MOSCOW, Idaho – After Luke Avdalovic drilled a 3-pointer on Northern Arizona’s opening possession, the Lumberjacks and Idaho collectively missed 10 shots over the next four minutes.
The Jacks overcame that rough start. The Vandals didn’t. At least not in time.
NAU (15-10, 9-7 Big Sky) built a 43-27 first-half advantage and held off Idaho in an evenly played second half to gain a 78-61 win.
The result was massively dissatisfying for Vandals coach Zac Claus. He substituted repeatedly in the first half but could find no combination of players that could slow the Jacks.
“I didn’t feel we had a total group competing,” he said of the frequent churn from bench to court. “We didn’t do it in the first half, and they took it to us.”
Although NAU seemed eager to play from outside initially, as the game progressed Brooks DeBisschop and Bernie Andre got to work in the lane and were close to unstoppable. Each grabbed 13 rebounds. Andre led all scorers with 19 points. DeBisschop added 13 and contributed three steals and six assists, including a clever behind-the-back feed to Andre.
“That was grown man work in there,” Claus said. “We had to come out ready to go. Defensively we didn’t do it.
“We had no collective spirit or toughness,” Claus said.
For the game, the Vandals were outscored 42-22 in the lane. The contrast between NAU’s big men and Idaho’s was glaring. Babacar Thiombane had a good night on the boards. He and Chance Garvin each grabbed eight rebounds to lead the Vandals (7-19, 3-12).
But Thiombane scored just two of his six points in the paint, and he was Idaho’s most productive post. Scott Blakney scored just two points, and Jack Wilson was held scoreless.
Nor could the Vandals sustain much offensive momentum elsewhere. Marquell Fraser attacked the rim for eight points and hit a long 2-pointer to lead the Vandals with 10 points in the first half. But he scored just two more points after the break.
Freshman Gabe Quinnett came off the bench for five points in the opening period and led the Vandals with nine in the second half for a team-high 14, matching his career high. He was 5 for 6 from the floor, including 4 of 5 from beyond the arc.
“We want to put the ball in his hands,” Claus said. However, that was about it for highlights.
Idaho’s season-long leading scorer Trevon Allen, who had been hitting at a 21.2 points per game clip, was held to just seven against NAU on 2 of 8 shooting, with three free throws.
If the Vandals could take anything hopeful out of the evening, it would be the final 10 minutes, when they reduced a 25-point NAU lead to the final 17-point spread.
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