MOSCOW – Initially it appeared as if a massive reinforcement strolled onto the Cowan Spectrum prior to Idaho’s home, Big Sky Conference contest against Northern Colorado.
After missing eight games with a right foot sprain, starting point guard Perrion Callandret jogged into pre-game warmups in full uniform and participated seemingly without discomfort.
But as starting lineups were announced, Callandret assumed his now familiar position at the end of the Idaho bench, next to fellow injured guard Victor Sanders, cheering and quasi-coaching as has been usual during his absence.
Callandret, still not cleared to play, simply took another step toward his return which could come as soon as next week by going through pre-game warmups.
Instead, it was redshirt freshman Jake Straughan as the latest guard stepping into the next-man-up role, stroking in six 3-pointers and scoring 23 of the backcourt’s 49 points on the night in a 73-67 triumph over the Bears in front of an announced attendance of 1,012.
Straughan’s first 3 came with 5:13 left in the first half, cutting Northern Colorado’s lead to 29-19. Within the span of three minutes Straughan sank four from deep and cut the Bears’ lead to two.
He heat-checked in two more treys in the second half to finish 6-of-7 from deep and finishing his career high in points against Division I competition.
“This is nothing new for us, we see this every day in practice,” senior point guard Chris Sarbaugh said. “This is just him having the confidence coming in and stepping up and making shots.”
The redshirt freshman from nearby Colton, Washington has struggled to consistently see the floor, even with the injuries to Idaho’s top two scorers, playing a combined 39 minutes in Idaho’s last five games. He played 15 minutes against the Bears, the most he’s played in conference play.
“When I make a couple coach is going to start calling some plays for me,” Straughan said. “(I am) staying within the offense and shooting my shots. Obviously I threw a couple heat checks in there but that’s just the nature of the game. When I got hot I was going to try and take some shots and obviously I hit them.”
The win moves Idaho to within a half-game of fourth place in the Big Sky, which grants a first-round bye in the conference tournament. Idaho (15-10, 7-5 conference) is tied with its upcoming opponent, North Dakota, in fifth place.
“There’s a lot to play for this season, we need to grind this out and get us a top four seed,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said. “… There’s a lot to play for and this team, if we continue to grind, has a chance to win 20 ball games and we haven’t done that forever around here.”
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