MOSCOW, Idaho - A huge second half rally helped lift Idaho to the 66-52 win over Northern Arizona on Thursday night in the Cowan Spectrum. With the win, Idaho locks up the #2 seed in the upcoming Big Sky Tournament in Reno, and will get things started at 5:35 p.m. on Thursday night.
Both teams struggled out of the gate, going a combined 2-of-16 from beyond the arc in the first half. Brayon Blake was the lone bright spot for the Vandals, scoring 13 points to go with eight rebounds and two ferocious blocks in the half. NAU would take a one-point advantage into the break, after JoJo Anderson was able to knockdown a long range buzzer-beater.
Both teams knocked down their shots to start the second half, with Victor Sanders taking over for Idaho with back-to-back buckets to put Idaho back on top. The lumberjacks bounced back to claim a four-point lead on a layup for Corey Brown with 14:38 to play, and then the Vandals took over.
Idaho would hold NAU to just seven points over the next 11-plus minutes, going on a 34-7 run to get up by as many as 23. Head coach Don Verlin cleared his bench from there, giving the young guns an opportunity for some work ahead of next week's Big Sky Tournament.
The Idaho defense was stellar on the night, holding NAU to 28.8 percent (17-of-59) from the floor and 28.6 percent (4-of-14) from beyond the arc. The Vandals also dominated on the glass, winning the rebound battle, 44-31.
Brayon Blake. With leading scorer, Sanders, out for most of the night with foul trouble, Blake stepped up to the tune of his 10th double-double of the season. He finished the night with game-highs of 22 points and 14 rebounds.
Blake's defense was also noteworthy on Thursday. He picked up three blocks, including one ferocious swat at the rim on a dunk attempt that brought the crowd to its feet.
Idaho moves to 13-4 in Big Sky play and will finish in second in the regular season standings. NAU falls to 2-15 and will be the #12 seed in Reno. Idaho's 21 wins are tied for the most under Verlin. Idaho also won 21 games in 2015-16.
Idaho hit six 3's on the night, and now has a program-record 257 3's on the season.
Blake picked up his 10th double-double of the year, tying a career-high with 14 rebounds. Idaho is 9-1 in those games.
Sanders finished with 12 points and now has 542 on the season, the eighth most in a single-season in team history.
Idaho held NAU to 28.8 percent shooting on the night. It's the first time Idaho has held a Division I opponent under 30 percent shooting since holding Weber State to 29.3 percent on March 3, 2016.
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