Eagles win first post-season game in school history


Photo contributed by goeags.com

By Riley Baker, Staff Writer

After winning the Big Sky Championship last season, the Eagles went into the tournament this year looking to defend their title and make their second consecutive NCAA tournament berth.

EWU finished in sixth place in the BSC with a record of 16-14, taking on 11-seed Northern Arizona University in the first game of the tournament.

The Eagles eased their way past the Lumberjacks, winning by a score of 74-52. EWU forced 17 turnovers against the Lumberjacks, which led to a pivitol 24 points off of turnovers.

Senior guard Austin McBroom led the team with 16 points, draining 7 of 14 while also collecting five steals. Senior forward Venky Jois made 14 points, making 5 of 10 to go along with his 11 rebounds and six assists to collect his 38th career double-double. Sophomore forward Bogdan Bliznyuk made 15 points and had five rebounds.

The Eagles next played No. 3 seed Idaho, who finished the regular season with a record of 19-11. In this nailbiter, EWU made a late-game push in the hopes of a comeback but fell short, losing to the Vandals, 77-73.

Despite averaging 21.3 points a game, good for 16th in the NCAA, McBroom was 0-10 from the field in this one. Although he did finish with 12 points going 12-14 from the free-throw line.

Jois finished the game with 17 points, 12 rebounds and two blocked shots. Junior forward Felix Von Hofe also had 17 points, making 4 of 12 from beyond the 3-point arc.

After going 1-1 in the BSC tournament, the Eagles earned an invite to the College Basketball Invitational — a national single-elimination tournament. EWU was set to take on Pepperdine which was 18-13 going into the game.

EWU was down early, going into halftime losing, 34-29. But the Eagles came out soaring in the second half putting up 50 points to defeat Pepperdine and earn EWU’s first ever post-season victory.

Bliznyuk finished with 25 points, making 8 of 16 from the field to go along with his 11 rebounds and four assists, collecting a double-double.

McBroom had 24 points, going 7-17 from the field while collecting five rebounds and four assists.

Von Hofe had 14 points and nine rebounds, making four of eight 3-point shots. Jois only played 12 minutes of the game due to a sore knee.

The next game was against Nevada, but the team had to face it without Jois on the floor who was still out with a sore knee.

The Eagles played very well in the first half, leading 45-43 at halftime, but EWU could not hold on. Nevada went on a 13-0 run and later a 11-0 run to put the game out of reach, defeating EWU, 85-70.

Despite the loss, EWU made 13 3-pointers to stretch its season total to 356, breaking the school and Big Sky record of 344 which the Eagles set last season.

Von Hofe led the team with 20 points, making six of nine shots from the 3-point arc.

McBroom finished with 17 points, all of which came in the first half. He also had seven assists and six rebounds.

Junior guard Julian Harrell had 15 points, sinking six of 10 shots from the field.

Overall, the Eagles finished with a record of 18-16 this season. They are now 1-4 in national postseason games as a part of NCAA Division I.

“I’m very proud of what our team accomplished,” said head coach Jim Hayford. “I just feel amazing support and I’m grateful for all our fans. You look at a 30-year history and see this is the second-best season we’ve had for total wins as a member of the Big Sky. We have to thank our players – they gave it everything they had.”