Hunt’s Career Night Leads Eagles Past Kangaroos 87-80 in 2K Empire Classic Consolation

Hunt’s Career Night Leads Eagles Past Kangaroos 87-80 in 2K Empire Classic Consolation

The senior scored 15 of EWU’s 22 points down the stretch and the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team beat the University of Missouri Kansas City 87-80 in overtime on Saturday (Nov. 17) in the consolation game of the sub-regional of the 2K Empire Classic benefiting the Wounded Warrior Project at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.

It was Hunt’s second-straight double-double and fourth of his career. He doubled his previous career high of 16 and achieved a new career high with 12 rebounds. Hunt hit a 3-pointer to send the game into overtime and was named to the all-tournament team for his efforts, which also included two other baskets in the final 2:02 of regulation to provide most of EWU’s offense down the stretch. He then scored eight of EWU’s 18 points in overtime.

“Jesse was there and knocked down the shot,” said Eastern head coach Shantay Legans on his team getting to overtime. “Our guys spaced the floor and Jesse came up big.

Jesse had a great game, said Legans. “For he and Ty to get 20 rebounds between them was huge.”

Senior Ty Gibson scored 16 with a career-high eight boards for the Eagles, and sophomore Jack Perry chipped in 11. UMKC’s Xavier Bishop finished with 28 points.

The Eagles (1-3) will have a week off before playing at Washington on Nov. 27 in the first of five-straight road games. Green Bay (3-2), which knocked off EWU 82-78 in overtime in Friday’s semifinals, beat Morehead State (2-3) in the championship contest by an 87-70 score earlier on Saturday. The MSU Eagles knocked off UMKC (now 0-5) 99-89 in the other semifinal on Friday.

“What we learned from last night was that the game is not over,” said Legans of his team’s late-game heroics. “Our team wasn’t hanging their heads. I give them all the credit in the world because they had to go out there and make those plays. They showed character and made a key shot.”

The first half featured six ties and four lead changes, but was a half of runs as the Eagles led by as many as nine and UMKC held a six-point lead at one point. Both teams opened the game with 9-0 runs, then a 7-0 run gave the Kangaroos a short-lived lead. The Eagles followed with runs of 6-0 and 7-0 to take a 35-31 lead at halftime.

Six-straight points mid-way through the second half gave EWU its biggest lead at 57-47 with 8:53 to play on a 3-pointer by Gibson. But the Eagles suddenly went cold and hit just one of their next 10 shots, and eventually fell behind 67-66 with 30.4 seconds left and 69-66 with 10 ticks remaining.

But Hunt’s heroics saved the day for EWU, which made 5-of-6 shots in the overtime period compared to 3-of-7 for UMKC.

Eastern once again played the two tourney games without a pair of players out with injuries – Mason Peatling and Steven Beo – but welcomed Jacob Davison back to the lineup in Friday’s semifinals.

Records . . .

* Eastern is now 1-3 and was coming off a pair of season-opening losses to nationally-ranked opponents last week in the first of two preliminary games of the 2K Empire Classic. Eastern fell 66-34 to Syracuse on Nov. 6 before falling to Oregon 81-47 three nights later. The Ducks, the favorite to win the Pac-12 Conference title, were ranked 14th in the Associated Press preseason poll and 16th in the USA Today Coaches rankings. The Orange, which advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament a year ago, entered the EWU game ranked 16th and 14th, respectively. Eastern closed the 2017-18 season with a 20-15 record in their 35th season as a member of NCAA Division I after finishing 13-5 in the league during their 31st season as a member of the Big Sky Conference. Eastern made its fourth-straight national postseason appearance when the team competed in the 2018 College Basketball Invitational (CBI).

* The Kangaroos of UMKC (University of Missouri Kansas City) have dropped all five of its games to begin the season, including losses at Loyola Chicago (76-45), Iowa (77-63) and Connecticut (94-66). UMKC trailed by as many as 26 points in the first half and 62-39 at halftime in the eventual 99-89 loss versus Morehead State. But the Kangaroos out-scored the Eagles 50-37 in the second half.

What’s Next . . .

* The Eagles play their next five games on the road — Washington, Seattle, North Dakota State, San Francisco and Stanford. Last season, in just the third game under head coach Shantay Legans , Eastern upset Stanford 81-67 on Nov. 14, 2017. The Eagles will also host powerhouse South Dakota State on Dec. 18, and Corban University on Dec. 21.

Top Performers . . .

* Senior Jesse Hunt had 32 points and 12 rebounds, eclipsing his previous high of 16 points and his previous high rebounding game of 11. He sank 12-of-16 shots from the field with a trio of 3-pointers, and also had four assists.
* Senior Ty Gibson sank a pair of 3-pointers and finished 5-of-9 from the field and 4-of-4 from the free throw line. He scored a season-high 16 points and with eight rebounds surpassed his previous career high by one.
* Sophomore Jack Perry made 4-of-8 shots with a pair of 3-pointers to finish with 11 points.
* Sophomore Luka Vulikic scored only two points, but had a game-high six assists and three rebounds.

Key Stats . . .

* The Eagles sank 46.2 percent of its shots from the field, compared to only 37.9 percent for UMKC. At the point EWU led 57-47, the Eagles had made nearly 50 percent for the game, but cooled off to 41 percent before Jesse Hunt’s 3-pointer to send the game into overtime. Eastern was 5-of-6 in the extra period. Eastern also out-rebounded the Kangaroos 47-39.

Notables . . .

* Eastern played UMKC for the third time in school history. Eastern won on the road over the Kangaroos by a 65-54 score on Dec. 3, 2007, and also lost to UMKC in Cheney by a 68-61 score on Dec. 18, 2008.

Comments from Head Coach Shantay Legans . . .

On Confidence Growing: “Our guys are starting to play with a lot of confidence. Our team last year started the same way because we pushed defense so hard early in the season. We feel like if we can hang our hat on the defensive end, scoring will come and guys will get better. We want to peak at the end of the year. We shot 43 percent and made nine threes, but we’re getting our numbers up. We got some great performances from a lot of players.”

On Upcoming Week: “It’s important we do the right things in the classroom – we have great students so I know they’ll do their job there. We have to get some guys healthy and conditioned. We are looking to forward the Huskies – any time you play an in-state team it’s always fun.”