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Sarbaugh’s free throws help Vandals beat Portland State

MOSCOW — Chris Sarbaugh is usually the one dishing out assists to teammates. With 10 seconds remaining in Saturday night’s Big Sky Conference contest against Portland State, Nate Sherwood took it upon himself to dish something out to his senior point guard — advice.

Sarbaugh crashed to the floor on the baseline to gobble up a missed 3-pointer from Calaen Robinson and drew the four from Isaiah Pineiro, prompting Portland State to call a timeout in an attempt to ice him.

In the huddle, Sherwood made clear what was going to happen.

“It’s money,” Sherwood told him.

The former Gonzaga Prep standout hit them both, propelling Idaho to a 56-55 triumph over Portland State in front of 1,546 fans.

Sherwood can recall another time he gave Sarbaugh a little prep talk before potential game-deciding free throws.

“I told him the same thing. ‘I wouldn’t want anybody else shooting it, I’m confident in you,’” Sherwood said. “I firmly believe that Chris was going to go up there and knock two down, that’s exactly what he did.”

Free throws have been a terrifying ordeal for the Vandals lately. Pat Ingram missed a pair which would’ve taken Thursday’s game to overtime against Sacramento State. Chad Sherwood couldn’t convert the three required to send it to double overtime against Southern Utah.

“I thought about it,” Sarbaugh said. “I just had to do what I told them. Just relax … It’s all mental, Nate definitely helped me out with that.”

Nobody was breathing easy after those free throws. The Vikings took the ball down the floor with 10 seconds remaining, nearly turning the ball over and calling a timeout with 2.5 seconds left.

The Vikings found Zach Gengler rolling to the corner after inbounding the ball, but Ty Egbert’s wingspan was too much to overcome as his attempt rolled off the far iron.

“I told Ty is if they throw it in then you’re going to have to guard a smaller guy, we just basically played our normal role defense,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said. “We have to contest every shot without fouling and force them to make a shot and basically they couldn’t do it.”

Relief describes the win as much as anything else. Idaho (13-9, 5-4 conference) was on the verge of losing its third consecutive one-possession game without its top two scorers and starting backcourt of Perrion Callandret and Victor Sanders.

The win, Sarbaugh says, vindicates the guys stepping in.

“You lose your two leading scorers, even if you say it doesn’t it mentally messes with the team,” Sarbaugh said. “ … Finally getting this win kind of fortifies that we’re good enough to win in this conference even if we don’t have them.”

One of those guys was Sherwood, who tied a career high with 15 points to lead the Vandals. Freshman Nick Blair came off the bench for six points, and Sarbaugh even scored six to go with his nine rebounds and six assists.

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