MOSCOW, Idaho – The final game this season at Memorial Gym was the best.
In a contest featuring an aggressive, talented opponent and enough drama to keep things interesting, Idaho doggedly pursued Cal State Bakersfield before falling 73-67 in nonconference men’s basketball.
The Vandals (3-6) will shift to Cowan Spectrum inside the Kibbie Dome for the remainder of the season, beginning Saturday with a game against the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks.
With 43 second to play, the Vandals trailed 69-65 after Cameron Tyson scored the last of his 12 points on a 3-pointer.
There game featured 17 lead changes, and the largest advantage either team had was the eight-point edge Idaho enjoyed with about 13:30 to go in the second half.
Over the next 3 minutes, however, the Roadrunners overhauled the Vandals. For about three minutes after that, Idaho was forced to play with a lineup full of guards, none taller than 6-foot-4, as foul trouble and an ejection left them bereft of big men.
“I thought the guys in there were trying as hard as they could,” Vandals coach Don Verlin said.
That included Chance Garvin, Geno West, Tyson Marquell Fraser and Trevon Allen.
The Roadrunners (5-4) could all elevate. They were fast and agile, and they pushed the Vandals to match them.
As a result, individual offensive movement was more creative than in any game played in Idaho’s gym this year. On one possession in the second half, Tyson sought to get free for a shot with a jump stop followed by a spin.
Allen said he enjoyed matching the Roadrunners’ effort.
“(It was fun) compared to going against a team that really doesn’t bring too much energy,” Allen said.
The Roadrunners made a concerted effort to pressure Idaho’s guards in the backcourt and to defend aggressively in the frontcourt. They scored 20 points off 14 Idaho turnovers.
Allen paced Idaho with 15 points. He added four assists and four rebounds.
“They are a really aggressive team,” Allen said. “It took a lot of effort to bring the ball up.”
The Vandals’ job was made harder when they began losing big men. Scott Blakney picked up two quick fouls in the first half. His substitute, Jared Rodriguez, and CSUB’s Taze Moore were ejected when they got into a brief backcourt shoving match.
Two more fouls in the second half pinned Blakney to the bench for much of the period. Cassius Smits-Francisco, who came on in relief, fouled out.
The Vandals had no adequate answer for CSUB’s James Suber. The 6-7 forward scored a game-high 20 points and pulled down 13 rebounds.
Subscribe to The Spokesman-Review’s sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.