MOSCOW, Idaho – Idaho’s penultimate game against Weber State was a tale of two halves. Until it wasn’t.
In the opening 7 minutes of the final period, the Vandals came back from a lackluster first half that had them trailing by nine points at the break to overtake the Wildcats 45-42 on Ja’Vary Christmas’ baseline 3-pointer. Idaho held on to small leads for another 7 minutes, until Michal Kozak connected from beyond the arc to put WSU up 57-56, and the Wildcats pushed on to a 72-64 victory.
WSU improved to 12-18, 8-11 in the Big Sky Conference. Idaho slipped to 7-23 and 3-16.
The Wildcats’ dominance inside set the tone of the game in the first half, in which they owned a 10-2 advantage on second-chance points. In trying to tighten their defense in the paint, the Vandals were slow to get out on perimeter shooters. That changed in the second half.
“The toughness and energy we expended on defense to start the second half was a night-and-day difference,” Idaho coach Zac Claus said.
Characteristic of that was Babacar Thiombane, who ripped a rebound from Kozak to start the possession that resulted in Christmas’ 3-pointer. In Idaho’s comeback, Thiombane, Quinton Forrest and Scott Blakney came out to help on the perimeter and harass Wildcats shooters – who missed four shots – and sprinted back in time to thwart them inside.
“The offense took some really good shots to start the half,” Claus said.
“In the second half, we were all clicking on the same page. We were definitely getting stops,” Idaho’s Trevon Allen said.
For the third time this year, Allen hit for more than 30 points in leading all scorers with 32 for the Vandals. Weber State variously tried to check him with Kham Davis and Cody John, and Allen tore up both of them with 13-of-20 shooting from the floor, including 4 of 7 on 3-pointers.
But Allen went to the bench for a couple of minutes with Idaho holding a two-point lead, and the Vandals lost focus. The Wildcats went on an 11-point run.
“We ask Trevon to do a whole lot,” Claus said in explaining his dilemma about when to rest Allen. “Every once in a while, we’ve got to steal him some minutes.”
The Vandals were without 7-foot sophomore Jack Wilson, who is day-to-day following an injury flare-up, Claus said. In Idaho’s first game against Weber State, a 69-68 loss, Wilson scored 12 points, pulled down eight rebounds and blocked two shots.
Marquell Fraser, who is averaging 7.3 points and 4.1 rebounds per game for the Vandals, suited up but did not play. Claus said he may be available for Idaho’s final regular-season game against Idaho State Saturday.
Although he couldn’t control Allen, John scored 21 points to lead Weber State. Kozak added 20 and a game-high nine rebounds, and Jerrick Harding had 16 points.
Blakney and Damen Thacker each scored 10 for Idaho.
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