Vandals battle NMSU for WAC Crown

IT'S BEEN OVER TWO DECADES since the Idaho men last played for a Conference tournament championship. But that changed Friday night when the fifth-seeded Vandals upset No. 1 seed Utah Valley 74-69 in the Western Athletic Conference semifinals. Senior Stephen Madison led Idaho with 25 points, followed by junior point guard MIKE SCOTT (14). Saturday's WAC championship tips off at 7 p.m. on ESPNU.

The following is an official press release from the University of Idaho Athletic Media Relations Department.

LAS VEGAS – For the first time since 1993, the Idaho men's basketball team will be playing for a conference tournament championship. The fifth-seeded Vandals upset No. 1 seed Utah Valley 74-69 in the Western Athletic Conference semifinals to reach Saturday's WAC championship game, which will tip off at 7 p.m. on ESPNU.

The Vandals trailed for only 46 seconds of the 40 minutes and led by as many as 10 points midway through the second half. But Utah Valley went on an 8-0 run that took only 80 seconds to get right back into the game. Idaho responded, however, with a 3-pointer from senior Glen Dean to pull back ahead by five.

The Wolverines continued to cut into the deficit, cutting it to a one-point game on three occasions until Idaho got a 3-pointer from Connor Hill, a defensive stop and a transition layup from Sekou Wiggs to widen the margin to six, 70-64. Utah Valley cut that in half with a 3-pointer then got a steal on the other end, but Holton Hunsaker missed the would-be game-tying 3-pointer, and Stephen Madison secured the win for Idaho with a pair of free throws on the other end.

"They're a really good offensive team and our guys did a great job getting the stops when we needed to and getting the rebounds when we needed to," Idaho coach Don Verlin said.

Idaho, which got to 16-17 on the season with its win Friday, is certainly peaking at the right time. The Vandals have won four straight games heading into Saturday's championship, and are 6-1 in their last seven.

"What a great win for our program tonight," Verlin said. "I couldn't be happier for all the guys in the locker room and all the veterans who have waited so long for this. It's a little bitter-sweet because we're leaving the WAC but I couldn't be more proud of what we've been able to accomplish the last six weeks of the season."


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