RENO, Nev. – A tremendous second half run made things interesting, but it just wasn't enough to overcome the slow start as Idaho fell to No. 1 North Dakota, 69-64, in the Big Sky Tournament semifinals on Friday.
“It’s always tough when it comes to an end, but the one thing I’ll tell you is that I have some really good young men in my lockerroom,” said head coach Don Verlin. “With a lot of character, who showed tonight how hard they play. There were a number of times that they could have thrown the towel in, we made two furious comebacks.
“I was proud of the way our guys fought. You look back at our season, we were 1-3 at the start of the league season and our guys showed who they are and what they’re all about and how proud they are to be Vandals. And we fought like crazy and were able to get a first round bye. I thought we played extremely hard against Montana and followed it up tonight with a tough spirited effort against a very good North Dakota team.
“It hurts when it comes to an end, no question about it, because our goal was to get to the NCAA Tournament, but the one thing I’ll tell you about the guys in the lockerroom, is they stand for the right things, and they’re outstanding young men.”
The Fighting Hawks came out strong, taking a 24-7 advantage early, but these Vandals just don't have "quit" in their vocabularies. Idaho chipped away for the remainder of the half, behind some strong play from the big men inside, cutting the deficit to just six at the break.
Idaho stayed hot entering the second half, taking a six-point lead thanks to a 15-0 run early in the frame. UND responded with a big run of its own, reclaiming the lead and holding on until the end. The Vandals stayed tough all night, fighting to the final horn, as they have all season long.
Victor Sanders was special, as he has been all season. He took some time to get going, but once he did he could not be stopped. Sanders finished with a game-high 20 points, knocking down four 3’s. He scored 13 in the second half, going 3-of-4 from beyond the arc.
Brayon Blake also scored in double-figures, finishing with 10 points. Jordan Scott had a balanced evening, scoring nine points to go along with nine boards, while Nate Sherwood grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds.
The Vandals will now wait and see how things pan out, but are expected to be competing again this season. Check back with GoVandals.com on Sunday to see where the Vandals are headed.
Fans can stay up-to-date on all things Idaho men's basketball by following the team on twitter, @VandalHoops.
For more information on Idaho Athletics, visit GoVandals.com. Fans can also find Idaho on Twitter and Instagram, @Idaho_Vandals, or on Facebook by searching Idaho Vandals.