MOSCOW, Idaho – In a one-point win over Sacramento State Thursday and a 73-72 loss to Portland State Saturday, Idaho played basketball as a complete 40-minute game, against the Vikings, down to a fraction of the final second.
Clinging to a 72-71 lead with just under 12 seconds to play, the Vandals’ leading scorer, Vic Sanders, took a hard foul from behind from Brandon Hollins. Sanders took a long time getting up rattled out the front end of a one-and-one. Portland State got the rebound and pushed the ball into the forecourt for a final shot. Deante Strickland let fly from the corner and missed short. However, Holland Woods quickly put back an offensive rebound with .06 on the clock.
The game still wasn’t over. After running the baseline twice, Sanders inbounded the ball to Perrion Callandret who launched a half-court shot that was close enough to draw a collective gasp from the crowd but caromed off the backboard.
“Thursday night was a one-possession game. Tonight was a one-possession game. League games come down to this much,” said Vandals coach Don Verlin, holding his thumb and forefinger very close together.
Chad Sherwood came off the bench to score 15 points for Idaho. He hit five 3-pointers, including one with just under four minutes to play that gave Idaho its final lead, 70-67. He said Sanders, who was 5-for-5 from the line before his last-second miss, was not feeling the effects of Hollins’ foul on his final free throw.
“Vic’s a tough kid. That’s never an excuse. He’s who we want at the free throw line at the end of the game,” Sherwood said.
“I’ll bet he’ll be in the gym tomorrow to get better,” added Arkadiy Mkrtychyan.
In a back-and-forth, dramatically close game, Verlin said any number of small things, including coaching decisions, could have determined the outcome.
One of those may have occurred with 13:35 remaining. Trailing by three, Idaho outscored the Vikings 8-2 and retook the lead on Sanders’ 3-pointer from the corner. At that point, Verlin subbed out starters Sanders, Callandret and Nate Sherwood. The Vikings turned momentum and pulled ahead of the on two driving layups, one by the Strickland the other by Hollins.
Sherwood stopped that run with his 3-pointer. However, the Vandals were never able to put more than five points between themselves and the Vikings the rest of the way.
Portland State’s Denotae North led all scorers with 30 points for the Vikings.
Sanders scored 28 for Idaho, connecting on three of five 3-pointers, and weaving through the Vikings defense. He shot 10 of 18 from the floor overall. As a team, Idaho shot 45.9 percent, 28 of 61. Portland State was nearly identical, going 28 of 63 from the floor. The Vikings, though, connected on 7 of 14 free throws. Oddly, the only Vandal to go to the free throw line was Sanders.
Idaho plays next at Eastern Washington on Thursday.
“We’re going to find out a lot about our character,” he said.