It was an unbelievable ending here in Cowan Spectrum, where Idaho failed to hold onto a nine-point lead late in the game after Boise State's Anthony Thomas stunned the crowd with a buzzer-beating 3 to send the game into OT. The Broncos wound up winning 77-67, prompting lots of frustration on the Vandal sideline.
Read on for my game story.
By Josh Wright
MOSCOW, Idaho – The unrelenting chorus of boos came in unison, almost as if they had been rehearsed for weeks. Every time Anthony Thomas touched the ball Monday night, University of Idaho students unleashed another round of catcalls.
But it was Thomas who had the final gesture for UI students: a quick military salute and smile after helping Boise State pull out a heart-stopping 77-67 overtime victory.
Thomas, who made an ill-fated guarantee last year after losing to Idaho, sank a buzzer-beating 3 to send the game into overtime. The Broncos went on to dominate the extra session to end a seven-game losing streak and extend the Vandals’ misery.
Idaho (8-10, 1-6) dropped its sixth straight Western Athletic Conference game after blowing a nine-point lead with under 5 minutes left in the second half.
The Vandals were outscored 15-5 in OT, prompting 4,104 fans to throw out more barbs to Thomas. The senior said he would never lose to UI again after last year’s game in Moscow, but quickly became a target after the Vandals beat BSU in Boise three weeks later.
This time, he made amends in big-time fashion. After Idaho’s Jeff Ledbetter clanked the front end of a one-and-one free-throw opportunity, Thomas pulled down the board and nailed a step-back 3 as time expired.
“Anthony stepped up and hit a big shot,” BSU coach Greg Graham. “As you can see it energized us for the overtime.”
Thomas knocked down another huge trey in overtime, just when Idaho saw the game spiral out of control. The frustration boiled over when senior point guard Mac Hopson exchanged words with coach Don Verlin after being pulled with the contest out of hand.
The Broncos’ miracle win overshadowed a nice game for UI’s Marvin Jefferson. The Idaho center, who had been in a funk for weeks, came up with six blocked shots and eight points.
“They turned it around on us,” said Jefferson, who helped UI escape in Boise last year with a two-point victory. “… Everyone is real down right now. They don’t even know what to say at this point.”
Just over a minute into the second half, UI turned it over and watched BSU pick up an easy transition bucket to take a 29-22 advantage.
The amped-up Vandals had a hard time bottling up their energy. They sprinted up and down the court to start the second half but had two points and four turnovers to show for it until Steffan Johnson buried a 3-pointer from the right wing.
Johnson’s trey ignited a 9-0 run that included a beautiful alley-oop connection from Hopson to Kashif Watson. On the Vandals’ next possession, Hopson knifed through the lane and hit a bucket to put UI on top 35-34.
Vandal fans roared in approval and a back-and-forth second half was on.
Early on, though, it was easy to see why BSU and UI came in having lost 12 combined games in a row. The teams traded turnovers on five consecutive possessions and combined for 21 in the first half.
BSU went nearly 9 minutes without a point, and chucked two passes out of bounds without the ball touching either team. But the Broncos erased their drought with a 12-1 outburst, punctuated by Thomas’ hop-skip drive in the lane for a layin.
The Vandals failed to capitalize on the Broncos’ dreadful start and led just 12-5 inside the 9-minute mark of the first half.
Here are some notes that I had no time or space to get into the story:
Hopson went 6 of 20 from the field, missing three or four point-blank layins in OT. After the last miss, he yelled at an official for not calling a foul and Verlin pulled him. Hopson and the coach jawed back and forth. Afterward, Verlin would not elaborate on what happened other than to say Hopson was pulled for executing the play.
The Broncos shot 5 of 7 in the OT while UI went 2 of 7. ... Hopson had his second career double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds. ... The Vandals only missed two free throws in the second half, but both were obviously crucial.