Eagles fall at home in battle of Big Sky favorites

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

CHENEY, Wash. — The Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team fell behind by as many as 18 in the first half and 29 in the second half and fell to Montana 90-63 Thursday (Jan. 9) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.

The game was the anticipated match-up of the two Big Sky Conference favorites and the participants in the last two league tournament championship games. A crowd of 1,837 watched as the Grizzlies sank 54 percent of their shots compared to 38 percent for the Eagles, who lost for the first time in seven home games.

“It was a great environment and college basketball atmosphere,” said Eastern head coach Shantay Legans. “We just didn’t handle our own business. We’ll get there. We just laid an egg, didn’t play well and didn’t step up to the challenge. Next time out there I’ll do a better job and our team will be prepared.”

Eastern entered the game ranked second in NCAA Division I in scoring – up one position from earlier in the week — averaging 85.9 per game. The point total for the Eagles versus the Griz was their second-fewest this season, ranking only behind the 60 they scored at Saint Louis on Nov. 13.

Junior Jacob Davison led the Eagles with 15 points, and senior Mason Peatling had 12 with nine rebounds and three assists. Sophomore Kim Aiken Jr. was held to a season-low eight points and had only six boards after entering the game averaging a double-double. Eastern was out-rebounded 37-29 by UM.

Eastern made seven of its first 13 shots and was down by just two, but the Eagles sank just 3-of-14 after that to fall behind at halftime 46-28. Montana, on the other hand, missed eight of its first 11 shots, but then hit 15-of-22 the rest of the half.

The Eagles, who had its second-lowest point total in a half this season, also had eight turnovers, was out-rebounded 19-15 and was out-shot 55 percent to 37 percent in the first 20 minutes.

Eastern looked better early in the second half, and a 3-pointer by Aiken cut the Montana lead to 13 at 50-37 four minutes in. But the Grizzlies responded with a 13-3 run over the next five minutes to open a 63-40 lead. The Grizzlies led by no less than 17 and by as many as 29 the rest of the way.

Six-foot-4 Montana freshman Derrick Carter-Hollinger entered the game averaging just 6.1 points, 4.4 rebounds and 0.5 blocked shots per game, but responded with 20 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks. Sayeed Pridgett had 18 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.