GALLERY: Idaho tops Drake in CIT

Idaho hung on and weathered a furious Drake University comeback to beat the Bulldogs 69-67 in the first round of the Tournamanet Wednesday night in Idaho's historic Memorial Gym. With the victory, Idaho now begins preparing for a second round matchup with Pacific in Stockton, Calif. on Monday.

Wednesday's first round Tournament matchup which ended in a 69-67 Idaho victory over Drake University of the Missouri Valley Conference was a special game for the Vandals in a special facility - the storied Memorial Gym, constructed in 1928, on the campus of the University of Idaho. During the first half the crowd spontaneously started up the traditional IDAHO - VANDALS call and response cheer, which added the extra spark to an electric atmosphere.

Vandal fans, with architect Laurence Rose in the center.
The cozy confines of Memorial seats 1,500 fans, and the capacity crowd was into this game from beginning to end. Among those in attendance was architect Laurence Rose, designer of Idaho's new J.A. Albertson College of Business building, as well as Idaho football players Shiloh Keo and Jo Jo Dickson, plus Idaho Head Football Coach Robb Akey and Head Women's Basketball Coach Jon Newlee. There were very few empty seats, and the noise was perfect for a home crowd that did not include students who were out of town on Spring Break. Undoubtedly, the crowd was a factor tonight, as Vandal fans responded to Idaho bench prompting when the team needed some major defensive pressure at the end of the game.

Even typically stoic fans leaned over the rails of the upper balcony to cheer for their hometown team. After the game and in front of the media covering the game, Head Coach Don Verlin was grateful to the University of Idaho administration, to Athletic Director Dr. Spear, to Idaho's donors for making the 2009 CIT single-elimination tournament a reality, and to the fans who made this a special night for his rebuilding program.

Coach Verlin and Drake Head Coach Mark Phelps agreed in separate appearances in the post-game media room that Idaho played a very balanced game, with five Vandal players finishing in double figures. Don Verlin also thought the Vandals played their best game so far this season.

Idaho's next game will be at Pacific on Monday, March 23rd. One of the Tiger's assistants is Don Verlin's twin brother, so the next game will be an interesting match-up in more than the usual team battles.

The action in Wednesday's historic Memorial Gym (constructed in 1928) in a first round CIT matchup between Idaho and Drake (2009).

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