Apparently the Vandals and Roadrunners should meet on the schedule every year. The Vandals’ 66-55 loss at CSU Bakersfield Saturday night imitated that of a long-running rivalry. The Roadrunners were able to force Idaho mistakes, leading to frustration and a chippy contest, in which the Vandals were unable to persevere.
Perhaps the Bakersfield “smurf” court brought up suppressed hatred, or more likely, both teams arrived with feelings of profound superiority.
The rematch from Idaho’s 64-62 loss on Nov. 24 did not bode well for the Vandals. Both teams started with sloppy play, but the Roadrunners seemingly dug themselves out of a hole while Idaho remained to toil below.
The Vandal fire, indubitably present in its tremendous blowout against Washington State, was seldom seen. Bakersfield began the game in a shooting slump, much like the Cougars, but this time, the Vandals were in-tune with their opponents, matching inept play tit-for-tat.
Idaho actually held the lead for the majority of the first half, but at just under the 8:00 mark, Bakersfield took the advantage and remained in front for the remainder of the game.
The Vandals simply were unable to capitalize on opportunities. Flurries of ill-fated shots seldom fell, and Idaho appeared demoralized after a few near-fights stemming from aggravating talk.
The yapping was apparent from about midway through the first. Irritation also became evident in the faces of the players and Idaho head coach Don Verlin after a few dicey whistles rained down against the Vandals.
The soreness continued to build as Idaho was plagued with avertible miscues. Late in the first half, for example, Idaho’s defense clamped down on the Roadrunners, forcing a miss as the shot-clock struck zero. In a manner befitting the game, senior guard Perrion Callandret went to collect the rebound, but the ball had different ideas. It bounced off Callandret’s arm, rolled helplessly out of bounds, and the Roadrunners capitalized with a bucket.
The second half kicked off noticeably tense, presumably because of a superiority clash — the Roadrunners had beaten Idaho a few weeks back and Idaho was coming off a gigantic win over a power-five team in Washington State.
Midway through the second, senior forward Arkadiy Mkrtychyan pleaded with an official after taking an elbow from Roadrunner center Fallou Ndoye. The foul seemed obvious, yet it wasn’t called. Verlin, in a manner similar to that of an MLB manager/ump screaming battle, took out his frustrations on a referee. Verlin was given a technical, and the Bakersfield crowd rained down a considerable amount of jeers.
It was fully expected that the Vandals would carry over the momentum from Wednesday’s win, but it was obscured and traded in Bakersfield.
CSU Bakersfield snatched away Idaho’s zeal and replaced it with its own fervor – that of a team which had lost four straight games against Division I opponents.
Late in the game, the Vandals were forced to rely on the Victor Sanders show. Even though the senior guard put up 20 points, it wasn’t enough.
Senior forward Brayon Blake contributed 16, but he seemingly had an officiating target on his back. Blake fouled out late in the game and was whistled on a couple uncertain travelling calls.
If Idaho were to have won, the Vandals would have exemplified utmost maturity in conquering a hostile environment. However, the Roadrunners brought out frustration in Idaho, leading to a mass of mistakes, missed shots, slowed pace and possibly a fresh rivalry.
The Vandals likely will end the season in single-digit losses, but to do so, they must show out consistently as they did against the Cougars, not against the Roadrunners.
Colton Clark can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @coltonclark95