In Another Battle to the End, Eastern Beats Montana State 84-79

In Another Battle to the End, Eastern Beats Montana State 84-79

Like most of EWU’s games recently, the Eagles and Bobcats fought right down to the wire.

Senior Bogdan Bliznyuk and sophomore Mason Peatling combined for 44 points and 22 rebounds as Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team prevailed late in the second half to beat Montana State 84-79 Saturday (Feb. 17) in a key Big Sky Conference game at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.

True freshman Jack Perry and junior Cody Benzel each added 11 points in a game that featured 10 ties and 15 lead changes. Eastern sank 50 percent of its shots in the game, while MSU cooled off to 44 percent after making half its shots in the first half.

Eastern took the lead for good with 1:58 to play on a three-point play by Bliznyuk, and didn’t trail for the last 9:25. The Eagles sank 14-of-15 free throws in the second half to seal the win.

Bliznyuk nearly had a triple-double with 25 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, and Peatling had his fourth double-double of the season with 19 points and 13 boards.

“We did a good job of stepping up for a period of time in the second half,” said Shantay Legans of his team’s play down the stretch, including an 8-0 run to open a seven-point lead. “Our guys stuck with the game plan and fought through some things. We were able to separate it a little bit in the second half and made it a multi-possession game, then it was hard for them to get back in it. I couldn’t be happier.”

The win kept EWU in fourth place in the league standings, as Eastern 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 has won 11 of its last 16 games, and is now 14-13 on the season and 9-5 in the league.

Two days earlier, Eastern beat league-leading Montana 74-65, ending its 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.

Eastern’s all-time leading scorer, Bliznyuk now has 1,969 points in his illustrious career to inch closer to 2,000 in his career. Only four players in league history have hit the 2,000-point mark, with the record currently at 2,102.

Records . . .

* The Eagles are 14-13 on the season and 9-5 in the Big Sky, and have won 11 of their last 16 games. Now 9-1 at home, the Eagles are 55-10 (85 percent) at Reese Court in the past five seasons since 2013-14. However, the Eagles saw their 12-game home court winning streak snapped against Idaho on Jan. 12, having not lost at home since falling to Montana on Jan. 7, 2017.
* The Bobcats are 6-9 in the conference standings, and are 13-15 overall. Montana lost 88-78 at Idaho on Thursday when the Vandals out-scored MSU in the second half 50-38. Coached by Brian Fish, the Bobcats are 3-11 on the road this season and 8-4 at home (2-0 neutral). The Bobcats opened league play with four-straight victories, but are just 2-9 since.