Long road trip continues for men’s basketball team


Senior forward Bogdan Bliznyuk dribbles against Walla Walla on Nov. 10. Bliznyuk is averaging 15.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game | Bailey Monteith for The Easterner

By Jeremy Burnham, Reporter

Ten games. Thirty-seven days. That is how long the EWU men’s basketball team will go without a home game. After opening the season at home with a victory against Walla Walla University on Nov. 10, the Eagles won’t return to Reese Court until Dec. 17. Six games into the road trip and seven games into the season, the Eagles are 3-4 overall.

Through the first half-dozen games of the road trip, the Eagles have faced three Pac-12 teams. The fact that they have started the road trip 2-4 is not as surprising as the victory over Stanford University.

Two nights after losing a competitive game against the University of Washington, head coach Shantay Legans’ team came out with some confidence against Stanford. The game saw only one lead change, which occurred early in the first half, as EWU controlled most of the game on their way to a 67-61 victory. This was EWU’s first ever victory against the Cardinals, and the program’s third victory against a Pac-12 team.

“It’s amazing,” said Legans. “Our guys deserve it. They came out and played the same way we did against UW, but we shot the ball better […] They came back and our coaches did a great job getting them prepared and ready. Our team is gritty and are a great bunch of guys […] I’m so proud of these guys – coaches as well.”

Senior forward Bogdan Bliznyuk scored 23 points to lead EWU. Two other Eagles also scored in double digits. Sophomore guard Ty Gibson finished with 11 points, while junior forward Jesse Hunt had 10 points and eight rebounds.

The Eagles then traveled to Las Vegas for three games. On Nov. 17, the Eagles struggled to shoot the ball in a 91-76 loss to UNLV. Long scoring droughts—one of 4:30 and one of 6:00—did the Eagles in. The Eagles played well defensively, forcing 15 turnovers. However, the combined 10:30 of not scoring was too much to overcome.

After a loss to Georgia State University on Nov. 20, EWU was able to bounce back against Eastern Kentucky University with a 83-62 win on Nov. 22.

The win against EKU represented the Eagles’ most rounded effort of the season. Nine players scored for EWU, and the bench contributed 40 points. Redshirt freshman center Benas Griciunas led the Eagles with 16 points. Bliznyuk added 13.

Redshirt junior guard Cody Benzel and freshman forward Richard Polanco came off the bench to score 11 points apiece. Moving the ball around on offense created a lot of scoring opportunities for the Eagles, as they led EKU in assists, 16-1.

While the offense played well, Legans credited the win to the defense.

“[Defense] did win us the ballgame,” said Legans. “We got them to turn the ball over and didn’t let them play as fast as they want to play […] This was one of our better defensive games, and they were all excited about playing defense. That’s key for us because we have to keep getting better on offense.”

Next, EWU visited the University of Utah for their third matchup against a Pac-12 team. The Eagles looked like a team that was beginning to show the signs of being on the road for so long. They had not slept a night in Cheney in 15 days, so naturally, they came out slow in the 85-69 loss.

Despite falling behind by as many as 33 points, the Eagles played hard down the stretch. They went on runs of 12-2 and 9-0 late in the second half. While the game had already been long decided, Legans liked the effort.

“Our team played hard,” said Legans. “We were down big, but we came back and kept fighting. I give them all the credit in the world.”

The Eagles now return to Cheney for a few days of practice, before heading back on the road for a game against Seattle University on Dec. 3.