| February 23, 2018

Men’s Basketball: Rematch gone right

Another successful rematch is in the books for the Vandals. Idaho avenged the Vikings on the road, winning 97-88 Thursday night.

“We did a couple things really, really well tonight,” Idaho head coach Don Verlin said in a news release. “I thought we played selfless basketball tonight.  They really did a nice job of passing the basketball.  When you get 22 assists on 35 field goals, that’s excellent.”

Portland State kept pretty close tabs on Idaho in the opening minutes of the game, but the Vandals managed to hold a slim lead for the first 10 minutes of play. A 3-point shot from the Vikings’ Michael Mayhew pushed the Vikings up 19-18 in what would be their only lead of the contest.

Idaho quickly reclaimed the lead with a trey from sophomore guard Trevon Allen and only continued to build it up as the clock ran out.

By the time the halftime buzzer sounded, the Vandals had built a 48-37 advantage.

Idaho’s first half success was fueled by senior forward Brayon Blake, who contributed 14 points, six boards and one steal in 17 minutes of play. Blake was the only Vandal in double-digits at the break.

The momentum from the first half carried over into the second for the Vandals. Idaho jumped out to an early 18-point lead behind a pair of free throws from senior guard Victor Sanders.

The Vikings managed to reign in the rolling Vandals, but only fractionally. Portland State cut the Idaho-advantage to just nine points multiple times throughout the second half but were not able to get any closer. The Vandals cruised to a 97-88 win.

“I couldn’t be happier with the way we were able to sustain it,” Verlin said. “We got up 14 or 15 and we were able to kind of withstand all their runs.  They’re a team that plays with runs and momentum and this and that and the other, and I thought every time they made a run we did a real nice job responding to it.”

Five Vandals finished in double-digit scoring, led by Blake with 28 points, a new career high, and eight rebounds. His previous career high, 26 points, came in the Vandals trouncing of Washington State in December.

“BJ has been playing wonderfully this year,” Verlin said. “I thought he made some tough ones.  He was in a little foul trouble there and I didn’t get him out there as much as I wanted to.  I think he’d tell you, he’d attribute this to his teammates and our ball movement.  He got a number of wide open looks.  We were able to execute a big play there down the stretch, got him the basketball in a mismatch situation and he was able to go get a shot.”

Sanders finished not far behind with 22 points and five rebounds. Senior guard Perrion Callandret and junior power forward Nate Sherwood also finished in double-digit scoring, with 16 and 10 points, respectively.

Senior forward Arkadiy Mkrtychyan scored 11 points in the contest, a new season-high.

Idaho knocked down 61 percent of its shots from the floor and 48 percent from deep on 11-23 shooting.

The Vikings, on the other hand, were limited to 43 percent in field goal attempts and just 37 percent from beyond the arc.

The Vandal bench hit 33 points, the most of any game this season. The previous high was 23 in the team’s last meeting with the Vikings.

The high-scoring effort from the bench and the starters translated to Idaho’s back-to-back 90-point games. The last time the Vandals did that was the 1997-98 season when Idaho took down UC Santa Barbra, 97-70, and Cal Poly, 102-71.

Idaho heads into the third rematch contest of the season against Sacramento State 7:05 p.m. Saturday in Sacramento, California.

Meredith Spelbring can be reached at arg-sports@uidaho.edu or on twitter @mere0415

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