Marvin Jefferson throws down a highlight-reel jam against Lewis-Clark State.
BOISE — With the Qwest Arena clock reading 38.0, the Vandals’ Travis Blackstock grabbed a feed on the wing and launched a contested midrange jumper that didn’t seem to have a prayer.
His shot caught nothing but net.
The 4,111 fans in attendance exploded in cheers and applause for the beloved walk-on forward from nearby Kuna, as Blackstock put an exclamation point on a night that was all Idaho from start to finish. The Vandals rolled Lewis-Clark State, 71-52, in a neutral-court non-conference game that was never as close as its score would indicate. The contest was held as part of festivities for tomorrow’s Humanitarian Bowl.
Idaho, which improved to 7-4 on the eve of Western Athletic Conference play, was led by a strong showing from floor general Mac Hopson, who posted his first double-double of the season with 15 points and 10 rebounds on 4-10 shooting and 5-for-7 from the charity stripe. The Vandals outrebounded the Warriors, 42-32, and shot 50 percent for the game, 35 percent from beyond the arc.
“It’s always good to get a win, but in this great environment in front of a packed house, this was something special,” coach Don Verlin said. “I thought we played pretty well at times, especially defensively, and we rebounded the basketball well which is a real key.”
A near-NBA-range 3-pointer from Hopson sparked a crowd-pleasing 18-0 Vandal run early in the first half that put a quick end to any thoughts of a Warrior upset. The streak was punctuated by a two-handed fastbreak slam from Marvin Jefferson, who took a beautifully-placed feed from Steffan Johnson and jammed it home. LCSC coach Tim Walker called a timeout, but Idaho would score five more out of the break before giving up a bucket.
“I talked to Coach (Verlin) after the last couple games, he said I should try to be more aggressive about attacking the lane rather than settling for threes, and that’s what I did tonight,” Johnson said. “I have to keep developing my game week in and week out.”
Unlike Idaho’s last game against an NAIA foe, there was to be no miracle second-half comeback from the underdog this time. The period featured sloppy play all around, as LCSC was whistled for 7 fouls in the first 4 minutes while Idaho missed four of its first five shots.
After being down by as many as 20, the Warriors managed to cut the lead to 13 points with just under 7 minutes to play, backed by six straight points from forward Alex King. But they’d get no closer, as Vandal long-ball specialist Luciano de Souza drilled a dagger from downtown with five minutes left, snapping the run and putting paid to LCSC’s miracle hopes.