Idaho men’s basketball opened conference play with a dominating win over the defending Big Sky Champions Friday night in Grand Forks, taking down North Dakota 74-57.
“We were excellent defensively tonight, I couldn’t be prouder of our guys,” Idaho head coach Don Verlin said in a news release. “We came in here and did what we needed to do, we took them out of their transition today. I have to give credit to coach Earlywine for his game plan. We slowed them down and took advantage.”
The Vandals (9-4, BSC 1-0) jumped out to early in the second half, but the Fighting Hawks kept it within reach for the opening minutes of the game. Idaho broke away from the opponents late in the second half, creating an 18-point gap with less than two minutes until the half. North Dakota (4-8, BSC 0-1) closed the gap just marginally at the end of the half, but the Vandals went into the break with an 35-18 advantage.
A hot Vandal offense was fueled by a strong Vandal defense. Idaho held the Fighting Hawks to 28 percent from the floor and just 11 percent from beyond the arc.
The Vandals found more success, hitting 47 percent from the floor and connecting 6-14 from deep.
Senior guard Victor Sanders blazed the way for the offense with 11 of the teams 35 points.
The game only went downhill for the home team as Idaho continued to extend its lead, widening the gap to as many as 24 points and holding a near 20-point advantage for the remainder of the game.
Sanders finished the game with 11 points in just 19 minutes of play. Two other Vandals, senior guard Perrion Callandret and senior forward Brayon Blake, finished in double digits with 13 and 12, respectively.
Senior guard Chad Sherwood hit 3-4 from beyond the arc to move into a tie for seventh in Idaho program history for made 3-pointers.
“If you told me Perrion and Vic were going to play 17 and 19 minutes and we were going to win by 17 I’d have told you you’re crazy,” Verlin said.
Idaho looks to continue its perfect record in conference play against Northern Colorado Sunday in Greeley, Colorado.
Meredith Spelbring can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org