The biannual battle of the ancient warriors foretold a positive omen for the visiting Vandals.
In its authoritative, 97-88 win over Portland State, Idaho retained its deterring defense but rewrote the history books on the other side of the ball and asserted itself as the top-dog rover-warrior.
Like its mascot’s ancient ancestors, the Germanic Vandals, Idaho thrives on defensive maneuvering. The nomadic warriors, whose regime lasted from the second to sixth centuries, often complied with the standards of neighboring forces to retain relative peace and situated themselves comfortably within a limited portion of European land.
The ancient vikings, on the other hand, succeeded on the offensive, much like their Northwest counterparts at Portland State. The Scandinavian vagabonds forayed about, collecting lands and riches, sometimes even as far away as present-day Greenland and eastern Canada.
This was not the scene Thursday night in Portland’s Pamplin Sports Center, however.
Idaho arrived with the Big Sky’s top-ranked defense and No. 9 offense, while Portland State enjoyed the conference’s No. 1 offense and ninth-ranked defense. Outperforming the Vikings on the offensive end seemed out of the question, but the Vandals absolutely did, and recorded their second-highest scoring game of the year in the process.
It’s not as if the Germanics never had spurts of offense, though. In A.D. 455, the Vandals successfully raided Rome. While sparing the majority of lives, they made off with bountiful treasure over the course of a 14-day offensive.
Evidently, history repeats itself. Idaho survives, advances and often prospers with defensive tactics. But every so often, we see an explosion of offensive prowess.
An argument could be made that the Vandals again used their defensive aptitude to stagger a compelling Viking offense, which would be true for only a fragment of the contest. Sure, runs perpetrated from chain-locked defense were noticeable, but a persistent and proficient Viking offense managed 88 points – tied with Nevada for the most allowed by Idaho this season.
It took five double-figure scorers and 61 percent shooting from the field to squelch Portland State. Two players banged in 20-plus points, which generally is an indication of a blowout. Yet, just as in the 300-plus year history of the ancient Norsemen, the Vikings constantly refused annihilation.
On Jan. 6, the Vikings marched into the Vandal territory and edged out Idaho, 73-72.
Long ago, Germanic Vandals were also pushed out of their homeland by local competing interests. Soon afterwards, vikings paraded south from Scandinavia. They built a stronghold called Hedeby in, of course, the Vandals’ motherland of present-day Germany.
The Vandals flipped the historical switch. With five players from Oregon, three from the city, Idaho looked upon Portland as another piece of its homeland. Thursday was the chance to take it back, an opportunity history had not given them.
Instead of relying on the defensive, allowing themselves to be driven away from home once again, the Vandals went on the attack. Everyone did their part – senior guard and Portland native Victor Sanders dropped 22 points, and was deadly on drive-and-dishes, contributing seven gives to an overall season-high 22 Idaho assists.
Senior forward Arkadiy Mkrtychyan, another Rose City native, recorded a season-high 11 points and seven rebounds. Senior guard Chad Sherwood got the nod instead of Perrion Callandret. Perhaps starting the returning countrymen was the right move – Sherwood played well defensively and Callandret, off the bench, dropped 16 points.
Possibly, in ancient times, the Vandals were unable to reclaim the homeland because they simply had a lack of support from outsiders. Idaho unquestionably had that backing against the Vikings, though, in the form of senior forward Brayon Blake. Although a foreigner in Portland, Blake made himself right at home, recording a career-high 28 points on 80 percent shooting to go along with eight boards.
A battle between Vikings and Vandals – nomadic warriors from a similar landscape but with very different strategies – can only now be imagined on courts and fields. Considering that the Vandals are experienced, elders both in past and present with the No. 2 senior scoring roster in the country, don’t count out Idaho’s ability to adapt.
Colton Clark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @coltonclark95.