RENO, Nevada – As it has all season, Idaho’s defense carried it to a big win Thursday night.
The Vandals held defending champion Eastern Washington to 36 percent shooting from the field on the way to a 77-73 in a Big Sky Conference quarterfinal game at the Reno Events Center.
Despite that, the game wasn’t decided until the final seconds, when Idaho guard Perrion Callandret hit a free throw with 10.8 seconds left to give the Vandals an insurmountable 4-point lead.
The win moves the third-seeded Vandals (21-11) into a Friday night semifinal against second-seeded Montana, which beat Sacramento State 70-53 earlier in the evening.
The game was an uphill struggle all night for Eastern (17-15), which never got on track from 3-point range against the Vandals’ 2-3 zone.
The Eagles were 9-for-32 from 3-point range, while point guard Austin McBroom was 0-for-10 from the field and 0-for-6 from beyond the arc. McBroom finished with 12 points, all from the free-throw line.
Venky Jois and Bogdan Bliznyuk led the Eagles with 17 points each. Jois had 12 rebounds.
The Vandals found plenty of offensive spark from forward Nate Sherwood, who was 9-for-10 from the field and finished with a game-high 19 points.
The Eagles found it tough going early against Idaho’s zone. They missed their first four shots from beyond the arc; by then, Idaho led 14-9.
The Vandals also thrived in transition, as backup guard Pat Ingram scored on back-to-back fastbreak layins. Ingram added two free throws to give Idaho a 31-25 lead – it biggest to that point – with 5:47 left in the half.
The lead grew to 37-27 after Arkadiy Mkrtychyan made a layup with 3:34 left, but he was called for a technical after some post-bucket jawing with the Eagles.
That’s when Eastern began to make headway at the free-throw line, scoring six of its last 10 points after Idaho fouls.
While Idaho was 15-for-29 from the field in the first half and 4-for-8 from beyond the arc, Eastern was just 10-for-27 and 3-for-13, respectively.
The Vandals also dominated on the boards in the first half, 22 to 13, but forced only one Eagle turnover.
Idaho led 39-33 at halftime.