Men’s Basketball: Cougar-hunting season

Vandal men’s basketball came out with intensity and efficiency against the border-rival Cougars in the 273rd Battle of the Palouse, and never once stumbled.

Idaho handed Washington State, a once undefeated Pac-12 team on the verge of an AP top-25 ranking, a 91-64 blowout loss in front of an enormous Cowan Spectrum crowd.

Just three days after forward Brayon Blake recorded 23 points, a career-high in scoring at Nicholls State, Blake once again put up a career mark. The senior dropped 26 points on 10-16 from the field, and was perfect from deep, going 4-4.

The Idaho (6-2) offensive attack was fearsome early on, backed by what only could be described as a hyped environment.

“The crowd was awesome. Our administration did a great job getting the people here,” Idaho head coach Don Verlin said. “It’s amazing when we get people in this building how electric it is and how much better we play when it’s a full house.”

In the blink of an eye, senior guard Perrion Callandret drained two 3-pointers, leading to an obvious advantage and sending an already electric crowd into an uproar.

Only two minutes in, the Vandals held an 11-4 lead. Blake knocked down another 3-pointer, and the Idaho offense appeared as though it had swapped personalities with the Cougars (6-2), playing much quicker than usual.

The Vandals owned a 20-6 lead, largely from shared scoring, as the clock neared the 15:30 mark.

Washington State was finally able to slow down the impressive Vandal attack after about seven minutes of domination. Coug forward Robert Franks got himself going with a 3-ball of his own, leading to a 14-4 Wazzu scoring run, lasting about four minutes.

At one point down 16 points, the Cougs cut the lead to seven at about the halfway point of the first period. Standout guard Malachi Flynn was 3-4 from deep, helping to cut down what seemed to be an insurmountable Vandal lead.

Just as WSU appeared to be on the verge of a comeback, however, the Vandals rediscovered the offensive energy which carried them in the opening minutes.

Blake hit another 3-ball, ending a 2:30 scoring drought, and Idaho provided enough defense to withhold a Cougar comeback.

Idaho ended the first half on a 13-0 run. Callandret added another 3-pointer and Blake, who had the hot-hand throughout 20 minutes, knocked in two more long-bombs in the winding minutes.

The Vandals finished the first shooting 64 percent from deep and 51 percent from the field. Blake led all scorers with 18 points and Idaho took a 49-30 advantage into the locker room.

The Cougs scored the first five points out of the break, but their offense, known for heaving up shots in a hurry, was quickly silenced. WSU was unable to get out of scoring holes, often going extended periods without scoring anything.

Senior guard Victor Sanders dug the hole a bit deeper for Washington State early in the second. After hitting his second 3-pointer in the opening minutes, Sanders, with a massive grin on his face, peered toward the home bench, where his father, LaWan, sat.

The home-crowd erupted after freshman guard Trevon Allen rejected an attempted Cougar layup off the backboard, leading to an easy bucket for Sanders and putting an exclamation point on the blowout.

The Cougs never regained any sort of offensive output, and the Vandals cruised to a win behind proficient shooting all around and a fiery defensive temper on the court.

Sanders again provided a chunk of the offense, netting 19 points to go along with 16 points from his fellow senior in the backcourt. Callandret also recorded five rebounds and five assists.

Overall, the Vandals were lights-out on offense, shooting an overall 49 percent from the field and 56 percent on 14 of 25 from beyond the arc.

“I thought Idaho came out on fire tonight, I don’t know so much about us being flat, give them some credit they played extremely well,” WSU head coach Ernie Kent said. “Everything they put up went in, so I don’t know about us being flat as it was they just played so well, knocked us on our heels and I don’t think we ever recovered from it.”

The Cougar’s 3-point game, which is usually the focal point of the offense, struggled. The Cougs shot just 27 percent on 7- 26 from deep.

The Vandals return to the court 7 p.m. Saturday for a rematch at CSU Bakersfield. Idaho suffered a 64-62 loss at the hands of the Roadrunners on Nov. 24 during the Great Alaska Shootout tournament.

 

Colton Clark can be reached at arg-sports@uidaho.edu or on Twitter @coltonclark95


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