With under four minutes to play, Idaho State lead by seven, but as the clock trickled to under two minutes, the Bengals suddenly found themselves down by one.
With three-and-a-half to play, CSUN’s Michael Warren drained a three-pointer with a defender in his face and following an ISU (2-5) traveling violation, Terrell Gomez knocked down the team’s second consecutive trey while being fouled, forcing an ISU timeout. The foul was against Geno Luzcando, his fifth and the Matadors had a chance to tie the game at the line.
After the missed free-throw, Bill Evans drew up a play for his seven-foot post man Novak Topalovic, whose turnaround floater gave the Bengals a one-point lead. After a missed CSUN (1-7) shot on the other end, the Bengals called another timeout to draw up the game’s final blow.
“I think it’s good that we won a game that was close where there was pressure to execute down the stretch,” Evans said. “It’s just good to win, it’s good for our team to know that they can win.”
With Luzcando on the bench, Brandon Boyd was given the green light. The sophomore, who came off the bench to score 15 points, blew past his defender, fought through contact and banked in the and-one basket that sealed the game.
“I’m always ready to go, doesn’t matter if I’m starting or coming off the bench,” Boyd said. “Same thing with Kyle, he came in for Novak when he [got in foul trouble.]”
CSUN outrebounded the Bengals 35-29, the Matadors made 50 percent of their shots, compared to ISU’s 42 percent and lead for almost the entire first half after ISU shot 29 percent from the field during the first 20 minutes.
Evans’ halftime message to his team was simple; keep shooting.
“When in doubt shoot and always stay in doubt,” he said.
The players listened and the team shot 56 percent from the field in the second half.
“I’ll tell ya bud, if you and I knew the reason for that, we would put it in a bottle, a pill, and we would sell it and we would be on a beach somewhere,” Evans said on the contrasted shooting numbers. “I don’t know, nobody knows why that happens.”
Balint Mocsan had a career-high 23 points on the night, most of which came in the second half as the Hungarian native knocked down six of his nine three-point attempts.
Idaho State regained the lead midway through the second half when it went on a 12-2 run in a game where neither team could pull ahead by more than eight.
“It’s a good step forward,” Mocsan said. “We need to keep it up and I think we are getting more confident.”
After turning the ball over 20 times last Friday against Bethesda, ISU only gave the ball away eight times on Wednesday night, while 17 turnovers by CSUN tuned into 19 ISU points.
“We knew that they were a little reckless with the ball sometimes, so we had a lot of pressure in our man and in our zone,” Boyd said. “That was part of the key, we wanted to get a lot of pressure in our man and our zone.”
Evans said his team could get better defensively, which starts with defending the dribble, something he says is the hardest thing to defend in all of basketball.
“You have to stay the course,” Evans said. “If you can defend and rebound, you can get through a few tough stretches. The first half was a tough stretch and we defended decently.”
The win was ISU’s second of the year, but the first over a Division I opponent, something the team hasn’t done since February when it beat Southern Utah at Reed Gym.