BOISE, Idaho — Despite their best efforts, two of the best scorers in the Big Sky Conference saw their seasons, and in turn, their careers come to an end in the first round of the Big Sky Tournament here on Tuesday afternoon.
Weber State endured what 14th-year head coach Randy Rahe called the most trying season of his tenure, battling injuries up and down their roster from start to finish. Electric scoring guard Jerrick Harding was the most hurt of the bunch, but you’d never know it given his 35-point effort in WSU’s opening round 62-54 loss to Sacramento State.
Trevon Allen is the last man standing from an Idaho program that won 22 games two years ago only to start rebuilding last year before Don Verlin was abruptly fired. Under first-year head coach Zac Claus, the Vandals again struggled to find the win column but Allen did his best to keep Idaho alive all season.
Wednesday was no different as Allen scored from every angle and every spot on the floor. He missed his career-high by one point, finishing with 35 points but Idaho fell to Southern Utah 75-69.
Following the final games of their careers, Allen and Harding both received the praise of opponents and coaches. Harding ends his career nine points shy of Jordan Davis for second place on the Big Sky’s career scoring list with 2,268 points.
“I’m sure this year has been bittersweet for him because he’s been hurt all year but he had a great career,” Sac head coach Brian Katz said. “Harding is very interesting because as a freshman, he was pretty good, not bad. As a sophomore, oh, wow. I didn’t know he was going to be that good. He is so unorthodox, he is slithery and he is hard to keep out of the paint.”
Allen scored 30 points in each of his last three games as a Vandal to finish with 1,395 in his career.
“Stopping Allen, that’s tough and he hit so many tough shots,” SUU guard John Knight III said. “There are certain shots you have control of but when he’s hot, you have to wait to slow him down. He is tough to guard.”
Sac State made Harding work for every bucket even though he went over 30 points for the fourth time this season. Despite battling injuries stemming from a broken foot to a sprained ankle to shin splints to an ailing back, Harding still averaged 22.2 points per game this season.
His 642 points this season are just outside the Top 25 in the history of the league. He finishes his Weber State career with more points than any Wildcat before him, breaking records set by Bruce Collins, threatened by Damian Lillard, surpassed by Jeremy Senglin and now belonging to Harding.
“Our motto has really just been on to the next and we really just try to get better every single day,” Harding said. “I’m super proud of the guys this year. We came to play every night. It’s tough to lose the way we did today.”
“It went by fast, that’s all I know.
Harding finished 10-of-21 from the floor, using his slithering moves, exceptional speed and uncanny ability to finish at the rim to keep the otherwise hapless Wildcats in the game. But Harding missed seven of his eight tries from beyond the arc.
“We tried to make it hard on him every shot,” Sac State forward Osi Nwachukwu said. “He’s a great scorer so we know we aren’t going to hold him scoreless. We just had to make sure every point he gets is going to be the hardest guy to stop.”
Still, Harding’s ability to score in such an unorthodox fashion at such a prolific level will not be soon forgotten.
“He’s incredible,” said Rahe, who’s team suffered a losing season for just the second time in his tenure. “There are not enough words to describe what he has done. I was just telling him on the elevator, I haven’t coached a guy at Weber State that has had to deal with more injuries for a whole year than him. He had no break all year long.
“He had no chance to ever get in shape or get his body going. He is a tough, tough ass. He wanted to help the team and he kept fighting. For him to go out and do what he did all season, I would’ve liked to see what he would’ve done had he been healthy. It would’ve been damn scary.”
Allen came to Idaho as a second-generation Vandal who’s father played football for the Vandals. He grew up on the Lapwai Reservation in Idaho but played high school hoops in nearby Clarkston, Washington.
His first two years at UI, he was on a squad that won 41 games, including 22 in Allen’s sophomore year.
Last year on a team with eight freshmen on its roster, Allen assumed the role as leading scorer for a team that went 5-27, one of the worst records in program history. He averaged 14 points per game despite being one of the focal points of opponents’ scouting reports.
As a senior, Allen blossomed into the most unstoppable individual shot maker in the league. Harding is certainly the hardest player to guard off the dribble but the smooth, calm Allen uses flawless fundamentals and a steady mentality to set defenders up and then score at will from any spot on the floor.
He is among the best 3-point shooters in the league, arguably the best jump shooter from mid-range in the Big Sky and an 81 percent free throw shooter.
“We had a mass exodus in the spring,” Claus said, referring to when Verlin was fired. “Trevon and his teammates stuck in there and kept fighting.
“Trevon is a special one and it has nothing to do with scoring 35 points today. He comes from amazing parents. He has an immense amount of pride in the University of Idaho and what it is to be a Vandal. He is one of my favorite people I have ever been around and the fact that I have gotten a chance to coach him for four years has been an absolute treat.”
Allen finishes his senior season with five 30-point games. He scored 647 points this season, nearly doubling his career total and giving him 1,395 in his Idaho career. More importantly, he will earn his degree and carry on his family lineage and proud Vandals.
“I came out, try to play as hard as I could and it’s a credit to my teammates, my guys trying to find ways to get me the ball, setting good screens, operating on the offensive end,” Allen said. “I’m sad it’s the last one but I know we left it all out on the floor.
“As the buzzer went off, I tried to soak in the end for sure. I played in the state of Idaho, coming form Idaho, going to the University of Idaho, finishing in Idaho, I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Photos by Brooks Nuanez. All Rights Reserved.