MOSCOW, Idaho — Victor Sanders’ worldview of a basketball game is that of going into battle. His teammates are fellow soldiers.
For a second consecutive game, Idaho went into battle without its field general and leading scorer, Perrion Callandrent.
For the final 3:42 of an overtime period against Southern Utah, Idaho also went into battle without Sanders, who followed up his 33-point performance from Thursday night with a 29-point showing on Saturday evening at Cowan Spectrum.
Sanders fouled out with Idaho leading 76-73, and Southern Utah ensued a 10-1 run without the sophomore star on the floor to take control and down the Vandals 85-83 in Big Sky Conference play.
“It changed a lot because Vic is huge offensively for us, he makes shot that other people can’t make,” sophomore Arkadiy Mkrtychyan said. “We should’ve stepped it up.”
Sanders set up overtime with the theme of the weekend — getting fouled shooting a 3. For the fifth time on the homestand the Portland native was hacked during his shooting motion. He sank three free throws to tie the game at 70 in the closing seconds. A pair of defensive stops delivered overtime for the Vandals.
With Sanders watching from the bench, it fell to sophomore walk-on Chad Sherwood to take on the crown of go-to shooter.
Sherwood received the ball in the left corner with Idaho trailing 85-82 and five seconds left on the clock, but his 3-point heave was tipped and knocked out of bounds by the Thunderbirds with one second remaining.
Receiving a shot at redemption, Sherwood ran to the same corner and leaned heavily into Juwan Major, drawing the foul. The announced Cowan Spectrum crowd of 1,456 attendance collectively groaned when Sherwood’s first free throw rolled off. The second rolled in and the third was intentionally missed, but the buzzer sounded off without a tip-in.
“Ball went in and out, that’s how the ball fell. That one play doesn’t define our game, everything that happened in the game led up to that point,” Sanders said. “Whether he made all three or he didn’t. It’s not his fault, it’s not that one play. It’s the whole game.”
Sanders has a point. Southern Utah, which came in to Saturday night’s action at 3-11 (2-3 conference), was comfortably driving the lane all night and opening up open shots and allowing the Thunderbirds to shoot a breezy 50 percent from beyond the arc.
“For whatever reason, we made too many mistakes. We let down, I hope not but it kind of looked that way from my perspective,” Idaho (11-7, 3-2) coach Don Verlin said. “ … we knew it was going to be a tough matchup, I was disappointed the way our defense guarded them. they didn’t surprise me any at all.”
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