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Vandals fight in Big Sky quarterfinal, but fall to EWU: Verlin radio comments

No lead is safe against the Eastern Washington Eagles. 

Idaho learned that back on Jan. 31 when a 17-point lead dissipated by the final buzzer, eventually resulting in a 98-95 overtime loss.

Things haven't changed much even six weeks later, even in a neutral-court Big Sky Tournament quarterfinal game in Missoula, Mont. 


The Eagles made three small comebacks to take control and knock off Idaho 91-83 Thursday morning, ending Idaho's season.

Idaho led by four points and halftime and quickly extended that lead to seven points within the first minute. 

And then Tyler Harvey started to do Tyler Harvey things. Dancing around the perimeter, Harvey sized up his defenders, stepped back and drained three consecutive 3-point shots to tie the game at 47. 

Eastern Washington took control at 64-54 before Idaho went on a 10-0 run to tie it at 64. Idaho then jumped out to 70-67 and 73-70 leads before the Eagles went on runs each time to negate it. 

Of course, it was Harvey that sank the dagger for Eastern Washington, a step-back straight away, contested, 3-point shot to give Eastern an 81-75 lead with 2:28 left in the game. 

Harvey, who was snubbed as Big Sky Player of the Year, scored 42 points in his first game since the announcement of Sacramento State's Mikh McKinney winning the award. 

"Tyler Harvey made some unbelievable shots tonight, I thought we guarded him really well," Idaho coach Don Verlin said.

Idaho made the same defensive adjustments they did in the previous two meetings, where Harvey only scored 23 and 13 points. 

It didn't matter whether Harvey was being trailed off screens, had a hand in his face or was being bodied up on the perimeter. He would simply step back and create the inches of space he needed to drain shot after shot. He was virtually impossible to defend.

"Looking back, replaying the game in my head, Harvey made some really tough shots with guys in his face," Verlin said. "It’s going to be interesting to watch the tape, maybe as coaches maybe we should have made an adjustment." 

Connor Hill did his best to counter Harvey's transcendent performance. Hill hit all five of his 3-point shots in the first half, finishing the day with 23 points. 

Hill was joined in the starting backcourt by freshman Victor Sanders and sophomore Perrion Callandret. Senior Mike Scott, who started every game this season at point guard, came off the bench five minutes later. Sophomore Sekou Wiggs, who also started every game, came off the bench late in the second half and scored four points. 

Inside the Vandals reported Wiggs was late to the team breakfast this morning, and an in-game suspension would be consistent with Verlin's history of disciplinary action. 

Idaho ends its first season in the Big Sky since 1995-96 at 13-17, 8-11 against conference foes. 

Idaho loses its leading scorer (Hill), rebounder (Bira Seck) and assist man (Scott) to graduation but return two starters and multiple young bench players who played key roles such as Arkadiy Mkrtychyan and Victor Sanders. George Washington transfer Skyler White and true freshman Jake Straughan redshirted this year. True freshman Nate Sherwood played off the bench in the beginning of the season but was relegated to the bench due to a knee injury. 

"We’re still young," Verlin said. "I’m excited about what we have. Callandret played a nice game. I like where our program is at, we have to add a couple things to do, we have to get some guys better, get some guys bigger."

More Verlin comments:

On adjusting to the Big Sky: "We have to get a different style of player, they play with a smaller perimeter guy, put us in a disadvantage a little bit and that’s what we have to address in recruiting."

On his three seniors: "It wasn’t how we drew it up, it isn’t how we thought it’d happen but at the end of the day when you look at the body of work, they’re all going to graduate, they’re all great kids. What we tried to do here is run the program the right way. And we’re excited about Vandal basketball moving forward."


Sean Kramer
Sean Kramer is a freelance correspondent who covers the University of Idaho football team and men's basketball team.

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