MOSCOW, Idaho – With 7.8 seconds left on the clock, the raucous crowd of 4,142 in the intimate Cowan Spectrum murmured with anticipation at the chance to finally pay back their Pac-12 rivals.
Two years ago Reggie Moore hit a buzzer-beating jumper in Moscow to give Washington State a road win over Idaho, extending a streak of futility in the rivalry for the Vandals that dates to 2002.
“If you ask our guys who are rival is, it’s 8 miles down the road,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said. “We play against them all summer long. We go to their games, they go to our games. They’re like brothers to us. And since 2002 they’ve been the brother that’s getting the best of us.”
Trailing 67-66 with just enough time left for a final shot the Vandals had a chance to overcome their adversaries. But Connor Hill’s shot from the corner rimmed out and the Cougars escaped with a victory in a game in which they rarely led.
D.J. Shelton secured an offensive rebound with eight seconds left and the Cougars down 66-65. The senior forward attempted a shot near the basket and was fouled. He hit both free throws to put the Cougars ahead as the lead changed hands for the sixth and final time.
“I was just focused on the free-throws, locked in, I knew how big they would be,” Shelton said. “My teammates had confidence they were going in… so I felt good about them.”
With 10 points to go with 14 rebounds, Shelton’s efforts played a key role in WSU’s win. Though the Cougars shot only 39 percent, they outscored the Vandals 30-18 in the paint, and had a 36-30 advantage on the boards.
“We’ve lost three out of four coming in here,” WSU coach Ken Bone said. “And we’re heading into finals week so if you lose you sit on it for seven or eight days. We did whatever we could to get the win.”
Idaho led throughout the second half, and extended that lead to as many as 10 points, but could never distance itself from WSU. Down 50-42, Royce Woolridge scored five points in one possession for the Cougars by getting fouled while making a shot, missing the free throw and then completing a three-point play after WSU got an offensive rebound.
It was their advantage on the boards that kept WSU in the game. The Vandals only started one player over 6-foot-7, and their height disadvantage proved to be fatal as the Cougars scored 15 second-chance points to Idaho’s four.
The student section was full and raucous, and hounded WSU’s DaVonte Lacy mercilessly after the junior guard missed the rim on a floater early in the game.
But Lacy had the last laugh, leading all scorers with 23 points and shooting 5 of 10 on 3-pointers.
The game was not without controversy. With 33 seconds left, Woolridge took a three-pointer that would have put the Cougars up four. Stephen Madison rebounded the ball for the Vandals and appeared to be out of bounds, but officials said he was fouled, sending him to the free throw line.