Just hours after Idaho Central Credit Union bestowed $10 million for naming rights toward Idaho’s impending new basketball arena, both Idaho men’s basketball and Sacramento State appeared to still be in the giving mood, exchanging the edge in what could be described as a game of advantage hot-potato.
It was a contest full of interchanging droughts, runs and sometimes objectively head-scratching moments, but Idaho came out on top 69-68 against a Hornet team which was given almost no realistic shot to win by the sports media.
It wasn’t as if the Vandals turned in an ostensibly poor performance against the now 4-11 Hornets, but almost as if neither team felt entirely justified to win or lose.
Sacramento State captured the lead and advantage in the first half, but one of several droughts boosted the Vandals back in front. One could argue that Idaho’s defense was responsible for the first-half fire-back, but it seemed as though the Hornet offense outright abandoned any attempt at stringing together meaningful possessions, enticing the Vandals to find some rhythm.
Sacramento State promptly went on a nearly five-minute drought late in the half to further induce Idaho’s offense to step up and make it even again.
Even with the gift, Idaho’s offense was unable to grab the lead with a flurry of missed buckets. The Hornets kept pushing for an Idaho offensive awakening, and they got what was seemingly proposed by their play late in the half. The Vandals assembled a 14-2 run down the stretch, forging a 37-29 halftime lead.
But the guilt Idaho felt for jumping out comfortably in front was just too much to bear. The Vandals metaphorically shouted “here you go Hornets, make some plays” and enabled an 11-point Hornet lead stemming from Vandal inconsistencies and a severe scoring drought.
Even the universe was in a giving mood. Midway through the second, a considerably short 3-point attempt from Hornet guard Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa gracefully collided with the front of the iron, bumped the backboard and slipped through the net to spark the run which produced the only double-digit advantage of the game.
Again, like had been seen throughout this macabre mess of inconsistency called basketball, the Hornets were complacent with just a good showing. Sacramento State misremembered that the holidays are over, and completely rescinded its foot from the gas, granting Idaho a pass to string together a jumbo chunk of beautiful offense.
The final gift came down the stretch, and it wasn’t passed between players, but rather from the Vandals to the fans watching from the Cowan Spectrum and at home.
In a last holiday hoorah, the Hornets offered one last bonus to Idaho – a scoring drought lasting over six minutes which allowed the Vandals to pump their field-goal percentage to nearly level with the Hornets and march ahead on a 15-0 scoring run.
Although a win in itself is a gift to fans, Idaho basketball should not expect to be granted such opportunities against more capable Big Sky competition.
Sure, the Hornets’ takedown of 10-win Portland State on Dec. 30 should be noted, but the season of giving is finished and it’s time for Idaho to control its own destiny down the stretch with more dominant performances against Big Sky competition. Either that, or perhaps Idaho may not even reach the tournament featuring the national championship trophy that was present in Cowan Spectrum on Thursday night.
Colton Clark can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @coltonclark95