The Vandals blew most of an 11-point lead but held on for a 78-75 victory of Cal State Northridge on Saturday night at Cowan Spectrum. Idaho won its third straight and moved to 13-13.
It's playing pretty good basketball but the fan support continues to be spotty. The announced attendance was 2,202, yet it looked closer to 1,700 to me.
Keep reading for my unedited game story.
By JOSH WRIGHT
MOSCOW, Idaho – It was what you might expect three days after an energy-charged win at Boise State. The Idaho men's basketball team was untidy, a tad lethargic and altogether suspect from the free-throw line as usual.
Almost nothing came easily for the Vandals – well, except when they put up shots from the floor.
Idaho connected on a blistering 68.4 percent of its field-goal attempts and withstood a daring Cal State Northridge rally Saturday night to gut out a 78-75 victory in an ESPNU BracketBuster game at Cowan Spectrum.
The Vandals (13-13) overcame 20 turnovers to notch their third straight win with 2,202 fans on hand. Much of UI's sloppiness late came with the Matadors of the Big West Conference in a frantic full-court press.
Northridge coaxed four turnovers in the final minutes to cut what had been a 11-point hole to a 76-75 deficit with 16 seconds left. Luciano de Souza then sank two free throws for Idaho and Northridge came up short on two 3-point looks in the last seconds.
“It was a grind-out game,” UI center Marvin Jefferson said. “We kind of lost it in the end. We relaxed a bit. One of those wins where you take a W, no matter how it ended up.”
The Vandals seemed in control after a slick alley-oop connection from Mac Hopson to Kashif Watson with 1:18 left. After Watson capped the runout with a dunk, he was called for a technical for hanging on the rim.
Watson said he saw a Northridge player below him, so he held on to avoid contact. That was also the opinion of Idaho coach Don Verlin, who, without prompting, brought up the technical to reporters and said, “I didn't think it was a good call.”
Rob Haynes hit both free throws following the technical and Matador guard Kenny Daniels scored on a quick drive a possession later to make it 75-72.
The Vandals held on despite going 13 of 22 from free-throw line, including two misses by Hopson with 45.8 seconds that would have put the club up by seven.
The foul line was the only trouble spot for Hopson, who pocketed 17 points, six assists and four steals. Watson also racked up 17 points, while Jefferson and de Souza added 13 apiece.
The 6-foot-10 Jefferson was especially active in the paint. He blocked four shots and snagged a team-high seven rebounds.
“It was one of the those nights when I had a lot of energy,” Jefferson said. “Whenever I got the ball, I felt like the rim was right there.”
The Vandals now enter the final stretch in Western Athletic Conference play. They're 6-6 in league with four games left following a 56-54 win over Boise State on Wednesday.