Sammie Freeman scored 17 points Wednesday night to lead Idaho to a 60-54 victory over Weber State in the opening game of the Big Sky Conference postseason tournament.
The contest wasn't decided until the final two minutes.Idaho shot only 38 percent in its victory over Weber State, but managed to win on the strength of a pair of scoring runs from the free-throw line.
"When the game was on the line, our players did a good job of doing what we needed to do to win the game," Idaho coach Larry Eustachy said. "We've shot a lot worse (than this) and won.
"This game didn't surprise us. We anticipated a very competitive team, a very competitive game."
Freeman's 17 points was tops for the Vandals, who maintained a slim lead for most of the game but couldn't shake the pesky Wildcats (12-16).
Weber State trailed by seven points midway through the final half and then rallied to get within 55-54 at 1:53 remaining. The Wildcats never scored again.
"All season . . . we make a gallant run, then don't get the ball down on the big plays," Weber State coach Denny Huston said. "That has been our demise."
Weber State was led by Aaron Bell's game-high 19 points and nine rebounds. Idaho, 18-10, also got 12 points from Otis Mixon and 10 from Clifford Martin to advance to the tournament semifinals against Nevada, 17-13.
The Vandals, winners of the last two Big Sky tournaments, led 26-23 at halftime. Weber State grabbed the lead, 35-33, on a basket by Aaron Bell with 14:48 to play.
Idaho then scored 9 straight points, including seven of eight free throws, to take a 42-35 lead.
WSU, 12-16, pulled to within 55-54 on a Bell jumper with 1:53 to play.
From there, the Vandals made five straight free throws down the stretch to complete the scoring.
Bell led Weber State with a game-high 19 points and nine rebounds. David Baldwin and Al Hamilton had 12 and 10 points respectively for the Wildcats.