| March 22, 2018

M. Basketball: Vandals win nail-biter

Idaho claimed its first win in the Big Sky Conference against Montana State 83-81 in overtime.

Idaho head coach Don Verlin said he was proud of the way his team fought through a tough game to get the win.

“That was a heck of a basketball game,” Verlin said in a news release.  “I was really proud of our guys. We had a number of chances to hang our heads and not finish the job, but I thought we kept battling. We kept fighting and we found a way to win this basketball game.  By no means was it perfect from an execution standpoint, but it was really good for us, as far as being able to compete and compete hard for 40 minutes tonight.”

Control of the game shifted between the teams — no  team lead by more than a few points throughout the night.

Over the course of the 40 minutes the lead changed a total of 21 times and tied up 14 times throughout the night.

The Vandals found their strength at the free throw line. Idaho went 83 percent from the line on the night. In the first half the Vandals went 92 percent, making 13 of 14. A set of three made free throws from junior guard Victor Sanders sent the game into overtime. Overtime resulted in a perfect 6-6 for Idaho.

The impressive win resulted in impressive stats for individual players and the team.

Leading the way for the Vandal offense was Sanders with 27 points and a team high six rebounds.

Junior guard Chad Sherwood finished the night with 17 points and a new season high. He was the second highest scorer for the Vandals.

Verlin said he was pleased with the way Sherwood fought through a tough start to a good game.

“I was happy he stayed with it. He picked up two early fouls in the first half and then he came out in the second half and got his third fouls pretty early and I was glad he stayed with it,” Verlin said. “He kept running his cuts and got some open shots it was nice to see him knock some shots down. He is a really good shooter I was just happy he stayed with it.”

As a whole the team stayed with it to contribute to the big win. Nine out of ten Vandals put points on the board. A total of 26 of the 83 points came from the bench.

The Vandals headed into half time down 33-32 after a missed jump shot from junior forward Arkadiy Mkrtychyan.

The second half looked similar to the first on both sides of the floor. The lead flipped back and forth between the Bobcats and the Vandals while the score gap was held to a maximum 7 points.

A pair of made free throws from junior forward Brayon Blake brought Idaho within one with just four minutes left to play. The Bobcats had luck from the line to go up by three with just 25 seconds left in regulation..

Overtime resulted in more back and forth but the Vandals sealed the win with a good tipin from Blake with less than a second left on the clock.

“Our guys stayed in it mentally and kept fighting and kept working and found a way to win,” Verlin said “We were very fortunate to win the game but I thought we earned the victory with how hard we played.”

Blake and Sanders said this victory was only the start, and the Vandals were ready to move forward.

“It’s a building block. You gotta start somewhere,” Sanders said in a news release. “You never want to start conference at home and lose two in a row in front of your home fans but its life, it happens. We can’t hang our heads because like I said we can’t do nothing about it and so we just take this Montana State win and throw it where it doesn’t matter and now it’s on to Weber State and Idaho State. That’s our focus.”

Blake echoed Sanders sentiments.

“One step at a time” said Blake.

Idaho heads on the road to face Weber State 6 p.m. Thursday in Ogden, Utah.

Meredith Spelbring can be reached at arg-sports@uidaho.edu

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