MOSCOW, Idaho – Even the injuries went Northern Colorado’s way during Thursday’s 80-63 win over Idaho.
On a night when the Vandals seemingly had to work for every point and had no answer for the Bears’ torrid shooting, Idaho’s best effort to climb back into the contest at home in Cowan Spectrum seemed to expire when the Bears’ Jalen Sanders was forced out of the game with an injury.
Idaho had thrown an 18-5 run at UNC to draw within nine points, 64-55, with just less than 6 minutes to play. En route, and trailing 63-52, they survived Jordan Scott’s foul on Andre Spight, who launched an errant 3-point attempt just before the shot clock horn sounded. Spight hit just 1 of 3 free throws, and Idaho’s Victor Sanders quickly undid that damage and more with a 3-pointer on the next possession.
The crowd was up, loud and into the game. Idaho, which had seemed a half-step behind the Bears, was matching them block for block, steal for steal and drive for drive.
Shortly after that high point, UNC’s Sanders faked Scott into the air under the basket. Scott came crashing down on Sanders, whose head slammed the floor and began gushing blood.
Sanders was forced to leave the game, and he took whatever momentum Idaho had generated against his team with him. When play resumed after the injury, the Vandals went cold and the Bears quickly rebuilt their advantage on the way to a decisive victory.
“They came in here and kicked our tails,” Vandals coach Don Verlin said. “They were the most aggressive team, the most prepared. They beat us in every facet of the game tonight.”
One of the most glaring aspects was shooting. The Bears were having a night when everything appeared to fall. Emboldened by success, they let fly even more. For the game they hit 30 of 59 shots from the floor, including 12 of 27 on 3-point attempts.
Five Bears scored in double figures, led by Chaz Glotta with 17 points. He was 6 for 6 from the floor, including five 3-pointers.
Idaho’s tentative play that so vexed Verlin began early. It took the Vandals more than 12 minutes of the first half to deny the left corner to Northern Colorado.
The Bears scored 18 points from there on six 3-pointers, three coming from Glotta, whose nine points led UNC in the first half to a 41-28 lead.
“We didn’t do a good job of guarding the ball,” Verlin said. “(Glotta’s shots) were all wide open. It was a fundamental breakdown of our defense.”
It was also fatal to Idaho’s chances and set the tone for the remainder of the game. The Bears shot 48.5 percent from the floor, 16 of 33.
The Vandals seemed to struggle for everything. Victor Sanders scored 26 points, but he was the only UI player in double figures. He also had four steals, three assists and a blocked shot.
Idaho slipped to 13-7 with the loss, 5-3 in the Big Sky Conference. UNC improved to 14-7 and 5-3.
Idaho is at home again Saturday against North Dakota. According to Verlin, it’s an opportunity for redemption.
“We will get it fixed,” Verlin said. “I guarantee it. We will get it fixed.”
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