Eagles bounce back, take down Northern Colorado

Eastern Washington will not play Florida Sept. 5 after the SEC goes conference-only
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Eastern Washington Eastern Washington will not play Florida Sept. 5 after the SEC goes conference-only

GREELEY, Colo. — If their battle wasn’t close enough two days earlier, the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team used another hard-fought effort to beat Northern Colorado 82-76 Saturday (Jan. 23) in Greeley, Colo., for a split in two games versus the Bears.

Eight Eagles scored at least six points, and EWU used a late 7-0 run to break open a close game that featured 20 lead changes and six ties. The Eagles had lost 78-76 on Thursday when the Bears sank two free throws with one second left in the game after EWU had rallied from an 11-point second-half deficit.  That game featured 10 lead changes and eight ties.

Eastern changed up the starting lineup with sophomore Michael Meadows making the first start of his career, and sophomore Jacob Groves getting his second. Although the Eagles had just 27 points at intermission – a low in a first half and third-lowest overall – the Eagles responded with his highest scoring half of the season with 55 after halftime.

“We are relying on players we trust, and they did a great job,” said Eastern head coach Shantay Legans. “I couldn’t be any prouder. We’re trying of find the right recipe and we’ll get there. We have some really, really good groceries.”

Three Eagles scored in double figures, including a double-double by Tanner Groves with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Kim Aiken Jr. had 17 with eight boards, and senior Jacob Davison came off the bench for the first time in three years and scored 11.

Eastern made all 10 of its free throw attempts in the last 52 seconds to preserve the victory. Northern Colorado’s last lead came with 5:56 to play as the Eagles took the lead for good 15 seconds later.

“You have to be happy for these young men,” added Legans. “They did a great job today.”

Eastern, which is scheduled to host Sacramento State on Jan. 28 and 30 in its next home games at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash., are in a logjam in a league season impacted by numerous cancellations caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Through all games this weekend, Montana State sits on top at 6-0, followed by Southern Utah (6-2), Sacramento State (4-2), Idaho State (5-3), Eastern (3-2) and Weber State (2-2). Northern Colorado is also at .500 with a 5-5 record, followed by Montana (3-5), Portland State (2-4), Northern Arizona (3-6) and Idaho (0-8).