University of Idaho basketball fans won’t have to make the trek up north to see their Vandals in action this season.
The men’s and women’s teams are scheduled to play back-to-back games Dec. 21 at CenturyLink Arena in Boise.
“The Vandals have in the past come out in force when we’ve played down there, and I hope they do it again,” Idaho men’s coach Don Verlin said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for our southern Vandals to show their spirit and their passion for the University of Idaho.
“I hope that they come out and we sell out the arena and make it a great event, an event that hopefully can continue for years to come.”
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The women will tip off against Eastern Oregon at 5 p.m., followed by the Idaho men against UC Irvine at 7:30 p.m. Ticket information will be released at a later date.
Idaho Athletic Director Rob Spear said the Vandals’ home court will be transported to Boise for the game, bringing some of the feeling of Cowan Spectrum to the venue.
The Idaho men last played in Boise in 2014 — an 86-75 loss against Boise State at CenturyLink. The women haven’t made a stop in the Treasure Valley since 2011, when they won 61-46 at BSU.
While a Boise State-Idaho game isn’t in the cards this season, the Vandals haven’t closed the door on rekindling the in-state rivalry.
“I think it’s inexcusable that we’re not playing that game. I think it’s a great thing for our state. I think it’s a great thing for the student bodies,” Spear said. “We’re more than willing to try to make that happen. Unfortunately, over the last few years, we haven’t been able to reach an agreement to play it, but the University of Idaho ... is always willing to play that basketball game.”
The Idaho men return eight of their top players from last season, including six seniors. Headlining the veteran group is guard Victor Sanders, who declared for the NBA Draft in April but withdrew his name prior to the deadline and will be back for his final season in an Idaho uniform.
Sanders averaged 20.9 points per game as a junior, helping the Vandals advance to the Big Sky Tournament semifinals and earn a spot in the CollegeInsider.com postseason tournament.
UC Irvine should provide a strong nonconference test for the Vandals. The Anteaters have won the past two Big West regular-season titles and are coming off their fifth consecutive 20-win season. They have not faced the Vandals since the 2008-09 season.
The Idaho women went 19-15 last season and advanced to the WNIT semifinals. They feature three former Idaho high school players on their 2017-18 roster, including two-time 5A All-Idaho first-team selection Isabelle Hadden, a Boise High graduate.
“We think it’s very important that we have an athletic presence (in Boise) and very important to engage our over 37,000 alums who live in that Treasure Valley area,” Spear said.