EWU men’s basketball long road trip ends in heartbreaking loss


Senior forward Bogdan Bliznyuk versus San Fransisco on Dec. 7. Bliznyuk is 183 points from the all-time school scoring record. | Photo courtesy of EWU Athletics

By Michael Brock, Sports Editor

The EWU men’s basketball team concluded its lengthy road trip on Tuesday evening, losing to the University of Wyoming 93-88 in overtime. The Eagles knocked down a season-high 15 three-pointers in the game, and led by as many as 13 in the first half.

The Cowboys stormed back in the second frame, scoring five straight points in the final 16 seconds of regulation to force the extra period. Despite leading for 35:14 compared to Wyoming’s 6:52, EWU ultimately fell short.

Senior forward Bogdan Bliznyuk led the way with 30 points, four rebounds and three assists. Freshman guard Jack Perry finished with 17 points (on three triples), while junior guard Ty Gibson added 15 points (5-of-10 from three) and seven rebounds.

Following the game, head coach Shantay Legans commented on his team’s performance.

“Everything they had in the tank they emptied today,” said Legans. “It’s tough to lose this game, but we are going to get better.”

The contest ended a 10-game road streak which included separate stints of 15 and 11 days without even returning to Cheney.

The recent 11-day stretch began at Seattle University on Dec. 3. The Redhawks led by 13 at halftime, then opened up a 32-point lead by going on a 23-6 run to begin the second half. EWU ended the game on a 26-13 run, but were defeated 84-65. The Eagles were led by Gibson and Freshman Richard Polanco with 10 points apiece.

Freshman forward Richard Polanco dribbles against Seattle University Dec. 3. Seattle is manned by former EWU head coach Jim Hayford. | Photo courtesy of EWU Athletics

In addition to the road trip in general, Legans said the loss to Seattle was a step in the right direction.

“We’re going to learn from this game and take our bumps and bruises home,” said Legans. “Tough times make tough teams, and I think we’re going to be okay.”

EWU traveled to the University of San Fransisco next, where they lost 81-71. The Eagles offense stalled again in the first half, trailing by as many as 26. However runs of 8-0 and 10-0 in the second frame cut the lead to six before the Dons made 10 free throws in the final minute.

Bliznyuk finished with 31 points, 10 rebounds and four assists as the senior forward moved into third place on the school’s all-time scoring list. Sophomore forward Mason Peatling had 11 points and six rebounds, while Gibson pitched in 10 points.

The Eagles’ journey continued, as they faced off against the University of South Dakota on Dec. 10. The team rallied from a 13-point first half deficit to pull within two with under three minutes to play. However, USD junior guard Matt Mooney scored all nine of his team’s points after that, including a triple with 1:32 remaining.

Peatling had a career-high 19 points, Bliznyuk finished with 18 and Perry pitched in 13 of his own as the team shot 46 percent from the field. The game marked the fourth straight loss for the Eagles, in which they never held a lead in any of them.

EWU flipped the script against Wyoming on Dec. 12, leading for the majority of the game. Still, the team fell short, ending a treacherous 2-8 road trip for the Eagles. However, seven of those losses have been on the home court of their opponents, who are 50-21 on the season and 35-4 at home.

Legans said the team will use this experience headed into Big Sky competition on Dec. 29.

“Our strength of schedule is in the top 50 in the country,” said Legans. “We are battled-tested and the guys will be prepared for league play.”

Before conference play begins, the 3-8 Eagles will return home for two games at Reese Court, where they are 46-9 since 2013-14.

They will face off against CSUN (Cal State Northridge) on Dec. 17 and the University of Providence on Dec. 20 before heading on the road against Northern Colorado to open league play. CSUN is 1-8 on the season, while Providence is an NAIA school.

“We’ll get back home, get rested and be ready to go in our next game,” said Legans.