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Vandals come back to beat Fresno

Marcus Potts Special to The Spokesman-Review

MOSCOW, Idaho – In a season full of heartbreak, Valentine’s Day was a glorious affair for the University of Idaho men’s basketball team.

The Vandals got their sixth win of the season at Cowan Spectrum on Thursday, overcoming a 19-point first-half deficit to force overtime and overcome Fresno State 79-74 in Western Athletic Conference play.

Losers of four straight and seven of eight games coming in, the Vandals were in need of a locker room boost.

“It’s exciting. There’s a lot of kids in (the locker room) that played extremely hard and they stayed the course,” UI coach George Pfeifer said afterward. “You don’t do what we did tonight unless you’ve got some guys who are committed to staying the course.”

Jordan Brooks scored 25 points, including eight in overtime, and had 16 rebounds for the Vandals (6-17, 3-9 WAC). After the final buzzer he strolled across the court to address the small crowd of Idaho fans, screaming to the audience “Vandals! Vandals!”

Fresno State (11-14, 4-7) scored the first four points in overtime, but Idaho took a 72-70 lead with 1:12 to play when Mike Hall hit a deep 3-pointer over a double team with the shot clock dwindling. FSU tied the game with a pair of Eddie Miller free throws, but Brooks drove the lane on the next possession, hit a tough shot and drew a Dwight O’Neil foul.

“You can’t let me get the ball that deep with anybody 1-on-1,” Brooks said of the big score. “Five-9 or 6-9, it’s gonna be a bucket or a foul.”

With 18 seconds to play, Brooks hit the free throw, one of four overtime free throws he connected on, and Idaho locked up the win.

An 11-0 run in the regulation’s final 5:14 gave UI the 63-all tie it needed to force overtime. Mike Kale scored four of his 11 points during the run on two put backs and Brooks hit two free throws with 59 seconds to play, tying the game.

Hall added 17 points and was one of four Vandals in double figures scoring.

Cold second-half shooting limited the Bulldogs after they entered halftime with a 39-29 lead. They shot 46.9 percent (15 of 32) in the first half and just 20.7 percent (6 of 29) after the break. Still, FSU managed to hold the Vandals at an arm’s length for much of the second half before UI made its late run to force the extra frame.

“In the second half everybody started believing in each other and we were just out there as a team,” Brooks said.

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