MISSOULA, Mont. - Success has been plentiful recently in Missoula for the Eastern Washington University men's basketball team.
Junior Bogdan Bliznyuk had a double-double with 28 points and 10 rebounds, and a pair of true freshmen chipped in 23 points to lead Eastern to a 72-60 victory over Montana Thursday (Jan. 26) in a Big Sky Conference game at Dahlberg Arena in Missoula, Mont.
The victory was Eastern's third in the last four meetings against the Griz in Missoula. Overall, including EWU's three-game sweep there to capture the 2015 Big Sky Conference Tournament title, EWU has won five of its last six games at Dahlberg.
"It was a fantastic win," said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. "We try so hard to win in Missoula, and I know in Eagle Nation whenever we beat the Griz it means a little more. We had some Eagle fans here behind the bench representing all of them. It was just fun having people make the drive over and send them home with a win. It was a great night to be an Eagle."
Bliznyuk made 11-of-16 shots from the field to finish with his highest-scoring game since netting 34 against Morehead State on Dec. 13. True freshman Mason Peatling had a career-high 13 points, and fellow first-year player Luka Vulikic had 10. Reigning two-time Big Sky Conference Player of the Week Jacob Wiley was the fourth Eagle in double figures with 10.
"They did a good job early in not allowing Jake Wiley to beat them," said Hayford. "Mason hit those early 3-pointers and Bogdan was playing at a really high level. Bogdan took care of it down the stretch and made sure nothing crazy was going to happen. That's how you leave Missoula with a 12-point win."
Eastern improved to 6-2 to stay within striking distance of Big Sky leaders Weber State (6-1) and North Dakota (7-2). The Eagles are now 3-1 both at home and on the road in the league.
Thanks to a 15-point performance in the first half by Bliznyuk and a half-ending 9-4 run, Eastern took the lead for good and led by as many as 16 in the second half. Eastern had a 15-6 advantage in points off turnovers in the game and made 50 percent of its shots, and closed out the win by making nine free throws and four field goals in the final 6:44.
The game was one of two early rematches against both Montana and Montana State within a month of each other. Eastern beat the Bobcats 82-64 in Cheney on Jan. 5, then two days later suffered its first and only loss at Reese Court by a 65-59 score versus the Grizzlies. The Eagles play at MSU on Saturday (Jan. 28).
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