MOSCOW, Idaho – The last word on 2018 for Idaho basketball was a hopeful half in which the Vandals outscored Weber State by 16 points.
Unfortunately, it was preceded by a half where Idaho ended up down by 22.
Idaho coach Don Verlin acknowledged his decision to zone the Wildcats backfired, allowing them to drop 6 of 10 3-point attempts on the Vandals, and Weber State’s Zach Braxton pounded Idaho inside with 14 points and added three assists.
“We kind of changed up our game plan,” Verlin said. “This one was on me.”
Idaho came storming back in the final 20 minutes of a 93-87 loss, its sixth straight.
These Vandals (3-10, 0-2 Big Sky) are beginning to bear a resemblance to last season’s group that went 22-9 and was mentally tough enough to win six games by five points or fewer.
“We grew up in the second half. We played with a little fight to us,” said Verlin of a comeback that saw Idaho draw within five points, 89-84, with 20 seconds remaining before the Vandals intentionally began fouling and Weber State hit four free throws.
Even then Idaho wasn’t quite done. Cameron Tyson sank a long three for the last of his game-leading 27 points with five seconds to play.
Tyson, Trevon Allen and Jared Rodriguez were superb for Idaho. Allen, a junior and Idaho’s most experienced player, scored 13 of his 24 points in the first half to keep the Vandals’ rocky start from becoming hopeless, and Rodriguez worked a smooth turnaround jump shot and 7 of 8 from the line for 19 points.
“It felt a little more normal,” Allen said of Idaho’s closing effort. “Seeing the ball go in, playing defense, getting some momentum going sure felt a little like last year.”
Brekkott Chapman scored 21 points for Weber State (8-5, 2-0) while Braxton added 18, hitting 5 of 6 from the field and 8 of 12 at the line.
“He’s big and strong, and we didn’t do a good job in the first half of giving our posts some help,” Verlin said. “He’s a senior, and I had a freshman and a sophomore on him. We should have given them some more help.”
Switching to a man-to-man defense in the second half allowed Idaho to close off the inside, limiting Braxton to just four points in the period, and the Vandals were also able to harass the Wildcats on the perimeter.
Weber State’s field goal percentage dipped from 60.7 percent in the first half to 46.2 percent after the break. Sophomore Scott Blakney rejected a Braxton shot, and Allen pulled up for a three at the other end to draw Idaho within nine, 73-62.
On back-to-back Wildcats possessions about four minutes later, the Vandals stymied Weber State into a shot clock violation and a turnover as Caleb Nero threw a pass for Chapman out of bounds.
“We went back to our basic stuff in the second half, and we played harder. We did a good job,” said Verlin.
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