Nov. 21. Ingram was responsible for Idaho’s only lead during the game.

Junior guard Chad Sherwood, sophomore guard Jake Straughan and freshman guard Tyler Brimhall have come off the bench in the last year to lead the Vandals.

Already, Verlin has had a chance to give his bench quality minutes against tough opponents. This will only help Idaho against Washington State.

Returning bench players now have more experience than they would have if injuries didn’t continue to be an issue.

The Idaho men’s basketball program is at a tipping point. The Vandals earned a 21-13 overall record during the 2015-16 season, the best overall record in over 20 years.

Winning three times in a row and working towards a better nonconference record gives Idaho an advantage going into Big Sky Conference play. BSC is a tough, guard-heavy league. The Vandals need to be ready come Dec. 30.

Idaho needs to be even more ready for Wednesday. Anything less than 100 percent effort will make for a sad bus ride home.

Tess Fox can be reached atarg-sports@uidaho.edu or on Twitter @tesstakesphotos

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