The final seconds of play were the kiss of death for Idaho men’s basketball team, as California State Bakersfield hit a clutch three-pointer to take a 64-62 win.
Idaho took a close loss in the second round of the Great Alaska Shootout after leading for the entirety of the opening 20 minutes of play before letting the advantage slip early in the second half.
“I thought we lost our focus a little bit, in that stretch,” Idaho head coach Don Verlin said in a news release. “We’re up 12 with about 16 to go and then with five minutes to go in the game we’re down eight. They were able to score it pretty easily on us and then they were able to get to the offensive boards. They did what championship-level teams do, and that’s find a way to get it done. You have to give them credit, none bigger than Justin Davis at the end of the game.”
Senior small forward Jordan Scott struck first, hitting a shot from beyond the arc to get the Vandals on the board.
The Vandals didn’t let the opponents get a glimpse at the lead for the duration of the opening half. The Roadrunners kept it tight throughout, only allowing Idaho to expand the lead out to eight points midway through the half before reigning the score back in to 32-38 at the break.
The beginning minutes of the second half looked similar to those of the first half. Idaho held a commanding lead, on top by as many as 12 points.
Cal State Bakersfield went on a 17-0 run to steal the lead away from the Vandals and go up five with nine minutes left in the game.
Senior guard Perrion Callandret cut the Roadrunner streak with a three-point shot to bring the game back within two points.
Callandret continued to build for the Vandals with a dunk that brought fans to their feet in Anchorage to cut the opponents lead down to 55-49 after Idaho struggled to get any points on the board.
The Silver and Gold slowly chipped away at the Roadrunners lead in the closing minutes of play. A free throw from senior guard Victor Sanders pulled the game to 61-59 at the 1:49 mark. Sanders rallied and made a deep-three to regain the lead, 62-61.
This was the last time Idaho would score, but the Roadrunner’s Justin Davis sank a three with two seconds left to cement the win.
“You have to give Bakersfield the credit,” head coach Don Verlin said. “I said in the pregame that whoever wins the rebound battle was going to win this game and that’s exactly the way it played out tonight.
Perrion and Sanders continue to lead the team early in the season, each with game-high 18 points. After the game, Sanders now totals 1,322 career points and moves up to eighth on Idaho’s all-time scoring list.
Senior guard Chad Sherwood made his 123rd career 3-point shot to move into 10th in Idaho program history in made three pointers.
“It’s one of those things, it’s early in the season, it’s a young season,” Verlin said. “You give me the Big Sky Championship with eight seconds to go and we’re up one with Victor Sanders on the line and I’ll take it every day. Twice on Sundays.”
Idaho will continue in the Great Alaska Shootout against Cal Poly in the third-place game 6:30 p.m. Saturday in Anchorage, Alaska.
Meredith Spelbring can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @mere0415