CALDWELL — After one of the toughest, if not the toughest, stretch of games in program history, the College of Idaho men’s basketball team is back to its winning ways.
After taking their lumps against NCAA Division I opponents early in the year, the Yotes picked up their fourth win in five games on Friday, beating the visiting Simpson Red Hawks 79-66 in their first game in 15 days.
“It feels really good because I think those D-I games were a big help to us, with how good we can be,” said junior Jalen Galloway, who scored 26 points, the most he’s had since a 32-point performance against Northwest Indian College as a freshman. “Now we get here, and it feels like everything is just so fluid and smooth when we play together. It showed tonight, everything we’ve been working on the last couple of months kind of seemed to start falling in place.”
Galloway added 10 rebounds while Jake O’Neil also had a double-double picking up 10 points and 10 rebounds. Ricardo Time also put in 13 points for the Yotes (5-6), who had nine different players score.
The Yotes were back on the court for the first time since picking up a 92-91 double overtime victory at Whitworth on Jan. 7. The College of Idaho was off last weekend after its scheduled game against Cascade Conference rival Lewis-Clark State was cancelled due to COVID-19 protocols related to the Warriors.
“This was a huge team victory for multiple reasons,” College of Idaho coach Colby Blaine said. “We’re coming off a two-week layoff because our game got canceled last week. The mental grind to go through a canceled game, having to practice and getting yourself ready to go was difficult. It is hard on every team. All we’ve been preaching is being the toughest team, being together and you really saw that tonight. You really saw Yotes basketball tonight.”
The game against the Warriors was the 10th game the Yotes either had to postpone or cancel this season as a result of the pandemic. To get in games before the New Year, the Yotes scheduled five consecutive road games against NCAA Division I opponents.
They lost all five.
“It’s bitter for a little bit, but I feel we all move on that night,” Galloway said about those losses. “The guys on the team are in the gym every day and we’re constantly talking about and how we grow from it. So, I would say we hold on to them and try to progress from those losses.”
In Friday’s game, the Yotes were back to the form that they’ve shown while winning the last three Cascade Conference titles. The 13-point margin of victory was the College of Idaho’s highest of the season. All four of their previous wins had been by single digits, with two of them coming in overtime.
The margin on Friday wasn’t even as close as the 13-point final score might indicate.
The teams went back and forth for much of the first half. Time hit a 3-pointer to give the Yotes a 28-23 lead with 6:27 left in the half, the biggest lead for either team up to that point. It was part of a 15-2 run for the Yotes that was capped by a 3-pointer by Galloway to extend the College of Idaho’s lead to 36-25.
Galloway hit three 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes and went to the locker room at halftime with 16 points as the Yotes led 41-36.
“I think that run gave us a lot of confidence to start the second half,” said Galloway. “Just shooting wise it seemed like everything was firing on all cylinders like we wanted it to in our pregame plan. It just seemed to all fall into place.”
The Yotes continued to build on that lead in the second half, opening with a 15-4 run. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Time extended the lead to 56-40. The Yotes got the lead as high as 74-47 after a basket and free throw by Jake O’Neil with 7:35 left.
Simpson cut the lead to 74-60 with just under three minutes left with a 13-0 run, but Elijah Jackson ended the Red Hawks’ run with a layup out of a timeout. A Nathan Burman 3-pointer extended the lead to 79-60.
Like many basketball teams across the country, several Yotes took a knee during the national anthem in protest of racial injustices. Joining them at the far end of the bench was Blaine.
Blaine is the first known head coach in the Treasure Valley to take a knee with his players, something he says he decided to do this season after conversations during team meetings over the course of several weeks.
“We have guys choosing to do different things during the national anthem,” Blaine said. “But what we all agree on is we’re here to support each other and we’re here to support what’s right. What we all know is our why of what we’re doing. One of my whys is I always want to be there to support our players. That’s why I’m choosing to kneel with our players as well, because I believe in them and I want to participate and have their backs.”
The Yotes are back on the court this afternoon with another game against Simpson.
YOTE WOMEN PICK UP SECOND WIN OF THE SEASON
Allie Cannon had a career-high 17 points as the College of Idaho women’s basketball team beat Simpson 64-45 to snap a four-game losing streak.
The Yotes (2-7) took an 18-6 lead in the first quarter and were able to build that to 34-16 by halftime and never looked back on their way to the second win of the season and first since beating William Jessup 58-56 on Dec. 12.
Kiersten Rasmussen had 14 points for the College of Idaho, while Kaylee Krusemark finished with 13. Rasmussen and Jada Reed shared the team lead for rebounds with nine each.