After the Vandals let a big lead slip away Thursday night against North Dakota, the team held off a Northern Colorado comeback attempt and won 83-79.
“It was huge,” Idaho shooting guard Connor Hill said of the win. “We let one slip away on Thursday — we’ve let a few slip away — so this was a big win for us. We needed this win and we knew that coming in.”
Even though the game was similar to Thursday’s contest, Hill said the team’s focus was on the present task at hand.
“Heck no, there’s no thinking about the Thursday game — you can’t think about that,” he said. “You just got to keep playing.”
Idaho will continue to play its season with a short road trip to play Eastern Washington Saturday Jan. 31, in Cheney, Washington.
The win over Northern Colorado snapped a four-game losing streak and brought Idaho’s record to 8-10 overall and 3-4 in Big Sky competition.
“It’s hard when you’ve lost four in a row,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said. “Finding a way to win tonight was good. I thought we played really well for about 35 minutes then we got a little sloppy with the ball.”
About midway through the second half, Idaho held its biggest lead of 23 points. A couple minutes later, however, Northern Colorado made its push and went on a 21-1 run to cut the Vandals lead to one point with 20 seconds left in the game.
After playing at a fast pace for the majority of the game, Idaho point guard Mike Scott attributes Northern Colorado’s comeback to the Vandals slowing down their tempo.
“Honestly, I think we should have just kept it aggressive,” Scott said. “I was telling my team ‘keep stepping on their throat, keeping stepping on their throat. We gotta be in the killing mode’ — we haven’t been there lately. When we got out of that killing mode in about the last five, seven minutes, you see what happens.”
Scott missed two consecutive free throws, which helped the Bears get to within one point. He later redeemed himself as he made two free throws with 18 seconds left, which gave Idaho a three-point lead.
Seconds later, Hill and sophomore guard Sekou Wiggs closed out the game from the charity strike.
Scott led the team with 23 points and six assists. Hill finished with 21 points on 6-of-13 shooting — five of which were from behind the arc.
“It turned out the right way tonight,” Verlin said of the win. “I joked with our guys in the locker room — as you guys know I lost a little bit of weight, I did it to help my heart — and I said they were trying to affect my heart.”
Korbin McDonald can be reach at email@example.com