MOSCOW, Idaho – Idaho’s comfortable 73-54 victory over Division II Simon Fraser Friday in Cowan Spectrum was not unexpected. The fact it took a brutal five-minute stretch by the Clan early in the second half for the Vandals to pull away raises some eyebrows.
Idaho (7-3) has designs on playing well into March, Vandals coach Don Verlin said. “Against Simon Fraser, “we didn’t play to those standards in the first half.” But the Vandals corrected the deficiency after the break. “I was happy with the second half,” said Verlin.
“The first five minutes of the second half set the tone for the rest of the game.”
Leading at the half, 33-30, Simon Fraser committed eight fouls, two turnovers and had shots blocked by Victor Sanders and Perrion Callandret before the Clan scored its first points in the second half as Idaho went out front 40-33.
“It was rocky the first half, but we stuck to the game plan,” Brayon Blake said afterward. He led the Vandals in rebounding with 10 and scored 16 points. Nate Sherwood paced Idaho with 17 points, going 5 for 6 on field goals, including a three-pointer, and 6 for 7 at the free throw line. He owned the Clan in the lane.
“It went my way tonight. We were able to impose our will down there,” Sherwood said.
Sanders had an uncharacteristic off night, scoring only 10 points on 3-for-8 shooting. He was 4-for-8 at the free throw line. But he contributed five assists, two blocks and three steals.
“Vic in the second half passed the ball well,” Verlin said. And one of his field goals sent the sparse Cowan Spectrum crowd home with a breathtaking memory. Sanders took a step back from the Clan’s JJ Pankratz along the baseline so sudden that it had Pankratz lurching to the point he nearly fell. Then Sanders lofted a soft jump shot over him.
Verlin would not attribute Idaho’s slow start to the Vandals waiting for Sanders to get going.
“I hope not,” he said.
Simon Fraser’s offense was limited to the perimeter for much of the game, apparently not by choice. The Clan tried, but never seemed able to free up shooters on screens or to get any penetration against Idaho’s zone. The Clan shot just 20 of 57 from the floor and was led in scoring by Michael Provenzano with 16 points.
“We played our packline rules,” Blake said. “We prepared in the film room and on the court, and we were ready for them.”
What may have made the long trip from Canada to snowy Moscow at least somewhat worth it for Simon Fraser, though, was a stretch late in the first half. The Clan reduced an 11-point Vandals lead to one over the span of three minutes, and when Idaho rebuilt its margin to seven points, 30-23, the Clan hauled in the Vandals again.
Simon Fraser scored 10 straight points in the final 2:29 of the first period. Provenzano scored back-to-back baskets, and the second, off a steal and solo drive, tied the score at 30 apiece.
Iziah Sherman-Newsome launched a buzzer-beating three-pointer to give the Clan the first-half lead. That was as good as it got for the Clan, however. Both Sherman-Newsome and Tyrell Lewin fouled out in the second half.
Idaho forced the pace of play in the second half rather than be lulled into the deliberate tempo Simon Fraser preferred.
“A slow team like that, your work on your stuff,” said Blake. “We were still able to get open shots.”