The Easterner

EWU men’s basketball splits yet another Big Sky road pair

Eagles sit at 7-4 in Big Sky with tilt against Idaho looming this weekend in Moscow.

Sir+Washington+drives+past+a+defender+against+North+Dakota+on+Jan.+25.+Washington+is+averaging+9.1+points+in+11+conference+games+this+season.+%7C+Bailey+Monteith+for+The+Easterner
Sir Washington drives past a defender against North Dakota on Jan. 25. Washington is averaging 9.1 points in 11 conference games this season. | Bailey Monteith for The Easterner

Sir Washington drives past a defender against North Dakota on Jan. 25. Washington is averaging 9.1 points in 11 conference games this season. | Bailey Monteith for The Easterner

Sir Washington drives past a defender against North Dakota on Jan. 25. Washington is averaging 9.1 points in 11 conference games this season. | Bailey Monteith for The Easterner

By Michael Brock, Sports Editor

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Try as they might to buck the trend, the EWU men’s basketball team continues to chase the elusive Big Sky Conference “road sweep.” The Eagles failed to go 2-0 on a road weekend last season. Through three series’ this year, they are 3-3 in conference games away from Reese Court.

The latest split for EWU: A 74-54 victory over Sacramento State and a 94-81 loss to Portland State.

In the victory over Sac State on Feb. 1, the Eagles led throughout after opening the game on a 20-4 run. Senior forward, Bogdan Bliznyuk, fresh off becoming the program’s all-time leading scorer the previous weekend, poured in 12 points in the spurt, and had 24 points by halftime.

At the intermission, EWU led 40-24. Though the Hornets were able to cut it to seven in the second half, the Eagles’ hot start was enough to hold them off.

For the game, EWU shot 57.1 percent from the field and 47.6 percent from three. Sac State connected on 41.1 percent of their total attempts and shot 2-for-15 (13.3 percent) from downtown. The Hornets’ 54 points were the lowest the Eagles have given up all season.

Bliznyuk ended up with 40 points (on 15-for-18 shooting), seven rebounds and five assists. Redshirt freshman Jacob Davison had 12 points. No one else had over eight, however Bliznyuk, who was held to a season-low two points against Sac State on Jan. 6, was too much for the Hornets to overcome.

“They played two completely different game plans against him,” head coach Shantay Legans said following the win. ”At our place they double and triple teamed Bogdan, and today they played him man-to-man the whole game. He’s one of the best players to ever play in the conference, and if they are going to play him man-to-man I’m going to let him shoot a thousand shots. I don’t mind it at all, and his teammates don’t mind it all because he also passes the ball.”

The script flipped for EWU against Portland State on Feb. 3, as the team trailed from the opening tip. PSU got out to leads of 10-3 and 25-11, riding some hot shooting early on. The Eagles were able to claw back, cutting the halftime deficit to 39-32.

At the intermission, senior guard Sir Washington had 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting and three rebounds. Meanwhile, PSU freshman guard Holland Woods had 13 points (6-for-6) and five assists.

The second half was largely back-and-forth, but the Eagles were unable to get any closer than eight points.

“I haven’t said it too many times this season that our energy wasn’t where it needed to be,” said Legans. ”We didn’t play the way we should have been playing. It’s tough. We just didn’t execute what we wanted to do.”

Both teams had five players in double figures, but Woods’ 29 points (10-for–10 shooting) were the difference. The Eagles were led by junior guard Cody Benzel (21 points), Bliznyuk (13 points) and Washington (12 points) in the loss.

EWU (7-4 Big Sky) is currently fourth in the conference standings, with a solo away game against third place Idaho set for this Friday, Feb. 9.

From there, the Eagles will host a pair at Reese Court against first place Montana and seventh place Montana State.

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EWU men’s basketball splits yet another Big Sky road pair