Vandels blow lead late, lose in OT
LOGAN, Utah – The University of Idaho men’s basketball led by eight points with less than four minutes in regulation, but several key errors down the stretch let Utah State climb back and take an 82-75 Western Athletic Conference men’s basketball win in overtime Saturday night at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.
Looking for its first win at Utah State in a decade, Idaho found itself in an unfamiliar place at the Spectrum – leading late – but two turnovers, three missed shots and defensive errors allowed the Aggies to close the gap on a Preston Medlin 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds to play.
In overtime, Idaho struck first to go up 71-69, but then Utah State went on a 9-1 run over the next three minutes to effectively put the game away.
With the loss, Idaho slips to 6-7 overall and 2-1 in the WAC, while the Aggies move to 13-1 overall and 4-0 in the WAC.
“It’s a game, with where we had it and how the last four or five minutes go, it’s obviously going to stick in our hearts,” Idaho head coach Don Verlin said after the game. “We did a lot of good things, but when you’re up six with three (minutes) to go, it’s one you’d like to finish.”
Sophomore guard Connor Hill led Idaho with 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting, while senior center Kyle Barone notched a double-double for a fourth consecutive game with 13 points and 10 rebounds, but scored just five points after halftime. Senior guard Mike McChristian notched the first double-double of his career with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Utah State junior guard Preston Medlin led all players with 22 points and did most of his damage with 14 points in the final five minutes of regulation and beyond. Junior center Jarred Shaw had 12 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out early in overtime.
As a team, Idaho shot 48.3 percent from the floor (29 of 60) and 33.3 percent from 3-point range (8 of 24). The Vandals entered the game as one of the better free-throw shooting teams in the conference, but hit just 9 of 18 attempts for a season-low-tying 50 percent.
Utah State finished the game shooting 27 of 65 (.415) overall, 4 of 16 (.250) from 3-point range and 24 of 33 (.727) from the free-throw line. The Aggies also held a 46-36 rebounding edge, including 20 offensive rebounds that turned into 22 second-chance points. USU also held a 17-6 edge in points off turnovers.
Verlin said that despite the setbacks, whether they were USU offensive rebounds or turnovers, he was proud of how his team battled and had itself in a position to win the game before Medlin’s last-second 3-pointer.
“We didn’t execute like we were supposed to on that last play. They got done what they needed to, made that shot and they were able to get us in overtime,” Verlin said. “We had our chances, but it’s just heartbreaking that we didn’t get out of here with a win, because we deserved that win.”
After playing its first three WAC games on the road, Idaho returns home where it will face WAC newcomer Denver on Thursday and New Mexico State Saturday. Both games are at 7:05 p.m. at the Cowan Spectrum. The Pioneers (6-7, 2-1 WAC) host UTSA on Sunday, while the Aggies (8-8, 2-2 WAC) defeated Texas State at home on Saturday by a 78-67 margin.
Both games tip off at 7:05 p.m. (PT) at the Cowan Spectrum.
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