MOSCOW, Idaho – Normally, having one player who enters a zone in which he simply can’t miss from downtown is enough to win a basketball game.
When two do it? Well, it’s no wonder Idaho cruised past Portland State 89-72 on Thursday Night in Cowan Spectrum.
Vic Sanders and Chad Sherwood each set career highs in scoring with 40 points and 23, respectively. Sanders made 7 of 10 3-point attempts, and Sherwood made 6 of 7, and the Vandals finished with 14 makes from behind the arc, the most under coach Don Verlin.
Both players are originally from Oregon, and Sanders grew up in Portland. The pair acknowledged there was a little extra motivation playing against a local school.
Sanders’ 40 points are tied for seventh most in program history, and he needed just 16 field-goal attempts to get there. His seven 3-pointers are the seventh most by a UI player.
The win gives UI (11-10, 6-4 Big Sky) some room to breathe in a crowded conference. Entering Thursday’s game only two wins separated the Big Sky’s second-best team and its eighth in the standings.
“It is an important time in the conference season, but any time you get to February it’s important,” Verlin said. “This is when you’ve got to play your best basketball, February going into March, and obviously we started the month pretty well.”
The Vandals have won five of their last six games and are putting themselves in position to emerge as the primary challenger to conference-leading Weber State.
The game began as a duel between Sanders and PSU guard Deontae North, who finished with 29 points.
North and Sanders each scored 14 of their teams’ first 19 and 17 points, respectively. North swished his first four 3-point attempts, while Sanders made his first three, and was fouled while attempting another.
“Good talent recognizes good talent and when somebody is going against you, you don’t want to fold up or show that you’re weaker than them,” Sanders said. “Being at home, I felt we had to outshine them. Not just me but the team, because all that matters to me is getting the win.”
The Vandals were able to break free from the Vikings thanks to the supplemental shooting of Sherwood, who made all four of his first-half 3-point attempts, three of which would have counted using an NBA stripe. Sherwood had made 4 of 23 3-point attempts over UI’s last four games.
“These guys are always telling me to shoot,” said Sherwood, gesturing to Sanders after the game. “They’re great teammates Even if I’m missing they’re always telling me to keep firing.”
He and Sanders combined to make 8 of 9 shots from behind the arc in the first half, while North’s teammates missed all four attempts.
The Vandals only ran into trouble when the Vikings employed a full-court trapping press in the middle of the second half. The press effectively rattled UI’s players and PSU went on a 10-0 run to cut UI’s lead to six.
The run ended when Sanders hit a fadeaway 3-pointer while running to his left.
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