EWU roars at the top

Venky+Jois%2C+No.+55+hollers+with+excitement+after+a+call+was+made+at+the+EWU+basketball+game+against+Sacramento+State+on+Feb.+12.
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EWU roars at the top

Venky Jois, No. 55 hollers with excitement after a call was made at the EWU basketball game against Sacramento State on Feb. 12.

Venky Jois, No. 55 hollers with excitement after a call was made at the EWU basketball game against Sacramento State on Feb. 12.

Photo by Anna Mills

Venky Jois, No. 55 hollers with excitement after a call was made at the EWU basketball game against Sacramento State on Feb. 12.

Photo by Anna Mills

Photo by Anna Mills

Venky Jois, No. 55 hollers with excitement after a call was made at the EWU basketball game against Sacramento State on Feb. 12.

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The EWU men’s basketball team clinched a share of the Big Sky title by defeating Idaho State University and Weber State University in their final road games of the regular season.

On March. 5, the Eagles defeated Idaho State, 85-81.

“We won this game with our first half,” said senior guard Drew Brandon. “We outplayed them offensively and defensively, but they came back fighting and outplayed us in the second half. But, at the end of the day, we made the big shots at the end of the game.”

In the first half, Eastern outscored the Bengals, 41-26. The Eagles held Idaho State to 32.1 percent field goal shooting and only 25 percent behind the 3-point line. Back to a complete lineup after recent injuries, junior forward Venky Jois and junior guard Tyler Harvey both contributed to the offense to give Eastern a 41-26 lead at halftime.

In the second half, the Bengals unleashed their offense and outscored Eastern, 55-44. As the game was winding down, Idaho State chipped away at the Eagles’ lead. At the 1:13 mark, Eastern’s lead was diminished to four points. Idaho State’s senior guard Chris Hansen hit a 3-pointer to make it a 1-point game with 49 seconds remaining.

However, Eastern earned their 22nd win with a 3-point shot by sophomore forward Felix Von Hofe and free throws by Brandon.

Harvey finished with 24 points. Jois had 21 points and 10 rebounds. Brandon had 11 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, while freshman forward Bogdan Bliznyuk had 10 points off the bench.

“We still are battling little injuries,” said Brandon. “We have everyone back, but I wouldn’t say [at] full strength yet, but we are almost there.”

On March. 7, Eastern defeated Weber State University in an overtime victory, 79-71. With this win, the Eagles clinched the No. 2 seed in the Big Sky tournament.

“It just feels great to be Big Sky champs,” head coach Jim Hayford told goeags.com. “It’s everything that sports should be about. It’s neat for our players to feel this joy of accomplishment. I’m extremely, extremely happy and proud of our players.”

Eastern struggled in the first half and Weber State led by as many as 19 points. Eastern shot a field goal percentage of only 32.4 and shot a low percentage of 14.3 behind the 3-point line. However, they managed to cut the Wildcats’ lead to 12 points to be down 39-27 at halftime.

In the second half, Eastern fought back and outscored Weber State, 42-30. Harvey hit a big 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 11. This became a turning point for the Eagles. Late efforts by Harvey, Jois and Bliznyuk helped Eastern tie the game to force overtime.

In the extra five minutes of overtime, the Eagles outscored the Wildcats, 10-2. Bliznyuk drained a clutch 3-pointer to put the Eagles up by three points, 74-71. Eastern earned the win with free throws and a final layup by Harvey in the last minutes of overtime.

“We won because we forced 18 turnovers and had 18 offensive rebounds,” Hayford said. “Those are just nothing but hustle. We hit some clutch baskets and finally made some threes by [Von Hofe] and [Harvey], and then [Bliznyuk] made the big one. [Jois] had a huge night on the boards too.”

Harvey finished with 24 points and six rebounds. Jois had 22 points and 16 rebounds. Eastern had good bench production, Von Hofe had 10 points while Bliznyuk finished with 14 points and seven rebounds.

Eastern will face the University of Idaho on March. 12 in the first round of the Big Sky Conference Tournament.

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