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Steve Schaack, ISU Sports Information
POCATELLO, Idaho- No matter the situation, the Idaho State men's basketball team told themselves before the start of the game that they were going to work hard and keep believing. That mentality paid off for the Bengals on Thursday night as Tomas Sanchez hit a 3-pointer with 14 seconds left and Ayibakuro Preh hit two free throws with two seconds remaining to lift Idaho State to a 73-70 win over second-place Northern Colorado, in front of a crowd of 1,498 at ICCU Court in Holt Arena.
"That was the main focus for us to keep believing and we did," Idaho State senior Andre Hatchett said. "We are playing great basketball at home. We have to give a shout out to our fans."
With the game tied at 68, the Bears Tate Unruh hit a jumper with 38 seconds remaining to give his team a 70-68 lead. On the ensuing possession, the original plan was to look for a shot in the post but instead Sanchez found himself with a 3-pointer he knew he was going to take before he even shot it.
"I knew if I got an opening I was going to shoot it," Sanchez said. "Right when I saw Jeff was guarded I was thinking a three. I like taking big shots and my teammates have confidence in me. The way I was shooting I felt comfortable."
After the Sanchez 3-pointer, Northern Colorado missed a jumper and then Preh hit his two free throws to seal the ISU win and up its record to 5-6 in Big Sky Conference play and drop the Bears to 7-4 in league.
"I feel great," Idaho State coach Bill Evans said. "We beat a good team. It was a hard game and a tough game. Our guys were able to be on the other side so I am proud of them."
Sanchez led ISU in scoring with 23 points and he was four-of-six from the 3-point line on eight-of-19 shooting. He had five rebounds and two steals in 39 minutes of play.
Hatchett had 19 points and was 8-of-13 from the field to go along with six rebounds, three assists, one block and one steal in 36 minutes.
"I just wanted to win," Hatchett said. "I was going to do whatever it took. It was a team win tonight. I wanted to come out from the beginning and attack the basket. I am just speechless right now. That was a good team we beat."
Idaho State shot 46.3 percent from the field and Northern Colorado finished the game shooting 51 percent. ISU out rebounded the Bears 33-29.
"Two keys today was rebounding and rebounding," Hatchett said. "We wanted to keep them off the glass. Coach told us that 40 percent of every miss they get it back. That is a lot. We wanted to match their intensity."
ISU had 11 steals, led by five from Chris Hansen, and forced Northern Colorado into 13 turnovers. Hansen added 12 points and four assists to his stat line.
There were 11 ties and 11 lead changes in the contest and neither team led by more than seven points. Idaho State's biggest lead was 15-8 early in the first half and Northern Colorado's biggest lead was four with five minutes left until halftime.
Idaho State hosts North Dakota on Saturday at 7 p.m. at ICCU Court in Holt Arena.