MOSCOW, Idaho – Forced to play from behind nearly the entire game, Idaho’s frenetic comeback in the final 2 minutes Tuesday wasn’t enough to overtake Division II Central Washington, which upset the Vandals 88-81 in a season-opening exhibition for both teams.
“It wasn’t the result we were looking for,” Idaho coach Zac Claus said. “We had a couple of runs, but we couldn’t get enough stops consecutively to get ourselves back into the game.”
Idaho trimmed the Wildcats’ eight-point halftime lead and got as close as 63-60 in the final period, but a 14-1 CWU run doomed the Vandals. Idaho got back within six points with about 30 seconds to play. A pair of free throws with 8 seconds remaining from former Vandal Xavier Smith ended Idaho’s evening.
Smith was CWU’s second-leading scorer with 16 points.
“He’s a terrific kid. I’m happy he found a home at Central Washington,” Claus said.
An inability to shut down the Wildcats from the perimeter allowed CWU to hit 12 of 22 3-pointers and finish the game hitting 31 of 62 from the field.
The Vandals hit only 6 of 24 shots from behind the arc and 31 of 70 overall. They were led in scoring by senior Trevon Allen with 24 points. After a slow start, Allen scored 16 in the second half.
“There is no need to panic,” Allen said of falling to CWU. “This is the first time all of us have been together playing somebody else.”
Following a tumultuous offseason when former coach Don Verlin was dismissed and seven players left the program, the kind of team Idaho would field this year was an urgent question going into the exhibition.
Early indications are that while the Vandals were often disjointed as a group against the Wildcats, they do have some talent. Marquell Fraser, whose season was cut short by a hip injury last year, returned to score 20 against the Wildcats on 7-of-14 shooting. He was strong around the hoop and hit 3 of 4 attempts from beyond the arc.
Newcomer Quinton Forrest added 15 points and led the Vandals with 11 rebounds. Babacar Thiombane, in his first game, scored seven points for Idaho and added three steals and two blocks.
Idaho looked better in transition that in its half-court offense. CWU was balanced, scoring 26 points inside, 11 in transition.
The Wildcats got much more from their bench than the Vandals, outscoring Idaho 27-13. CWU was led by Davon Bolton’s 20 points. Jeryn Lucas added 15 and Gamaun Boykin 13.
Idaho’s next outing is an exhibition against Lewis-Clark State Oct. 29.
“It’s a matter of finishing plays,” Claus said of what he wants to see from his team. “It’s a daily work ethic. Every little thing matters.”
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