MOSCOW, Idaho – For 44 minutes, Idaho and Cal State Bakersfield couldn’t have played a tighter game.
The relentless bond wasn’t broken until Quinton Forrest sank a pair of double-bonus free throws with a minute remaining in overtime to give Idaho (4-6) a 72-66 advantage it protected in a 76-70 victory.
“I am beyond excited for our guys,” Idaho coach Zac Claus said.
A one-point Vandals halftime lead never grew larger than five in the second half, and a seven-point Roadrunners spurt in the closing 4 minutes of regulation only got them six ahead of the Vandals.
Idaho clawed back on a pair of Scot Blakney field goals from the lane and a free throw, and Trevon Allen’s pair of free throws with 11 seconds to play knotted the score at 63 as the second half ended.
CSUB (4-8) put the ball in Czar Perry’s hands in overtime, letting him probe Idaho’s defense with drives. The Roadrunners cut their deficit to 73-70 on Perry’s field goal in the paint. Allen responded with a free throw, and Babacar Thiombane hit a pair at the line with 9 seconds to play to establish the final score.
Idaho’s returning players were featured in the win. Allen led all scorers with 23 points. Blakney added 13 and
“All three of those guys answered the bell,” Claus said. “For all three to contribute in such a positive way is fabulous.”
Not only did Idaho hang tough at the end, it dug itself out of a first-half hole of its own making. The Vandals had four turnovers and a shot blocked in the opening 4 minutes.
Claus called the Roadrunners a quality opponent.
“Their pressure bothered us. They were able to get us turned over a little bit,” he said.
Idaho committed 11 turnovers in the half, 20 in the game. Even with the mistakes, the Vandals never let CSUB get ahead by more than a couple of points in the early going. Allen said a Vandals team largely remade over the summer following the firing of coach Don Verlin and an exodus of players is learning to overcome challenges.
“A lot of guys are buying in,” Allen said. “This is a group of guys I know for sure all have my back.”
The Vandals’ roster has been shortened by injuries for weeks. The trend continued against the Roadrunners as Idaho only suited up eight. Claus said most of his injured players are day-to-day, but Idaho is looking forward to having 7-foot Jack Wilson available for its next game, at South Dakota State on Saturday, as Wilson completes a two-semester layoff after transferring from Oregon State.
If nothing else, “nine is better than eight,” Claus said. “Jack is a special presence.
“He has worked as hard as anybody in the program to get ready.”
Idaho’s versatile Garvin didn’t enter the game until midway through the first half, but he quickly became the key contributor in an 11-point Vandals run.
Garvin dropped in a 3-pointer from the corner to break a 19-all deadlock. He grabbed a defensive rebound on the next possession to trigger a play on which Blakney was fouled and sank a pair of free throws. Garvin connected on two more shots from beyond the arc to put Idaho in front 30-19, the Vandals’ biggest lead.
Blakney and the Roadrunners’ Ronne Readus had a spirited, physical battle going in the paint. Readus scored 11 points and grabbed a game-high 16 rebounds. He also blocked a shot.
De’Monte Buckingham was also headache for the Vandals with 16 points, five rebounds, and four steals. Justin McCall added 12 points, and Readus and Taze Moore 11 each.
“(The overtime win) proves that hard work and attention to detail translated to victory,” Claus said.
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