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Idaho builds double-digit lead, holds off Eastern Washington rally for first Big Sky victory

January 4, 2019

MOSCOW, Idaho – In a desperate final 5 minutes Thursday, Idaho saw a 14-point lead dwindle to three but hung on to edge Eastern Washington 74-71 in a Big Sky Conference men’s basketball game both badly needed to win.

The victory was Idaho’s first in conference against two losses and gave the Vandals a 4-10 overall mark. It also stopped a six-game losing streak. EWU slipped to 3-11, 1-2.

“They tried to put pressure on us. That’s a good thing for us to face now,” Idaho guard Trevon Allen said after scoring a team-best 25 points. “We did a good job of keeping the ball and moving it. For sure, it was something for us to try to stay composed and pull it out for the win.”

Vandals coach Don Verlin told his team in timeouts to “stay the course, keep fighting. Focus on the next play, the next possession.”

“When you don’t have a lot of experience, going down the stretch is going to be an adventure for a while,” Verlin said.

The end of the game had many thrills: Jared Rodriquez’s dunk for Idaho followed by a steal on EWU’s next possession; 3-pointers in the last minute for the Eagles’ Tyler Kidd and Jesse Hunt; a scramble for a loose ball out of bounds originally called for Idaho but reversed on review; Mason Peatling jumper with 3 seconds to play for EWU that didn’t go down; and a rebound by Rodriguez to Scott Blakney, who sent a long pass to Allen racing down the court as the final second ticked off.

“We found a way to pull it out,” Allen said.

Peatling was EWU’s high scorer with 17. Hunt followed with 14, and both grabbed six rebounds. Ty Gibson and Cody Benzel were also in double figures for the Eagles with 11 and 10 points, respectively.

The Vandals used a 17-0 scoring streak as the foundation for a 20-point halftime lead that allowed them to withstand the Eagles’ late run. The Vandals scored 11 points off EWU turnovers and six on fastbreaks.

“I thought we came out with a lot of energy. We shot well in the first half, and the defense was good,” Verlin said.

Allen and Chance Garvin were both 3 for 3 from on 3-pointers for the Vandals in the opening period.

“Trevon Allen was good. He showed his experience and leadership,” Verlin said of his junior guard, Idaho’s most experienced player.

The Eagles increased their defensive pressure in the second half as they began to cut into the Vandals’ lead. They worked to deny Allen, so Cameron Tyson began bringing up the ball for Idaho.

“At one time, I had all three point guards out on the floor,” Verlin said. “I felt like we needed to take care of the basketball.”

“You’re looking for the extra rotation and it’s been made. You’re looking for the extra pass, and it’s already happening,” Allen said.

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