VANDAL HEARTBREAK: Idaho rally falls short vs. Montana State

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BROOKS NUANEZ/Big Sky Conference Trevon Allen of Idaho drives to the basket against Montana State on Wednesday in the first round of the Big Sky Conference tournament at CenturyLink Arena in Boise.

BOISE — A spirited late run came up just short for Idaho, as the 11th-seeded Vandals were eliminated from the Big Sky Championship by sixth-seeded Montana State 75-71 in first-round action at CenturyLink Arena on Wednesday afternoon.

Montana State (15-16) opened up a 15-point lead with 12:21 left in the second half before Idaho (5-27) rallied.

Idaho responded with a 7-0 run, with five points coming from Trevon Allen.

A putback by Jared Rodriguez and an Allen jumper brought Idaho within a basket at 73-71 with 31 ticks remaining.

The Vandals had the ball still down two with the shot clock turned off. Allen had a shot from his favorite spot near the elbow, but it rimmed out. Jared Rodriguez tracked down the rebound, but was swarmed by the Bobcats and was unable to gain full control.

Idaho got the ball back again, still down two, but a turnover near midcourt did the Vandals in, and Montana State held on.

Idaho tied the 2006-07 Vandal team for most losses in a season. The Vandals did not letter a senior in 2018-19.

Injuries plagued the Vandals all season — two players in the rotation didn’t make the trip to Boise because they were in concussion protocol. Of the eight Vandals who played Wednesday, five were freshmen and two were sophomores.

“I think the last two or three weeks of the season have been promising for us,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said. “We’ve started to play a lot harder. We’ve grown up a lot the last two or three weeks. Today was good because we came back and got a chance to win.

“I’ve never been through a year like this, where we’ve had so many injuries and so many major guys go down, but you’ve got to give the guys that are still playing credit. They fought all the way to the end, and that’s all you can ask for as a coach.”

Tyler Hall had 23 points and 10 rebounds for Montana State, which will play No. 3 Eastern Washington (14-17) in the quarterfinals tonight at 7 PDT. It was the Bobcats’ first Big Sky tourney win in 10 years.

Allen, a junior had 21 points — 19 in the second half — and six rebounds for the Vandals. Freshman Jared Rodriguez added 18 points and seven rebounds, and freshman Cameron Tyson had 17 points. Tyson finished the season with 106 3-pointers, the second most ever by a Vandal (behind former Post Falls High star Connor Hill). Tyson owns the Big Sky freshman record for 3s, passing the Bobcats’ Hall, the conference’s all-time leading scorer.

“I think a big thing is seeing the potential we have ... it’s got me excited for next year,” Allen said.

Harald Frey added 17 points and eight assists for Montana State.

The Vandals jumped out to a 10-0 lead early, behind a pair of triples from Tyson. It took Montana State nearly five minutes before the Bobcats got a bucket, but they chipped away for the remainder of the half and closed strong to take 32-30 advantage into the break. Tyson dropped 15 points in the opening half, connecting on four 3-pointers and all three of his free throws.

MONTANA ST. 75, IDAHO 71

IDAHO (5-27)

Blakney 3-7 1-2 7, Rodriguez 5-9 8-8 18, Tyson 5-13 3-3 17, Allen 7-19 4-5 21, Kamara 0-1 0-0 0, Samb 2-2 0-0 4, Smith 2-3 0-0 4, Mitchell 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-54 16-18 71.

MONTANA ST. (15-16)

Blevins 4-9 0-0 10, Kirby 4-4 2-4 10, Hall 8-19 2-3 23, Daniels 1-2 2-2 4, Frey 7-14 0-1 17, Quinlan 0-1 0-0 0, Neumann 4-4 0-1 9, Nikkarinen 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 29-54 6-11 75.

Halftime—Montana St. 32-30. 3-Point Goals—Idaho 7-19 (Tyson 4-11, Allen 3-5, Kamara 0-1, Rodriguez 0-1, Smith 0-1), Montana St. 11-24 (Hall 5-12, Frey 3-6, Blevins 2-4, Neumann 1-1, Daniels 0-1). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Idaho 29 (Blakney, Rodriguez 7), Montana St. 29 (Hall 10). Assists—Idaho 10 (Kamara 4), Montana St. 20 (Frey 8). Total Fouls—Idaho 15, Montana St. 16.

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