MOSCOW, Idaho – Cameron Tyson hit on 6 of 9 3-pointers for Idaho on Tuesday, including an impossible-looking shot in which he had to reach back for a high pass and turn to face the hoop before letting fly.
That lifted a Memorial Gym crowd to its feet when Tyson buried it, and it brought the Vandals within two points of the Nicholls State Colonels with 1 second to play.
A backcourt foul sent the Colonel’s Gavin Peppers to the line for a 1-and-1 with a half-second on the clock. He drained the first and missed the second. Idaho’s Jared Rodriguez rebounded but could not get the ball out of his hands before time expired.
The Vandals fell to 0-2 with the 83-80 nonconference loss in their first home game. But Tyson introduced himself to Idaho’s fans with a flourish. The freshman scored 20 of his team-high 22 points in the second half, and he hit three shots from behind the arc in succession to take Idaho from a 64-57 deficit to a 66-64 lead with 5:51 to play.
“He’s a guy who has a skill,” Verlins said. “We can definitely build around it.”
“I just got hot,” Tyson said. “My teammates were feeding me the ball. I feel I had to shoot it. It was only right.”
On Sunday, Nicholls State played from behind for much of an 89-72 loss to Washington State in Pullman. Against Idaho, the Colonels led for three-quarters of the game. It proved to be enough of an advantage to allow them to hold off the Vandals at the end.
“You’d like to not play from behind,” Verlin said. “We’ve got to get tougher. We go up one, and then they score seven straight points. We’ve got to figure out a way to buckle down and get some stops.”
After trailing 6-0, Verlin subbed in three players and switched from a man-to-man defense to a zone and double-teamed shooters. The pace immediately favored the Vandals. Whenever they could play fast and in the open court, they cut into Nicholls’ lead, owning the lane, the baseline and rebounding. Rodriguez jammed in a shot from the low block as the clock ticked down to give Idaho a 40-39 edge at halftime.
Rodriguez finished with nine points and a team-leading eight rebounds. Idaho’s most experienced big man, sophomore Scott Blakney, scored 18 points, grabbed seven boards and blocked two shots.
Idaho outrebounded Nicholls State 42-25.
“I was really happy with the rebounding tonight,” Verlin said. “Scott Blakney had a great game tonight.”
The free-wheeling Vandals, though, made 18 turnovers.
“Coach Verlin always stresses (to) play fast,” Tyson said. “That’s when we are at our best. It starts at the defensive end, though.”
Jeremiah Jefferson led all scorers with 26 points for Nicholls on 10-of-16 shooting, including 6 of 10 3-pointers. Peppers backed him with 21.
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