If Thursday's (Feb. 9) Big Sky Conference men's basketball game in Grand Forks, N.D., was a television show, it would have been named "Survivor."
Eastern Washington University battled back from a 17-point deficit to take a second-half lead, but North Dakota pulled out a 95-86 victory in a battle for second place in the league standings in a game that featured 52 fouls and 10 players with at least four fouls.
Down by as many as 17 in the first half, Eastern took a 56-55 lead with 15:05 to play. After UND regained control, one more Eagle run helped them pull within four with inside of a minute left before the Fighting Hawks closed out the win six free throws in the final 33 seconds.
Eastern's dynamic duo of senior Jacob Wiley and junior Bogdan Bliznyuk combined for 51 points, with 33 and 18 respectively. Wiley also had 10 rebounds, and junior Sir Washington was the third Eagle in double figures with 14. But first-half pressure by the Fighting Hawks resulted in transition baskets and a big early lead, with Quinton Hooker pacing four UND players in double figures with 35 points.
"I liked our effort but I didn't like our execution," said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford, whose team lost for only the second time in their last seven games. "We got down by 17 and came back to take the lead, but we shouldn't have ever been down by 17 early. We had a defensive game plan in place, but, obviously, teams are saying that Eastern is big and their only chance is to get in a track meet with us. They are coming right at us."
Wiley now has six 30-point performances this season and 12 with at least 21, and he has had at least 27 points in seven of his last nine games. Last week's NCAA Division I Player of the Week has had at least 21 in 10 of EWU's 12 league outings. For the season, he has scored in double figures in all but two of EWU's 25 games and has seven double-doubles.
The Eagles were coming off their epic 130-124 triple-overtime victory over Portland State last Saturday (Feb. 4) at Reese Court in which EWU's Wiley and Bliznyuk both scored a school-record 45 points.
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