It was a heave of desperation. In waning seconds of the first half against Weber State Saturday night, senior point guard Mike Scott gathered the ball with four seconds left and hurled a 70-foot shot.
“I didn’t think it was going in,” Scott said. “Once it started getting close to the rim I’m like, ‘this is about to go in.'”
Scott stared at the hoop as the ball swooshed through the basket. The crowd erupted, his teammates swarmed him, but Scott still stared with the look of disbelief.
The 3-points proved to be more than just an eight-point lead at halftime — it proved to be the difference of the game. The lead changed 19 times and was tied 18 times, but Idaho edged out the former Big Sky champion, Weber State, 86-84.
“That’s the reason why you throw one up there,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said of Scott’s shot. “You look at it at the end and that’s the difference of the game.”
With the win, Idaho improves to 7-6 overall and 2-0 in the Big Sky.
While Weber State was picked by many to repeat as conference champions this season, Idaho’s next opponent, Eastern Washington, looks poised to claim the Big Sky title this year.
On Saturday Jan. 10, EWU comes to Moscow with an 11-4 record (2-0 in the Big Sky) and has a victory over an Indiana team that has only lost three times this season.
“We all know, it’s not hidden, this will be a battle for first place,” Scott said of the game against EWU. “I mean, just like Weber (State), that it will be a very intense game.”
Scott, however, wasn’t done with the halftime buzzer beater. He carried the momentum into the second half, where he scored nine points — two of which gave Idaho the lead with three seconds left in the game.
The point guard from Los Angeles finished with 14 points, five assists one turnover and two game winning shots.
“Mike (Scott) played very well offensively tonight,” Verlin said. “He really forces the action — makes it hard for them to guard.”
Verlin said while Scott impressed on the offensive end, he and the rest of the team, didn’t do as good as job on the defensive end.
Weber State point guard Jeremy Senglin finished with 22 points, six assists and one turnover. Along with Senglin, the Wildcats had four players who scored in double figures.
“I know Senglin is a good player, but he had him (Scott) most of the night,” Verlin said of Scott’s matchup with the WSU sophomore. “You look at the end of the day, and Senglin might have got the best of him.”
Verlin said Weber State dominated the second half and the Vandals were fortunate to come out with a victory.
“They have three perimeter guys that can shoot it and then they have a good post guy — you kind of have to pick your poison a little bit,” Verlin said of Weber State. “I didn’t think we had one of our best defensive games of the year, that’s for sure. That’s an area we definitely have to get better.”
Like Weber State, Idaho also had four players score in double figures and leading they way was Sekou Wiggs. The sophomore guard from Seattle finished with a career-high 22 points.
Wiggs, who only took one shot from behind the arc, said he was able to drive the ball against the Wildcat defense.
“I feel like when I need to get into the game I can just drive the ball,” he said “It’s always worked for me my whole life. That’s something I can really go to and then the jump shot comes second if someone comes in front of me.”
Verlin said all games are important for the Vandals, but the win against the Wildcats was especially big because of their talent level.
“They’re the defending Big Sky champions, they went to the NCAA Tournament last year,” he said. “Randy (Rahe) has done an unbelievable job there. They have won four out of six conference titles since he’s been there.”
Despite the impressive win, Verlin is not satisfied and wants his team to pick it up a notch.
“We know what were doing now,” he said. “We are 13 games into the season, we’re almost halfway there. Now we got to be able to take it up a notch and sustain it a little bit longer.”
Korbin McDonald can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org