Monster game by Peatling paces Eastern to 81-78 overtime victory

Eastern Washington earns overtime win in Cheney
Mason Peatling's 30 points help Eastern in come back, overtime win over SUU.

CHENEY, Wash. — On an afternoon when shooting by the Eagles was less than stellar, senior Mason Peatling picked up the slack in a monstrous way.

The senior made 11-of-16 shots from the field, including a pair of key buckets in overtime as the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team returned to Reese Court for an 81-78 victory against Southern Utah on Saturday (Jan. 25) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.

Eastern rallied from an 11-point second-half deficit with second place in the league standings on the line. Eastern has now won the last eight times the Eagles and Thunderbirds have met at Reese Court, with the last — and lone — EWU loss at home coming in 1993.

Peatling finished with 30 points, and also had 11 rebounds for his second-straight double-double, fifth of the season and 13th of his career. He also had a career-high five blocked shots, giving him 92 in his career to rank fifth in EWU history. And for good measure, he finished with a career-high five assists, sank 7-of-11 free throws and drew 10 fouls.

“Mason had a terrific game – a monster game,” said Eastern head coach Shantay Legans. “He showed in this game why he is the best post player in this league. He made 11 field goals, had 11 rebounds, drew 10 fouls, made his free throws, had five assists and had five blocks. That’s what a senior should do, and I’m proud of him.”

His 3-pointer at the end of regulation helped send the game into overtime. Eastern sank eight of first 14 shots and 10 of its last 17, but in between was just 10-of-29 from the field. Eastern started the game 4-of-8 from the 3-point line, but ended at just 10-of-27, making two of its last three in the final 5:53 of the contest.

Southern Utah, meanwhile, was shooting at just over 50 percent for the game before making four of its last 19 shots. Included was a stretch of nine-straight misses in overtime as Peatling’s back-to-back baskets early in OT gave EWU the lead for good.

Sophomore Kim Aiken Jr. added 11 points, six rebounds and three blocks before fouling out in overtime after a 3-of-10 shooting performance. Junior Jacob Davison also had 11 points, but sank just 4-of-10 shots and 2-of-5 free throws.

Redshirt freshman Casson Rouse gave EWU a spark during the comeback, and closed the game with five points, a career-high five assists and a pair of steals.

“It’s a player’s game, and the players came back,” said Legans. “They did a good job and battled against a team which really wanted to win this game. We beat them in last year’s tournament, and they came in with a chip on their shoulders and a lot of fire and fight. Our guys stepped up to the plate and fought. I’m proud of our performance and how they played.”

EWU’s offense entered the day ranked second in NCAA Division I with an average of 83.2 points per game. Southern Utah entered third in the league and 46th nationally in scoring defense, allowing 63.1 per game.

The Eagles led early 13-9, but a 7-0 Southern Utah run wiped that out and gave the Thunderbirds the advantage the rest of the half. Eastern hit 50 percent of its shots, but SUU was slightly better at 54 percent to lead 40-34 at intermission. Four Eagles had two fouls in the first half.

Southern Utah eventually built an 11-point lead midway through the second half at 63-52, as EWU made just five of its first 17 shots from the field in the half.

But the Eagles battled back, and pulled within 69-65 with 1:54 left on a basket by Davison, who then hit a 3-pointer to pull EWU to within three at 71-68. A 3-pointer by Peatling with 24 seconds left knotted the game at 71, then SUU turned the ball over while working for a final shot in regulation.

Eastern made four of its last five shots to help in its comeback while SUU was just 2-of-8 in the final 8:58, and had three turnovers in the final 1:20.

After Southern Utah hit the first basket of overtime, the Thunderbirds wouldn’t hit another basket until two seconds remained. Eastern used a 6-0 run to take the lead for good, and sank just enough free throws down the stretch to come away victorious.

Eastern hosts Northern Colorado on Monday (Jan. 27) at 6:05 p.m. in a game also televised on SWX. The Eagles have won the last five meetings in Cheney versus UNC, having not lost at home to the Bears since 2013.

Records . . .

* Eastern is now 12-6 on the season and 5-2 in the league, including its best non-conference record (7-4) since beginning the 2015-16 season with an 8-2 mark and going 9-4 in the preseason. While the Eagles are now 7-1 at home thus far, Eastern is 5-5 on the road, having registered one of its biggest victories in school history, an 87-82 home win on Nov. 26 over mid-major power Belmont in the final game for both schools in the Gotham Classic.

* Eastern was coming off a 71-58 victory at a well-rested Montana State team on Jan. 18 in Bozeman to complete a two-game road sweep. Two days prior to that, EWU picked up a 78-75 win at Idaho in which the Eagles took the lead for good on a Jack Perry 3-pointer – the 100th of his career — with 10.4 seconds to play. After arriving back in Cheney after midnight and a short night’s sleep in their own beds, the Eagles departed for Bozeman the next morning for the Saturday matinee in Bozeman.

* Southern Utah is 11-7 overall and 4-3 in the Big Sky. Southern Utah entered the game third in the league and 46th nationally in scoring defense, allowing 63.1 per game. Southern Utah is led by 6-foot-7 senior guard/forward Cameron Oluyitan, who entered with averages of 14.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.4 steals per game. Three other players average at least 9.0 points, including John Knight III (13.5), Dwayne Morgan (10.8) and 6-5 Harrison Butler (9.0). Butler averages 7.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists, and Knight chips in 2.4 assists per game. Morgan led four Thunderbirds in double figures against EWU with 22 points, with Knight finishing with 14, Oluyitan finishing with 10 and Andre Adams adding 11. Butler had just four.

What’s Next . . .

* The Eagles host Northern Colorado Monday (Jan. 27) to close out a relatively light January schedule, with tipoff at 6:05 p.m. at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash., against a team among the nation’s leaders in defense and 3-point shooting. The Eagles have won the last five meetings in Cheney versus UNC, having not lost at home to the Bears since 2013. Northern Colorado, which won 74-63 at Idaho on Saturday (Jan. 25) to improve to 5-2 in the league and 12-6 overall, entered that game second in the Big Sky Conference and 23rd nationally in scoring defense at 61.3 per outing. The Bears were also sixth in the nation and first in the league in three-point field goal percentage defense (.275). Offensively, they have made 10.1 3-pointers per game to rank 16th nationally and lead the league, and their 10.7 turnovers per outing are the fewest in the Big Sky and rank 11th in the nation.

* Northern Colorado features the guard tandem of Jonah Radebaugh and Bodie Hume, who average more than 30 points per game between them. Entering the Idaho game, Radebaugh had averages of 15.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.4 steals per game, and the 6-foot-6 Hume is averaging 15.6 points, 4.5 boards, 1.2 assists, 1.3 steals and 0.9 blocked shots per outing. A third guard, Trent Harris, is averaging 9.9 points.

* Following this week’s games, the Eagles go back on the road to face two more of the Big Sky’s best defensive squads. The Eagles play on Feb. 1 at Sacramento State, which leads the league and ranks third in NCAA Division I by allowing just 55.9 points per game. Northern Arizona, which recently pulled off a major road sweep with wins at Southern Utah (75-72 on Jan. 16) and at Northern Colorado (64-58 on Jan. 18), is fifth in the league with a 67.3 defensive average. The Eagles play the Lumberjacks in Flagstaff, Ariz., on Feb. 3 before heading to Montana for a rematch on Feb. 6.

Top Performers . . .

* True freshman Ellis Magnuson finished with nine points and four assists for the Eagles, and junior Jack Perry and sophomore Tanner Groves each scored five. Outside of Peatling’s 11-of-16 (69 percent) shooting performance, the rest of the Eagles made 17-of-44 shots from the field (39 percent)