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Sports >  Idaho basketball

Weber State holds off Idaho’s second half rally for 73-65 win in Moscow

Jan. 26, 2023 Updated Thu., Jan. 26, 2023 at 10:14 p.m.

By Peter Harriman For The Spokesman-Review

MOSCOW, Idaho – Trey Smith scored 15 points in the last 8 minutes on five 3-pointers Thursday as Idaho ferociously pursued Weber State, but the Vandals’ rally fell short in a 73-65 loss.

Idaho cut the deficit to 70-65 with 53 seconds to play, but the Wildcats held on to get on the plus side of .500, 11-10, and improve to 6-2 in the Big Sky Conference. The Vandals fall to 8-14, 2-7.

After Smith buried back-to-back 3s off Isaac Jones passes out of low-post double teams, Idaho coach Zac Claus began running plays for him, Smith said.

“After I hit a couple, he trusted me to put the ball in my hands,” said Smith, who led Idaho’s scorers with 17 points.

“That’s an old man playing college basketball,” Claus said of his fifth-year transfer out of San Jose State. “I trust him in a big way. We are lucky to have him.”

An ICCU Arena crowd of 1,713, which had been mostly stoic as the Vandals barely maintained contact with the Wildcats, roared to life as Idaho made its run down the stretch. Smith said it added to his team’s belief that they could pull off a miracle.

“When we were in the locker room at halftime down 16, we felt we had a chance,” Smith said. “(In the second half) we set little benchmarks for ourselves. The feeling among all of us was unwavering.”

The improved defense and offensive showing were not quite enough for Idaho to overcome a subpar opening quarter. The Vandals made just 8 of 24 field-goal attempts, including 1 of 8 from beyond the arc. Idaho connected on 5 of 10 free throws.

The Wildcats shot 62.5% from the floor, 15 of 24, and 66.7% on 3-pointers, connecting on 6 of 9.

“In the first half, they were playing with us,” Claus said. “You can’t spot a good team like Weber State that much of a cushion. We simply dug ourselves too deep of a hole.”

In the second half, Idaho found its shooting touch, going 13 of 25 on field-goal attempts, 8 of 16 on 3s, and converting all nine free-throws attempts. The Wildcats cooled off a bit but still made 11 of 22 from the floor and 1 of 4 on 3-point tries. They hit 12 of 16 free throws.

Idaho pressured Weber State into 16 turnovers.

“Our defense definitely fuels our offense,” Smith said.

The Vandals were beaten on the boards 33-20. Weber State’s Dillon Jones grabbed 14 to lead all rebounders and was the game’s leading scorer with 21 points.

The Wildcats largely held Idaho’s leading scorers, Jones and Divant’e Moffitt, in check. Jones drew extra defensive attention throughout the game and managed just 12 points while Moffitt scored 13. In the first half, Jones led Idaho with seven points and Moffitt scored five.

Weber State worked its lead to as many as 21 points early in the second half before Idaho began its comeback.

In the space of 50 seconds, the officials called six fouls – three on each team. Coming out of that flurry, the Vandals trimmed six points from Weber State’s lead, pulling the score to 60-45 before Smith began hitting 3-pointers. Dominique Ford contributed a pair of 3-pointers during the rally.

Idaho got good minutes from the bench with Rashad Smith, who grabbed five rebounds, blocked a pair of shots and scored four points. Redshirt freshman guard R J Walker only saw 5 minutes of action but notched an assist and a steal in addition to boosting the Vandals on defense.

Smith also gave a shout out to a teammate who never left the bench, redshirt sophomore forward John Harge.

“He helps me shoot every day,” Smith said. “He rebounds for me.”

Idaho hosts Idaho State Saturday afternoon.

Claus said the sting of the near miss against Weber State will be history as the Vandals turn their attention to the Bengals.

“You allow it to bother you until you wake up tomorrow morning,” Claus said.

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