Reggie Rose, once counted out by almost everyone but himself, earned a few more converts Thursday night.
“We certainly did not have it in our minds to prepare for him like his old self,” North Texas basketball coach Tim Jankovich said, moments after Rose sparked Idaho to a 67-58 victory over his Eagles. “He’s been out so many weeks, I understand with a knee injury - I figured that out with the brace.”
Two nights after Rose’s surprise return gave the Vandals the emotional lift needed to upset Washington State, the senior guard brought another valuable asset to the Kibbie Dome - his jump shot.
Rose scored eight points during the Vandals’ near-flawless first half, finishing with three 3-pointers and at least as many floor burns as Idaho completed a Big West Conference sweep of the Eagles.
The victory lifted the Vandals (11-13, 4-7 Big West) into a last-place tie with the Eagles (9-12) in the Eastern Division - hardly in the middle of the playoff race, but close enough to keep a straight face while dreaming.
“It gets us back in the Big West,” senior forward Jason Jackman said, “but we need to play a lot better Saturday (against New Mexico State).”
Jackman finished with 16 points and eight rebounds, but was probably more valuable for what he didn’t do.
By passing out of repeated double-teams - particularly while the Vandals built a 41-27 halftime lead - Jackman helped keep the offense running smoothly.
“I’m surprised his numbers haven’t gone down more in the league as far as scoring,” Idaho coach Kermit Davis said. “Because it’s every night - two or three guys down there.
“And I think what has happened is Eddie (Turner) has benefited, but now you’ve got Reggie back and I think it’s just one more guy they’ve got to extend to.”
The statistics bear him out. Four Vandals scored in double figures, led by Jackman and Turner with 16 apiece. Troy Thompson added 13 points and 10 rebounds, while Rose scored 11.
“Our team is really making some progress,” Davis said. “I think these seniors have taken a lot of pride, taking it game by game and getting this program going. “
“If it’s making the tournament, it’s making the tournament. If not, we’re going to have a heckuva year.”
If Idaho does manage a late run, Rose could be the difference.
Thursday night’s effort went beyond playing hard - Rose played smart, compensating for his bad knee by playing passing lanes and looking for openings on the perimeter.
His final 3-pointer came with 12:40 left and stretched the Vandals’ lead to 50-38. Later, he would twice dive out of bounds while chasing loose balls, once even diving over press row.
“That’s Reggie Rose’s game,” Rose said. “I’ve gotta get the dust from the dome on my jersey.”
Chuck Thrash and Zaveon Cooper led the Eagles with 10 points apiece. David Miller added 10 points and seven rebounds.
See box score in Stat Sheet/C5
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