The Easterner

EWU men’s basketball drops conference opener to Northern Colorado

Senior guard Sir Washington surveys the defense against Walla Walla on Nov. 10. Washington had nine points and five rebounds in the team's loss to Northern Colorado. | Photo courtesy of EWU Athletics.

Senior guard Sir Washington surveys the defense against Walla Walla on Nov. 10. Washington had nine points and five rebounds in the team's loss to Northern Colorado. | Photo courtesy of EWU Athletics.

By Michael Brock, Sports Editor

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On Dec. 29, the EWU men’s basketball team dropped its Big Sky Conference opener 88-75 to the University of Northern Colorado.

The Eagles fell behind 13-4 early on, as they opened the game 2-for-12 from the field. However they would bounce back. With under three minutes remaining in the first half, junior guards Ty Gibson and Cody Benzel hit back-to-back triples to aid in cutting the halftime deficit to 37-30.

Senior forward Bogdan Bliznyuk and Benzel each had six points at the break, while Northern Colorado had five players with at least that many.

UNC kept up the balanced offensive attack in the second frame, as they connected on 55.2 percent of their field goals for the contest. The Bears opened up a 15 point advantage midway through the second half, although the Eagles wouldn’t go away as both teams continued to trade baskets.

Junior forward Jesse Hunt’s three-pointer with 6:39 to go cut the Bears lead to seven, but a subsequent 8-2 run put the game away for good.

The Eagles were led by Bliznyuk (23 points, seven rebounds and eight assists) and Hunt (16 points, eight rebounds and four blocks). All nine players who got in the game scored, but only Bliznyuk and Hunt scored in double figures. The pair combined to shoot 15-for-28 (53.6 percent), while the rest of the team connected on just 14-for-36 of their attempts (38.9 percent).

Still, head coach Shantay Legans was pleased with his team’s offense, but wanted to see more on the other side of the ball.

“When you score 75 points in a game, that was good enough to win,” said Legans. “We just had to play better defense and we didn’t do that tonight […] We gave up layups and open threes—especially timely threes—and that hurt.”

Six Bears scored in double figures, including senior guard Andre Spight (21 points, 10 rebounds and four assists), junior guard Jordan Davis (17 points) and senior big man Tanner Morgan (13 points and nine rebounds).

Both teams shot well from distance as well as the free throw line, however UNC got to the stripe 23 times compared to just 11 for the Eagles. The Bears also scored 46 points in the paint to EWU’s 36.

The Eagles (5-9) will next travel to Grand Forks to take on the University of North Dakota on Dec. 31 at 2:05 p.m.

UND is the reigning Big Sky regular season and tournament champions. They have began the season with a record of 4-8, including a 74-57 loss to the University of Idaho on Dec. 29.

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EWU men’s basketball drops conference opener to Northern Colorado