Although it was not as predictably dazzling, the Idaho men’s basketball team used a commanding second-half to roll past the Simon Fraser Clan in a 73-54 handling in its final non-conference home game of the season.
Simon Fraser (5-3), a Canadian Division II school and the only university outside of America in the NCAA, had literally nothing to lose Friday night in the Cowan Spectrum. It was only an exhibition game for the Clan, but they likely created some head-scratching and frustration from Vandal fans, players and coaches alike in the first half.
Idaho (7-3) began the contest as expected, with senior guard Victor Sanders scoring two quick buckets on what seemed to be simplistic maneuvers for the senior. These would be the only points for Sanders in the first half.
Idaho’s size advantage was apparent early on, but the Vandals failed to utilize it to its full extent in the first. Senior forward Arkadiy Mkrtychyan stuck out his right hand on a lob inside, controlled the ball and lightly bopped it off the backboard for a score.
Two minutes later, at the midway point of the half, a floater from senior forward Brayon Blake propelled the Vandals to an 18-6 lead, their largest of the first half, but things began to take a turn for the worse.
Beginning a little over midway through the half, the Clan began to bizarrely creep toward the lead, taking advantage of lousy Vandal possessions. Junior forward Nate Sherwood tried to silence the resurgence on a 3-pointer, but countless Vandal turnovers and missed opportunities gave Simon Fraser an opening.
Idaho committed four turnovers in just two and a half minutes at about the 5:30 mark and failed to score at all in the last two and a half minutes of the first half.
The Idaho offense appeared drained and lackadaisical late in the first, allowing the Clan to finish the period on a 10-0 run. Guard Iziah Sherman-Newsome drained a 3-ball as the clock hit zero, giving Simon Fraser a 33-30 halftime lead.
Despite the obvious size advantage, the Clan outrebounded Idaho 18 to 17 in the first and matched Idaho’s points in the paint with 16. The Vandals committed eight turnovers as well, five resulting from Clan pickpockets. Simon Fraser took 10 more shots than Idaho and ended the half on 41 percent from the field compared to 42 for the Vandals.
Two minutes into the second, Idaho was finally able to regain the lead through utilization of advantageous and abundant whistles. The Clan were tagged with five fouls in the first 1:30 of the second period.
The Vandals completely transformed upon returning from the locker room. Simon Fraser did not score in the first five minutes, and back-to-back blocks from Sanders and senior guard Perrion Callandret further put the Clan at an offensive standstill.
The Vandal offense finally began performing as expected, going on a 14-1 run over six minutes to open the half, essentially taking back control of the game.
Although many were from free-throws, the points were in abundance in the second half for Idaho. Senior guard Chad Sherwood knocked in consecutive 3-pointers with under eight minutes remaining, giving Idaho a 60-44 lead and thrusting Sherwood into ninth place all-time in Vandal 3-pointers sunk with 131.
With only eight players active and five in severe foul trouble, Simon Fraser resorted to an offbeat lineup. This only supplemented a consistent Idaho lead of about 20 points down the stretch, culminating in an eventual 73-54 romp.
N. Sherwood, senior forward Brayon Blake and Sanders all finished in double-figure scoring, with 17, 16 and 10 points, respectively. Blake added 10 rebounds, giving him his third double-double of the season. Senior forward Jordan Scott also produced under the rim, tallying 10 rebounds.
Idaho eventually regained its offensive composure and pushed its field goal percentage to 46 compared to 35 for the opponents. The Vandals ended up out-rebounding undersized Simon Fraser, 39 to 32 and scored 32 points in the paint compared to 22 for the Clan.
Forty-six total fouls were called, and the Vandals made the most of their opportunities at the line, netting 24 free-throws on 34 attempts, double that of Simon Fraser’s total.
With Big Sky play looming, Idaho will look to build a winning streak on the road against Western Michigan 4 p.m. Monday in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Colton Clark can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @coltonclark95