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Vandals get another crack at Spartans

LAS VEGAS – The last time Idaho saw San Jose State, the Vandals led by 10 with just under 2 minutes to play, by eight with 1 minute left and by five in the first overtime.

The Vandals ended up losing in double overtime a month ago, one of their most painful setbacks of the season. Fourth-seeded Idaho (18-12) will get another shot at the Spartans in the WAC men’s basketball tournament quarterfinals Thursday at noon. No. 8 San Jose State (16-14) advanced by edging No. 5 Hawaii 75-74 on Adrian Oliver’s 17-foot jumper with 4 seconds left Wednesday at the Orleans Arena.

Hawaii raced down the floor and Bill Amis made a tip-in, but officials reviewed the play on a courtside monitor and ruled it came after time had expired.

“That game at our place really hurt us in the league standings,” Vandals coach Don Verlin said. “They cause a lot of problems because they’re so hard to guard. They can score the ball. I thought Hawaii had the game in control and all of a sudden Oliver hits a 3 on an inbound play and then the game-winner.”

Oliver, the nation’s third leading scorer at 24.3 per game, finished with five 3-pointers and 29 points. He’s joined in the backcourt by 6-foot-4 Justin Graham, who scored 28 in San Jose State’s win in Moscow, and freshman Keith Shamburger, who had 12 second-half points Wednesday.

“Shawn (Henderson) will get the call like he has every game this year on the toughest guy,” Verlin said of defending Oliver. “Really the key to their team is Graham. Oliver has scored on everybody in the league. Graham is a really hard matchup for us because he’s so much bigger than our other guards.”

San Jose State has 16 wins, its most since 1987.

“Idaho plays at their pace, almost regardless of what we do,” Spartans coach George Nessman said. “The biggest thing is they have more weapons than you think. (Jeff) Ledbetter is one of the best shooters in the league and (Kyle) Barone, (Luiz) Toledo and (Brandon) Wiley make a formidable front line.”

San Jose State’s win reinforced the unpredictable nature of the WAC, aside from regular-season champ Utah State, whose only conference loss was to Idaho.

“Two through eight, anybody can beat anybody,” said Verlin, shortly before the team practiced at Canyon Springs High, former prep home of UI guard Deremy Geiger. “And on any given night you can beat Utah State, we proved that earlier in the year, but you’re going to have to really be on your game to beat them.”