MOSCOW, Idaho – An opening 10 minutes played at full tilt got Idaho’s men’s basketball team out to a big early lead.
After Sam Houston State University erased that in the second half, the Vandals duplicated the feat to preserve a 63-54 win in Memorial Gym Saturday and run their record to 2-1.
Good defense and Victor Sanders becoming Victor Sanders when the Vandals needed him most were keys to Idaho’s second-half success.
With Idaho clinging to a one-point lead after the Bearkats’ Chris Galbreath Jr. banked in a shot over Scott Blakney, Chad Sherwood drew an offensive foul from SHSU’s Jamal Williams.
Denied there, Sam Houston saw its deficit quickly grow to four after Sanders gathered in a long miss from Galbreath and converted a 3-pointer at the other end.
Sanders hit another 3-pointer to put Idaho up 54-47. Then he launched a shot from behind the arc, was fouled and hit the free throws to give Idaho a 57-47 advantage. The Vandals were not threatened again.
Sanders led Idaho with 22 points on 5-of-11 shooting from the floor. His 3-pointers were the only two he hit on seven attempts, but they could not have come at a better time for the Vandals. Sanders was also 10 of 11 at the free-throw line.
“Vic did what he did tonight,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said.
Verlin credited Idaho’s ability to control the boards 35-25 as the difference in the game. Brayon Blake led Idaho with nine before fouling out with just less than 8 minutes to play. Sanders added seven and Nate Sherwood five.
Both teams were committed to running, and the first 10 minutes was played at the furious speed.
“Obviously, we got out to a great start, and we took care of the ball the first 10 minutes,” Verlin said. “We need to bottle that and make it last for 40 minutes.”
The Vandals led by as many as 13 points with 10:54 to go in the first half, and the pace barely slowed the rest of the way.
UI’s Perrion Callandret, who missed much of the past two years with injuries, was a rebounding, passing, shooting and defensive force, and he set the tone for the Vandals early. Callandret scored 12 points, grabbed four rebounds dealt two assists and made a steal.
“In practice, we have been working on pushing the ball,” Sanders said. “It all starts with Perrion. We missed him, and he came back today strong.”
Callandret said he felt like he made a big jump between Idaho’s opening game against George Fox and Saturday’s win.
“I’m happy it all came together” he said.
Twenty turnovers caught Verlin’s eye.
“That’s unacceptable,” he said. “We’ve just got to clean up a few things.”
Sanders credited SHSU’s defense, although the furious pace of the game also had something to do with it. The Bearkats finished with 16 turnovers.
Idaho opposed the Bearkats for long stretches with a 2-3 zone that SHSU could not find lanes to drive. When the Vandals switched to a man-to-man, the Bearkats clawed their way back into the game. At the half, they trailed the Vandals 30-27.
SHSU went primarily with a man-to-man defense against Idaho and pressed when it could.
With nearly 5 minutes gone in the second half, the Beartkats overhauled Idaho when Bubba Furlong banked in a jumper. They got the lead out to as much as six points before Sanders and Idaho took charge again.
Galbreath led SHSU with 20 points. Furlong added 11.