The last time Idaho held a home basketball doubleheader turned out to be one of the more memorable days of the 2018-19 season.
It also was the last time the Vandals and Eastern Washington Eagles clashed at Cowan Spectrum.
Led by Trevon Allen on the men’s side and Splash Sister Taylor Pierce for the women, the Vandals hit a combined 20 shots from 3-point range Jan. 3, 2019, to beat the Eagles in a pair regional-rivalrygames.
For the women, Pierce — one of the most prolific outside shooters in NCAA history — drilled 8-of-15 from beyond the arc en route to 30 points and a 84-68 Vandal win.
For the men, Allen went 3-of-4 from 3 and tallied 25 points to boost UI to a 74-71 victory. The Vandal men shot 10-of-19 from long range as a team.
UI will try to replicate its memorable 2019 showings when the Vandals and Eagles meet again today. The women tip off at 5:30 p.m. and the men at 7:30 p.m. (Both games on Pluto TV).
“It’s great because we have such an unbelievable respect for (women’s) coach (Jon) Newlee and his staff,” said Idaho men’s coach Zac Claus on his weekly radio show. “We’re fortunate to have offices literally right next to each other.
“I have been known many times to interrupt and go join a women’s staff meeting. ... They’ve had amazing success and Jon has been an unbelievable confidant — someone I can go to and reach out to on a good day, bad day.”
Claus, who played two seasons at Eastern Washington from 1996-98, faces a tall task going against his former team.
The Eagles (9-6, 2-2 Big Sky) are second in the nation in scoring offense at 84.4 points per game. Three EWU players average 15 or more points, including senior forward Mason Peatling (15.1), sophomore wing Kim Aiken (16.1) and junior guard Jacob Davison (17.4).
“I’m pretty confident they’re the best passing team we’ve played all year,” Claus said. “And it doesn’t matter who (plays), they throw out five guys who are unselfish ... and do a great job of playing off one another.”
The flip side is EWU is last in scoring defense in the Big Sky at 76.1 points allowed per contest.
And the Vandals feature Allen, whose 19.3 points per game are second in the conference.
Idaho’s biggest hurdle has been getting over the hump in close games. The Vandals (5-10, 1-3) have lost three conference games by a combined six points.
On the women’s side, the Vandals (8-5, 3-1) and Eagles (2-11, 1-3), are headed in opposite directions, particularly on the scoring front.
EWU sits last in scoring offense (54.1 ppg) and will face a UI scoring defense that ranks No. 1 in the Big Sky (59.5 ppg allowed).
The Vandals are fresh off a double-overtime victory Jan. 9 against Montana State, in which UI welcomed back starter Natalie Klinker for her first Big Sky game. The junior post tallied a pair of game-winning free throws for UI against the Bobcats after missing three games with an injury.
A victory would give Newlee his 200th win leading the Vandals.
The 12th-year coach became Idaho’s all-time winningest coach in 2017 when he grabbed his 143rd victory.
Allen needs just one point to hit the century mark. The senior from Lapwai sits at 999 points.
If he gets there, he will be the first Vandal to do so since Victor Sanders, who finished with 1,804 points in his career from 2014-18. He also will become the 17th Vandal to reach the benchmark.
Stephan Wiebe can be reached at email@example.com, by phone at 208-883-4624 and on Twitter at @StephanSports.