A crunch time surge allowed the Vandals to steal a 72-68 road win in northern Nevada.
Nevada (19-4, 8-1 WAC) was looking for a 17th consecutive win, which would have been a new program record, but that was apparently not meant to be. Maybe it should not come as a surprise that Idaho was the team to stop the streak. It's the third win at Lawlor Events Center in fourth-year UI coach Don Verlin's four trips to the Truckee Meadows.
"Just the feeling of losing is terrible and unacceptable," Nevada's Olek Czyz said. "Just by having this feeling and going forward into more WAC games and the WAC tournament, we don't want to lose. We don't want to have this feeling ever again."
Nevada took a 45-39 lead after Deonte Burton drained two free throws a little over four minutes into the second half. Unfortunately for the hosts, that's when Idaho (12-11, 5-4) stole the momentum.
The Vandals reeled off a 14-2 run, capped by a corner 3-pointer from Connor Hill. The key outburst left the Wolf Pack staring at a 53-47 deficit — Idaho's biggest lead of the night.
Nevada fought back to tie the game at 60-60 when Burton was fouled on a three-point try and made two of the ensuing three foul shots at the 3:01 mark of the second half.
Idaho scored the next four points and never let Nevada regain the lead.
Still, the visiting Vandals had some work to do to finish off the victory. A Burton steal and break-away layup got Nevada within one, 64-63, with 1:13 left. However, Idaho's Kyle Barone converted on a three-point play on the next sequence, making it a two-possession game. After getting a defensive stop on the other end, Idaho pushed its lead to six, 69-63, when Barone was fouled and made two more free throws, essentially icing the win.
"The bottom line is we played our best game of the year," Verlin said. "We played well. We executed our game plan. You look good when the shots go in. I couldn't be happier after the tough loss at Fresno the other night. That's probably the game people expected us to win on this road trip, but that's why you play the games."
Nevada hurt its cause by connecting on only 14 of 25 attempts from the charity stripe.
The Wolf Pack won most categories on the stat sheet. It out-rebounded the Vandals 38-26, had more points in the paint, 32-22, and had more points off turnovers, second-chance points and fast-break points.
In the end, Nevada could not overcome its poor performance at the free-throw line and a hot shooting night by Idaho. The Vandals knocked down 24 of 46 shots (52.2) from the field compared to a 24-of-56 (42.9 percent) effort from the Wolf Pack.
Additionally, Idaho shot a solid 45 percent (10-22) from beyond the 3-point arc, while Nevada was a less than stellar 25 percent (6-24).
"They were executing, but our defense wasn't intact and on point," Burton said. "They threw the ball in the post when they wanted to. Guys came off screens and had wide-open looks. We just weren't together on defense tonight. We didn't have energy. I'm not sure why. We just didn't have the energy today.
"We weren't extending the defense enough. We're a better defensive team than we showed tonight. When they had the opportunity to knock down the shots, they did and that's what killed us."
Solid offensive production saw Idaho get four players into double figures in the scoring column. Stephen Madison finished with 18 on 7-of-10 from the field and 4-of-5 from 3-point range. Barone and Deremy Geiger each chipped in 16 while Hill added 11.
Madison, Geiger and Hill all had at least a trio of treys in the Vandals' win.
Three Nevada players finished in double digits. Burton threw in 18 points, while Jerry Evans and Olek Czyz finished with 14 and 12 respectively.
Nevada's second-leading scorer on the year, Malik Story, came into the contest averaging 14.7 points a game but was held to eight Saturday on just 2-of-8 shooting. He did not take a shot from inside the three-point line.
"We tried to make their auxiliary players beat us," Verlin said. "We were able to bottle up the rest of their guys. We wanted somebody other than Burton and Story to beat us.
"The guy I thought we did a great job on was Story. We made one bad play on him. After that, we had a hand in his face all night long."
Nevada controlled the first half but never by much. A Czyz driving layup gave the Wolf Pack a 17-11 lead with 12:30 to go in the first half, but Idaho knotted the score at 19-19 on a Hill trey two minutes later.
Evans capped an 8-2 Nevada run that saw the Pack push ahead 27-21 with 7:38 left before halftime, but again Idaho came right back. This time it was with seven unanswered points finished off by a pair of Landon Tatum foul shots at the 4:23 mark of the first half. The spurt gave Idaho its first lead of the night, 28-27.
The UI lead was short-lived as Nevada responded with eight straight points of its own. Idaho got a Geiger 3-pointer with 35 seconds left before the break and the two schools went into their locker rooms at the break with Nevada clinging to a 35-31 advantage.
"Now you don't have to worry about them patting themselves on the back," Nevada coach David Carter said. "I told them, I think they got caught up in people telling them how well they're doing. You have a streak and so forth. You're humbled and you have to go back to work. We have a tough road trip ahead."
The Wolf Pack will try and get right back on the winning track when it plays again Thursday at Hawaii. Tip-off is set for 9 p.m. PDT.