Idaho and Washington State have tangled on the basketball court at least once every year since 1906, but the Vandals have rarely put together a better all-around performance in recent years than in Thursday night’s 78-74 win over the Cougars.
The smaller Vandals outrebounded Washington 39-22, including 14-1 on the offensive glass, and had a 16-0 advantage in second-chance points. Idaho enjoyed a 17-8 edge in points off turnovers, sank 9-of-16 shots (56.3 percent) from 3-point range and led most of the way before a season-high crowd of 3,759 at the Cowan Spectrum.
“Sixteen second-chance points was the difference in the game,” Washington State coach Ernie Kent said.
Idaho coach Don Verlin respectfully disagreed with Kent. Verlin said he considered the work of Idaho’s inside players “the difference in the game,” even though guards Perrion Callandret and Victor Sanders were the only Vandals with more than eight points.
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“Those guys (Idaho’s front-line players) played their heart out,” Callandret said.
Callandret scored 18 of his 25 points (one off his career high) in the first half, and Sanders delivered 15 of his 20 points in the second half. The Vandals (6-5) defeated Washington State in consecutive games for the first time since winning three in a row from 1988-90.
“This game meant a lot to me and my teammates and Idaho — the state in general,” Sanders said.
Josh Hawkinson led Washington State (5-2) with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Five Cougars scored in double figures, and Washington State (53 percent) outshot Idaho (44 percent) from the field, but Verlin said he was pleased with the Vandals’ defense.
“We did a great job spreading the court and not giving them easy baskets in transition,” Verlin said.
Kent said he blames mental errors for many of Washington State’s problems on defense and the boards. The Cougars, who rely heavily on newcomers, traveled just eight miles to play their first road game.
“I don’t think we were focused mentally in the game, especially some of our veteran guys,” Kent said.
Idaho led 44-37 at the half. Two Hawkinson free throws with 10:06 left gave the Cougars their final lead at 57-55. The free throws came in a seven-minute span when Washington State missed all eight field-goal attempts during a 13-3 Idaho run.
Ike Iroegbu and Conor Clifford scored 12 points apiece for Washington State. Renard Suggs added 11 points, and point guard Charles Callison had 10 points, seven assists and no turnovers in 31 minutes. Que Johnson scored nine points but missed a game-tying 3-point attempt in the final seconds.
“Que’s usually clutch in those moments,” Iroegbu said. “I know he’s going to bounce back from it. He just missed the shot. Idaho played good defense at the end of the game, credit to them.”
▪ Idaho: Starting point guard Chris Sarbaugh came to Idaho as a senior graduate transfer from San Diego. Sarbaugh redshirted as a walk-on freshman at Gonzaga in his hometown of Spokane, then played one year at North Idaho College before spending two seasons with San Diego.
▪ Washington State: The Cougars and Vandals have met every season since 1905-06, making the series the sixth-longest continuous series in college basketball. The only longer series involve schools located east of the Mississippi. Washington State leads the series 162-109.
GOING TO THE LINE
Idaho went 19-for-30 at the free throw line (Callandret was 9-for-13) after making just 17 trips to the line in the previous two games combined.
▪ Idaho hosts New Hope on Dec. 18.
▪ Washington State hosts UTEP on Sunday.