As Idaho coach Don Verlin puts it, Eastern Washington whipped Idaho's tails on Saturday afternoon up in Cheney. A 74-60 loss to the rivals Eagles was Idaho's fourth straight to the Cheney school as a Big Sky member.
That was bad enough. But that game could also mean Idaho being without starting point guard Perrion Callandret for the Vandals' conference home opener.
The junior point guard suffered a foot injury that put him in a boot. He is day to day and a game-time decision to start Thursday evening against Northern Arizona at the Cowan Spectrum. Chris Sarbaugh will play the point if Callandret can't go, with Chad Sherwood likely taking the third starting guard role.
"We’re getting it evaluated, it’s day to day, probably be a game time decision. If Perrion isn’t able to go there will obviously be a lineup change," Verlin said. " ... We’re working some details out because he hasn’t practiced the last two days."
The Eagles came out of the gate lighting up the scoreboard with 3s, hitting their first six shots from deep and converting 15 total treys on the day.
The Vandals panicked early, abandoning the fundamentals of the pack-line defense that made them one of the top defensive teams in the Big Sky. Idaho is currently No. 4 in the Big Sky in opponent 3-point field goal percentage.
"They hit a couple shots in our face and we panicked. We stopped playing our pack-line defense where we help each other and get out to shooters," Idaho senior guard Chris Sarbaugh said. "We left each other on their own, so when they drove they got really deep so then we helped too much so instead of having contested shots, they had wide open shots. We panicked a little bit but they obviously hit some shots."
So, Verlin said, he took only 10 minutes to talk to his team about the Eastern game and then wiped the slate clean. Opening conference play with three straight games on the road is tough enough, so two of of three isn't bad.
"Before, I surely would’ve start two of three, but when you start 2-0 you definitely want the third one. We all know how important that game was, but that game is over you have to move on to the next one," Verlin said.
Next up is Northern Arizona, which just notched its first win over a Division I foe with a 73-63 win at Southern Utah. The Lumberjacks schedule has been littered with money games, starting with trips to Washington State, Boise State and Gonzaga. They've also traveled to Arizona, Arkansas Little Rock and Tulsa.
Still, Northern Arizona is only rated No. 299 in the country by KenPom, an ode to their difficult schedule. Perhaps taking Montana to double overtime and Montana to overtime in its Big Sky openers speaks to what the Lumberjacks could do in Moscow
"They could easily be 3-0 coming in here. Don’t sleep on the record, they’re a lot better than that," Verlin said.
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Chris Sarbaugh talked a little about his offensive skillsets and he brought up his hustle when it comes to offensive rebounding. Sarbaugh is No. 4 in the Big Sky in offensive rebounding percentage among guards, grabbing six percent of available offensive boards.
"To be a good offensive rebounder you just have to be resilient, not necessarily the most skilled or athletic, you just have to go every time. I think I’ve done alright with that, I think I’ve done a good job setting up my teammates," Sarbaugh said.
Idaho enters the weekend No. 4 in the Big Sky in KenPom's Pythag metric at No. 205 in the country, just behind Eastern Washington at No. 202. The Vandals are the top defensive team, ranked No. 88 in the country in AdjD. Northern Arizona is last in the Big Sky in AdjO at No. 327.
Saturday's meeting against Southern Utah could provide Idaho an opportunity to get its struggling offense on track. Idaho will match it's N. 299-ranked AdjO against Southern Utah's No. 341-ranked AdjD.
Pomeroy's computers give Idaho an 82 percent chance to beat Northern Arizona and an 87 percent chance of knocking off Southern Utah.
Those aren't bad odds to move to 4-1.