The Vandals continue to make February their month, improving to a perfect 4-0 after a 88-78 win over Montana State.
The Vandals got on the board first, but the Bobcats made it clear throughout the half that they were not going to let the home team run away with the win.
Montana State slipped ahead nearly six minutes into the game and held a consistent lead over Idaho for a solid 10-minute stretch.
A layup from senior guard Victor Sanders tied the game at 27-27 but it wasn’t enough to overtake the Bobcats. Of the nine lead changes in the first half, seven came from the final four minutes of the first half.
The lead-swaps did not go in favor of the Vandals at the close of the half, sending the home-team into the locker room down 40-38.
With plenty of open opportunities, Idaho struggled to get shots to fall where their opponents had no trouble scoring. The Vandals shot 45 percent from the floor but only managed to sink 29 percent (4-14) of 3-point attempts. Montana State finished the opening 20 minutes with a perfect 6-6 record from the line and over 42 percent from the floor and deep.
Senior forward Brayon Blake led the charge, notching 11 points and seven rebounds, the only Vandal in double figures at the break.
Montana State held its lead for the opening stretch of the second half. Senior forward Akradiy Mkrtychyan came off the bench for the Vandals and put up five-straight points of his own in just over a minute’s time, cutting the Bobcat-lead down to just three points.
A 3-ball from senior guard Perrion Callandret tied the game for the first time in the half at 58-58. Callandret followed his game-tying shot with a layup to give Idaho the go-ahead for the first time in the second half.
A back-to-back pair of 3-pointers from Blake and another layup from Mkrtychyan put Idaho up 68-60 after a 20-4 run.
Sanders showed out in the final six minutes of the game, knocking down 12 of his 14 second-half points. Eight of those points which came in less than two minutes and converted a single-point deficit into a four-point advantage.
The Vandals held off the Bobcats and cruised to an 88-78 win, their 10th victory in the Big Sky.
Blake posted his eighth double-double of the season, finishing with 24 points and 14 boards. The 14 rebounds tie his career-high in the category.
Sanders finished with 21 points, 14 of which came in the second half.
Senior small forward Jordan Scott put up 10 points and six boards. Scott’s main role came on the defensive end, where he limited MSU’s Tyler Hall to just 16 points.
The Bobcat’s Keljin Blevins posted 24 points on 3-5 shooting from beyond the arc.
Idaho last hit 10 conference wins by Feb. 15 during the 1989-90 season, the last time the Vandals took a trip to the NCAA tournament.
Idaho looks to stay perfect in February against Montana 7 p.m. Saturday in the Cowan Spectrum.
Meredith Spelbring can be reached at email@example.com