Eagles Hand Montana First Loss Of Big Sky Season
CHENEY, Wash. — What was a two-man show in the first half, turned into a total team effort in the second half for the Eagles.
Becoming the first Big Sky Conference team to knock off the unbeaten league leaders, the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team made a three-point halftime lead hold up in the second half en route to an impressive 74-65 win over previously unbeaten Montana Thursday (Feb. 15) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.
Led by the 27 combined points by Bogdan Bliznyuk and Benas Griciunas in the first half, eight different Eagles scored in the second half. Redshirt freshman Jacob Davison scored all 12 of his points after halftime as EWU didn’t trail for the last 35 minutes, and led for the final 25:42.
“Our guys stepped up – it was a full team effort,” said Eastern head coach Shantay Legans , whose team improved to 8-1 at home with the victory. “They played with passion and energy today, and it was fun watching them play. I told the team before the game that it’s a player’s game – there aren’t too many X’s and O’s we were going to do. We were going to use the high ball screen and go make plays. That was what we did the last four minutes of the game and Jacob made some huge plays down the stretch.”
The victory versus the league-leading Grizzlies ended Montana’s 13-game winning streak, dating back to a loss at Washington on Dec. 22 in UM’s final non-league tune-up. It was the worst loss for UM since falling 70-54 at Stanford on Nov. 29 – just 15 days after the Eagles handed the Cardinal a 67-61 defeat.
Entering Thursday, Montana was running away with the league race at 13-0, while EWU and several other teams are mired smack dab in the middle of the battle for perhaps the last of four first-round byes in the Big Sky Conference Tournament. Eastern ended a mini two-game losing skid with its 10th win in the last 15 games, and is now 13-13 on the season and 8-5 in the league.
Eastern’s all-time leading scorer, Bliznyuk finished with a team-high 19 for the Eagles, with 15 of those coming in the first half. Now with 1,944 points in his illustrious career, he moved into the top five in Big Sky Conference history. Only four players in league history have hit the 2,000-point mark, with the record currently at 2,102. Bliznyuk also has sole possession of EWU’s games played record, having played in his 129th game as an Eagle against UM.
The Eagles host Montana State on Saturday (Feb. 17) at 2:05 p.m. Pacific time in a game televised internationally by Eleven Sports.