Idaho led for only 6 minutes against Weber State, but it was a key 6 minutes in which it looked like WSU would again run out of gas.
But Michal Kozak canned a pair of crucial 3-pointers and the Wildcats answered a big Idaho run to overtake the Vandals and win 72-64 on Thursday night at the Cowan Spectrum in Moscow, Idaho.
“We decided to go to him and Mike really came through,” WSU head coach Randy Rahe said. “He played really well at the block and the big 3 he had to put us up back by one kind of gave us the jolt we needed ... that’s the Mike we’d like to see every single night.”
Idaho senior guard Trevon Allen was relentless all night, finishing with a game-high 32 points, and helped key what became an 18-6 run to open the second half. That run eventually gave the Vandals their first lead when Damen Thacker and Ja’vary Christmas hit consecutive 3-pointers for a 45-42 advantage with 13:20 left.
Two minutes later, Allen hit on a triple and, two minutes after that, scooped in a layup to give Idaho its biggest lead of the night at 56-52 with 8:28 remaining.
Weber (12-18, 8-11 Big Sky) took control of its fortunes when Cody John, who led WSU with 21 points, scored on a putback. On the other side of a timeout, Dima Zdor drew a charge and Kozak promptly hit a 3 to regain Weber’s lead at 57-56 with 7:19 left.
In the midst of holding Idaho scoreless for more than 5 minutes, Kozak swished another 3 before Jerrick Harding converted two free throws, capping a 13-0 run that gave the Wildcats all they needed, a 65-56 lead with 3:38 left.
“They had the momentum ... and we had to dig down a little bit,” Rahe said. “This team’s been pretty darn resilient and they had to show that again tonight.”
Kozak scored a career-high 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Harding added 16 points and Zdor, who played the bulk of the minutes (27) at center, added seven points and nine rebounds.
Allen shot 13 of 20 from the field while all other Vandals were 14 of 42. Scott Blakney added 10 points for Idaho (7-23, 3-16), mostly by grabbing three offensive rebounds.
Weber State controlled the first half from the tip, going up 11-4 after Kozak ended a 7-0 run with a 3-pointer. John answered every big basket Idaho made that could have started a run, ending with a late 3-pointer that gave WSU a 38-27 lead.
The Wildcats shot 13 of 17 on 2-pointers in the first half before opening the second half 2 of 15 overall.
Weber State ends the Big Sky regular season at 3 p.m. Saturday with a game at Eastern Washington, who clinched at least a share of the conference title by beating Idaho State on Thursday while Northern Colorado beat Montana.
EWU (15-4 Big Sky) wins the title and the conference tournament No. 1 seed outright with a win Saturday. Montana (14-5) and Northern Colorado (14-5) are locked into second and third in some order; the Bears would take No. 2 with a win over Montana State provided all favorites win.
Portland State (11-8) locked itself into No. 4 by defeating Northern Arizona at home Thursday. Montana State (10-9) earned the final first-round bye at No. 5 in next week’s tournament by beating Southern Utah and by NAU’s loss. PSU and MSU are slated to face off in the tournament quarterfinals next Thursday.
Northern Arizona (10-10) is off Saturday and is now locked into the No. 6 seed.
Weber State, Sacramento State and Southern Utah (all 8-11) enter the final day tied for seventh place. All three are road underdogs Saturday; WSU currently holds the tiebreaker among that group by going a combined 3-1 against them.
Below that group, Saturday’s matchup between Idaho State (4-15) and Idaho (3-16) determines who finishes 10th and 11th.
With 16 points Thursday, Jerrick Harding has 2,215 career points and is 56 from passing Northern Colorado’s Jordan Davis for second on the Big Sky’s all-time scoring list.
Barring two big outbursts, the 22.0 points-per-game scorer is likely to need a first-round tournament win to surpass Davis.