MOSCOW, Idaho – Superb 3-point shooting kept Sacramento State in contact with Idaho until the end.
But a mediocre free-throw performance prevented the Hornets from surpassing the Vandals.
And an Idaho team that had lost 14 consecutive Big Sky Conference contests finally figured out how to finish a game, holding on for a 94-90 victory in the season’s home finale.
Sacramento State shot a sizzling 15 for 30 from beyond the arc, led by Jordan Tolbert’s 7-for-8 effort, and a 5-of-8 showing from Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa. But the Hornets managed to hit just 19 of 29 from the free-throw line.
Idaho’s Trevon Allen turned in a career night with 29 points, and Cameron Tyson was 5 for 8 on 3-pointers with 17 points for the Vandals.
Idaho (5-24, 2-16 Big Sky) got ahead early, took a one-point advantage into halftime and led for all but 3:40 of the game. The Hornets (13-14, 7-11) got within two (90-88) on Jordan Tolbert’s 3-pointer with 17 seconds left. But Losini Kamara and Xavier Smith each hit a pair of free throws down the stretch, preserving the Vandals’ lead.
“It wasn’t perfect, but I was very proud of our guys,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said.
“Losini and Xavier’s free throws were big.”
Idaho had to adjust on the fly throughout the game. A unit already missing starters Nate Sherwood (season-ending illness) and Marquell Fraser (hip surgery), and key reserve Chance Garvin (shoulder) was shortened further when injuries aggravated in the pregame kept sophomore guard Geno West and freshman post Cassius Smits-Francisco from playing.
“That’s not a lot of time to adjust the game plan,” Verlin said.
Idaho’s remaining bigs, Jared Rodriguez and Scott Blakney, played with foul trouble. Rodriguez fouled out at about the 2-minute mark with 16 points, and Blakney finished with four fouls. Verlin moved Kamara and Allen to power forward – a position neither had played before – for parts of the game.
“It was tough when we got in foul trouble tonight, but we found a way to win,” Verlin said.
Also, Idaho was surprised but unrattled by Tolbert’s otherworldly perimeter shooting.
“I think he’s made two 3s all year. He wasn’t even on the scouting report,” Verlin said. “But we didn’t get frustrated.”
Allen said down the stretch the Vandals were able “to stay composed and know that we’re up.”
“I came in struggling,” said Tyson, who holds Idaho’s freshman record for 3-point makes with 97. “Trey kept telling me, ‘Stay confident,’ and we got it going.”
After a near miss against Portland State Thursday, Idaho got over the finish line against the Hornets.
Closing out a win “is something we’ve been struggling on,” Allen said. “Being able to get the win feels good.”
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