GALLERY: Idaho Sweeps Boise State

The Vandals battled back from a 15-2 deficit Wednesday night to defeat rival Boise State 56-54 in front of a raucous crowd of 10,246 in Boise. It was Idaho's first victory at BSU since 1999, and it was the first time the Vandals have swept in-state rival BSU since the same date. The Vandals improved to 12-13 overall (6-6 WAC) and handed the Broncos their first home conference loss this season.

In a game the Vandals never led until the final three minutes, Idaho (12-13, 6-6 WAC) overcame an early 15-2 deficit to battle back for the victory over in-state rival Boise State (17-8, 6-5 WAC) and earned a season sweep over the Broncos for the first time since 1999.

The first 2:20 produced high anxiety for Vandal fans when the game looked like it might be a Bronco blowout. Boise State was leading 15-2 in front of a raucous BSU crowd, and the Vandals were on their way to a frustrating field goal shooting percentage of 37.5% in the first half. The Bronco defense was physical, but Idaho outscored BSU in the paint 20-16 and 9-7 off of turnovers. Boise State led the entire first half, but Idaho started chipping away at the lead with 7:11 left in the first half with a Marvin Jefferson dunk - the first dunk of the game.

The second half saw the Vandals emerge playing solid defense and setting a slower, more patient pace. With 18:48 to go, Boise State took a 10 point lead, but the Vandals answered with a jumper from Mac Hopson, a Jefferson block, Jefferson rebound, and then a jumper from Terrence Simmons to cut the BSU lead to six points.

The Vandals continued to pound away at the deficit when Mac Hopson hit another jumper with 15:17 left in the contest. The teams battled, and then junior guard Kashif Watson tied the game for the first time with 3:11 remaining, and then sunk another free throw to give the Vandals their first lead of the game. Boise State took the lead for the last time at the 2:55 mark with a three-pointer by Mark Sanchez. Then Idaho junior center Marvin Jefferson earned a trip to the free throw line, and at the 2:34 mark with ice flowing through his veins sunk two free throws to tie the game at 52 each.

As if this game needed any more drama.

Enter Mac Hopson. With 47 seconds left, Idaho's burgeoning star point guard sunk two more free throws to give Idaho the 54-52 lead. Hopson then acknowledged the Vandal faithful with a "No. 1" sign directed to Section 32 in Taco Bell Arena.

Boise State knotted the game again as Anthony Thomas was fouled and sunk two clutch free throws to tie the game at 54. This game was going to go down to the wire, and everyone in the arena was on edge - the Idaho/BSU rivalry was officially revived.

For a team that was just assembled a few months ago, and operating under the leadership of first-year head coach Don Verlin, this Vandal team showed no signs of buckling.

With 13 seconds left Idaho setup a play under the BSU hoop. Forward Brandon Wiley took a shot that was partially blocked, but Jefferson was there for the rebound and score. The shot (which caused coach Don Verlin to say, "that was the ball game right there,") put the Vandals ahead 56-54 with just 4 ticks left on the clock.

The Broncos brought the ball down court and set up a very good look at a three-pointer, but the ball bounced high above the rim as time expired.

The Vandal faithful erupted in a chorus of loud cheers when the final buzzer sounded and the Vandal fans could praise Idaho's first hoops win in Boise in over 10 years.

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