MOSCOW, Idaho – In a final 30 seconds Saturday marked by effort as much as art, Idaho seniors Trevon Allen and Quinton Forrest stood tall as the Vandals wrested an 80-76 Big Sky Conference win from Idaho State on Senior Day.
In front of a crowd fully engaged and on its feet, Allen, who matched a career high with 33 points, hesitated a moment, then accelerated past the Bengals’ Jaxon Edelmayer to nudge the Vandals ahead for good, 76-75 with 28 seconds left.
Idaho still had a perilous route to the finish. The Vandals’ Gabe Quinnett missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 12 seconds left. But Chance Garvin grabbed the offensive rebound and unloaded it in traffic in the lane to Forrest, who drew a foul and hit the front end of a bonus for a 77-75 lead with 8 seconds to go.
Forrest had been just 3 of 10 at the line in Idaho’s last five games.
“But I knew that miss or make, my team would have my back,” Forrest said.
The Vandals have come out on the short end of eight close games this season, so when Idaho State got to the free-throw line with 5 seconds remaining, Idaho couldn’t take anything for granted.
Tarik Cool missed his first free throw but hit the second, cutting Idaho’s lead to 77-76.
Idaho State was forced to foul Allen twice. After Allen hit a pair of free throws with 4 seconds remaining, he folded himself over Quinnett’s inbounds pass with 1.5 seconds left and was fouled by Austin Smellie. Allen hit the final point of Idaho’s regular season.
Quinnett, a freshman, was grinning on the baseline before he faked a long inbounds pass and threw a short dart to Allen.
“He’s one of our best passers. I trust him,” Idaho head coach Zac Claus said of Quinnett.
A Bengals defensive mishap also helped on that final play.
“It was easier than I thought,” Allen said of securing the pass. “A couple of people ran into each other, and I was able to break off.”
The win ended a six-game losing streak and gives the Vandals (8-23, 4-16 Big Sky) momentum heading into the conference tournament. Malik Porter led the Bengals (7-22, 4-16) in scoring with 25 points.
No. 10 seed Idaho will open the tournament Wednesday against seventh-seeded Southern Utah in Boise.
“He is a load. That kid can play,” Claus said of Porter.
Idaho jumped out to an early lead. After Idaho State overtook the Vandals on back-to-back 3-pointers from Jared Stutzman midway through the first half, the Vandals rallied to forge a 38-all halftime tie.
UI was also able to fix a defensive lapse that had allowed the Bengals to score at least three times on back cuts.
“They move well without the ball,” Claus said.
Idaho more than held its own in the lane. The Vandals outrebounded Idaho State 35-25, with Scott Blakney grabbing 13 to go with his 16 points.
“They were a little undersized,” Blakney said of the Bengals. “I was glad we could get a win for our guys in their last game.”
Allen, whose 1,360 career points moved him into eighth place on UI’s career list, acknowledged the impact of playing in his final regular-season game.
“I was soaking it all in,” he said. “It’s the last time I will be able to run up and down that court in a live game setting.”
Claus said he was coaching in the moment, thinking about time and score and substitutions. But he also savored the wild ride.
“The real fun is to win close games and be involved with them,” he said. “This is why you sign up for this job. This is why our kids sign up to play Division I basketball in games that come down to the wire.
“We live for the middle of March. This is the fun stuff.”
“It’s a great feeling,” Forrest said of the close win heading into the Big Sky Tournament. “We want to keep feeling this way.”
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