A close loss is a tough thing to overcome, and the Idaho men’s basketball team will have to do just that. In a back-and-forth affair with their rivals just west of the border, Washington State held on when the final buzzer sounded, with a 67-66 win over the Vandals.
In what has became a one sided rivalry over the years, with WSU winning the last 11 games, the Vandals have managed to come within two points of victory on three occasions — including two of the last three games.
The Vandals enjoyed control of the game for most of the night, even jumping out to a 10-point lead early in the second half.
But the Cougars, led by junior guard DaVonte Lacy, surged back with a barrage of 3-pointers and found themselves with a one-point lead with seven seconds left in the game.
The Vandals would have the last shot, and coach Don Verlin decided to put it in the hands of his senior leader and point guard, Glen Dean.
“My first instinct was to try to get all the way to the rim and draw a foul. I stumbled on my foot and didn’t feel like I had a shot,” Dean said. “I saw Connor (Hill) in the corner and tried to get the best pass off I could.”
Hill would get a clean shot off, but it would deflect off the rim, and ultimately end the game.
“It should of never came to that position,” Verlin said. “We did a terrible job of keeping them off the glass and that was our number one key to the game. We didn’t man up tonight.”
The Vandals would get outrebounded 35-31 by the Cougars, and leading the way for WSU was senior forward D.J. Shelton. He ended the night with a double-double, with 10 points and 14 rebounds.
Playing in his last Battle of the Palouse, senior Stephen Madison led the Vandals with 16 points, showing a knack for getting to the line, where he was 9-10.
Also playing some inspired basketball was Dean. Right from the start, the senior from Seattle showed the intensity you expect in a rivalry game.
“I knew the rivalry was big, but it didn’t really hit me until we started playing,” Dean said.
Dean would end the night with 14 points.
Despite the loss, the Vandals played some good basketball, but the players don’t see it that way.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a moral victory, because we had them the whole time, and we want the win,” Madison said. “You can take the goods from it, but you also got to take the bad and work on it from there. It’s tough, especially with a close rivalry. We played so hard and had a good lead, we just didn’t come through in the end.”
After the game, Verlin said the team can’t dwell on the loss because it’s a long season the team will need to get over it and move on.
In what has been somewhat of a rarity over the years, the Cowan Spectrum was packed full of Vandal fans. The building was electric and the players and coaches took notice.
“It was a great atmosphere in the dome tonight, I thought it was a really nice home court advantage for us,” Verlin said. “They don’t know how much that helps our team. The players are really disappointed, because we don’t get a lot of big crowds here, so when we do get a big crowd you want to pay them for it. I sure hope the fans come out again, I think they’re going to like watching this team play.”
Korbin McDonald can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org