CHENEY, Wash. - Both teams have had hot starts this season, but that didn't compare to the sizzling finish for the Eagles on Sunday (Nov. 27).
Making its last eight shots of the game to complete a comeback from a 15-point deficit, the Eastern Washington University men's basketball team extended its winning streak to four games with a 96-90 victory over San Francisco as part of the Eastern Classic at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash. All four victories have come at home in a seven-day span, including a tournament championship and a pseudo tourney title to boot.
"That was a shootout between two really good offensive teams," said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford after watching both teams hit 55 percent of their shots from the floor. "Our guys were really good offensively down the stretch. We played fearless."
In winning five of their first seven games this season, the Eagles have registered a 5-2 or better start for the sixth time in 34 years in NCAA Division I. The loss was San Francisco's first in five games this season, and kept the Dons from their first 5-0 start since the 1981-82 season.
Eastern used a gritty effort to battle back from a 15-point first-half deficit and took its first lead of the game with 4:09 remaining. The Eagles closed out the game by making its last eight field goal attempts – including six 3-pointers – as well as its last six free throws. Ty Gibson, Cody Benzel, Felix Von Hofe and Sir Washington all hit critical threes down the stretch, and Washington had another key basket as well and a pair of assists and two free throws on his way to a career-high 21 points.
The two teams combined for 31 3-pointers, with Eastern making 13 and the Dons sinking 12 of their 18 in the first 20 minutes. Six different Eagles made treys, and seven players had triples for USF. Junior Bogdan Bliznyuk equaled his career high with 32 points for EWU, and Von Hofe had 21 on 8-of-12 shooting from the field with five 3-pointers.
"At the end of every play, we say somebody has to make a shot," said Hayford. "And we had guys step up at the end of the game. We hit some big threes and ran our offense great."
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