Idaho men’s basketball continued its hot streak against Northern Arizona, chopping down the Lumberjacks 84-80 on the road Saturday night.
The Vandals’ take down of NAU pushed its winning streak out to three games, all of which were on the road.
“I’m proud of our team,” Idaho head coach Don Verlin said in a news release. “After taking a tough loss to Portland State, in a game we all felt like we should’ve won and we could’ve won but we didn’t take care of our ball late in the game, we have bounced back and won three in a row on the road. We looked at this point a couple of weeks ago, this was a huge part of the season for us to get us back in the conference race.”
The game did not get off to the right start for the Vandals. The Lumberjacks came out of the gate hot handed, grabbing an early six-point lead. A 3-point shot from senior small forward Brayon Blake broke the drought and got the Vandals on the board near four minutes into the game.
From there the Vandals put their energy into making up for lost time in the opening minutes, going on a 17-0 run over three minutes. Senior guard Perrion Callandret polished off the run with two consecutive dunks to give Idaho a 17-6 lead.
Idaho built out a 13-point lead but the Lumberjacks weren’t going to let them go that easy. NAU quickly cut the Vandal lead down before overtaking them and reclaiming the lead with six minutes left in the opening half.
Two consecutive 3-point shots from senior guard Victor Sanders returned the 28-24 advantage to the Vandals.
The two teams continued to alternate leads, but the Lumberjacks finished the opening half with the upper hand 36-32.
The Lumberjacks slowly lost their grasp on the lead in the opening minutes of the half as Blake powered in six points to wear down the NAU-lead. Minutes later Idaho, once again, took the lead back and didn’t let it go.
Northern Arizona kept Idaho on a close leash but were not able to surpass them. The Lumberjacks’ Chris Bowling hit a 3-point shot with a second left but it was not enough. Idaho held off the opponent for an 84-81 victory.
Idaho shot 51 percent from the floor and 48 percent from beyond the arc, knocking down 12-of-25 attempts.
Sanders closed the game with 21 points to move into fourth in Idaho all-time scorers with 1,583 career points. He is just two points away from passing Brian Kellerman for third.
Senior small forward Jordan Scott tied his career-high with three 3-pointers on 3-3 shooting from range and 11 points on the night.
Blake lead the team in scoring with 25 points while also adding nine boards. It was the senior’s second straight game scoring at least 20 points and Idaho is now 4-1 when he reaches that mark.
NAU’s Torry Johnson matched Blake’s scoring with 25 points, the Lumberjacks team-high from the night.
Idaho will return home to face Northern Colorardo 7 p.m. Thursday in the Cowan Spectrum.
“Vandal fans we need you,” Verlin said of the upcoming contest. “Our best game of the year was either Western Michigan or Washington State and Washington State we had that Dome packed. And that’s what we need. We need some energy in the arena, we’ve got a chance to get right back in the top of this thing.”
Meredith Spelbring can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @mere0415