Earning a first-round bye in the Big Sky Tournament in Reno is still a realistic goal for the Vandals, despite a plethora of injuries, thanks in part to a clutch sweep over Northern Colorado and North Dakota at the Cowan Spectrum last weekend.
The Vandals edged out back-to-back close wins and both in usual circumstances.
On Saturday night Idaho received an extremely unexpected (at least to us on press row) boost when Perrion Callandret checked in at the 15:08 mark of the first half. The junior point guard, who suffered a right foot sprain on Jan. 9 at Eastern Washington, saw his first action since the loss in Cheney and scored nine points in 24 minutes of action.
He was cleared to suit up and warm up with the team prior to Thursday night's game against Northern Colorado, but he wasn't allowed to play.
His movements in practice on Friday prompted Idaho coach Don Verlin to call the team physician to double check if Callandret could play on Saturday. Originally, the plan was to look at the foot on Monday to clear him for the game at Sacramento State.
On Thursday night, Colton native Jake Straughan scored a career-high (against Division I competition) 23 points off the bench in Idaho's 73-67 win over the Bears.
Straughan averaged only six minutes per game but has seen his playing time increase occasionally in the eight games Callandret missed. Straughan hit four 3s in a row on Thursday night to cut a double-digit deficit to two and hit his only two attempts from 3 in the second half.
The wins carry heavy significance in the standings. Both Northern Colorado and North Dakota were within a game of the Vandals when the weekend started. Now, Idaho stands alone in fifth place with tiebreakers over both schools and is only a half-game behind fourth-place Idaho State.
More notes are below:
Ty Egbert - Junior forward Ty Egbert suffered a high ankle sprain to his left ankle in practice on Friday while going for a rebound. It was a non-contact foul. Verlin didn't seem optimistic about it, he'll be out a "minimum of two weeks."
Victor Sanders will have his right hand looked at again on Monday. It's unlikely he'll play this week, with a return against Eastern Washington on Feb. 27 tabbed as the hopeful return date.