Van Lith's Heroics Lifts College of Idaho
Story by Michael Stafford, College of Idaho Sports Information
LA GRANDE, Ore. - Ben Van Lith (Photo top left - courtesy of Idaho Press Tribune) banked home a contested driving lay-in with two seconds left, giving The College of Idaho an 83-82 victory over No. 1 ranked Eastern Oregon, before a raucous crowd inside Quinn Coliseum.
The win for the Coyotes (14-12, 10-6 CCC) was their first-ever against a top-ranked team and their fifth-straight road victory. The highest-rated team The C of I had previously beaten was No. 2 ranked Siena Heights during the 2000-01 NAIA Division II National Tournament - with the win their third-straight against a Top-25 squad (Southern Oregon, Northwest, Eastern Oregon).
The win also vaulted the Yotes into sole possession of fourth-place in the Cascade Conference standings heading into the final weekend of the regular-season - with a win on Friday night over Concordia clinching a first-round home CCC Tournament game.
Jason Mumm hit two free throws with 1:17 left to give the Mountaineers (26-2, 14-2) an 80-77 lead, but the Yotes battled back - as Taylor Pruett made two free throws, and following a defensive stop, Duncan Koga drove to the basket for two with 22 remaining, giving The C of I an 81-80 lead. Eastern got the ball into the hands of Anthony Brown, with the Mounties leading score knifing to the basket, converting an acrobatic runner with seven seconds left to give the hosts the one-point lead. Cue Van Lith, who took a pass from Koga near mid-court, drove down the left side of the lane, and looped a shot over two defenders, off the window, and through the net for the winning points.
It was a tight game throughout, as the Yotes made 8-of-11 first half three-pointers, including two each from Sydney Donaldson and Zach Peterson in an early 14-5 run that gave The C of I a 19-12 lead. EOU would regain the lead at 26-24 on a Trent Roos jumper, but back-to-back treys from Koga late in the half gave the Yotes a 42-41 lead at the break.
The visitors would use an early 8-0 run in the half to lead 53-46, but back-to-back Zach Anderson three's fueled an 11-0 Eastern runs, as the Mounties regained the lead at 57-53. A Donaldson jumper with four minutes left tied the game at 74-74 - the 11th and final tie.
Donaldson led five Coyotes in double-figures with 20 points and four steals - connecting on all three of his three-point attempts. Pruett had 19 points and six rebounds, with Peterson, Koga, and Van Lith all scoring 10. The Yotes hit 53-percent of their field goal attempts and made 11-of-21 three-pointers in the victory - their first over EOU in Quinn Coliseum since the 2005-06 season.
Brown led EOU with 23 points and 12 rebounds, with Roos and Anderson each scoring 10. The Mounties hit 12-of-27 three-pointers in the loss and held a 41-30 rebound edge, but turned the ball over 17 times.