EWU men’s basketball wins a run-heavy conference game over North Dakota


Senior forward Bogdan Bliznyuk dunks the ball against Providence on Dec. 20. Bliznyuk had 29 points in the team’s victory over North Dakota on Dec. 31. | Photo courtesy of Ron Swords.

By Michael Brock, Sports Editor

On Dec. 31, the EWU men’s basketball team beat the University of North Dakota 77-64. The win marked the first-ever program victory in Grand Forks, and improved the Eagles’ Big Sky record to 1-1, after they dropped the conference opener 88-75 to Northern Colorado two days prior.

Sunday’s game against UND was nearly a wire-to-wire victory for the Eagles. The Fighting Hawks went up 6-2 early with back-to-back three-pointers, but when EWU took the lead at 9-8, they never relinquished it.

The majority of the first half was back-and-forth, as Eastern kept a small cushion between them and UND. With 6:19 remaining in the frame, the Fighting Hawks cut the EWU lead to 30-26. Then, the Eagles went on a 14-2 run to go into halftime holding a 42-28 advantage.

In the first 20 minutes of action, senior forward Bogdan Bliznyuk contributed 12 points, junior forward Jesse Hunt had 11 points and senior guard Sir Washington chipped in eight, as the team shot a blistering 64.0 percent from the field.

The second half saw runs by either team that decided the outcome. The Eagles led 48-33, until UND went on a 14-2 spurt to make it 50-47 with 10:38 remaining. After shooting the lights out in the opening frame, EWU opened up the second half connecting on just 3-12.

“Our offense kind of slowed down in the second half at times,” first-year EWU head coach Shantay Legans said following the victory. “North Dakota pressured us, and instead of attacking the pressure we tried to slow it down and hold it.”

Luckily for Eastern, Bliznyuk, a Big Sky Play of the Year candidate, was able to make plays offensively and stop the bleeding. The senior forward went on a 12-0 solo run to give EWU a 62-47 lead and put the Fighting Hawks away for good.

Bliznyuk scored 17 of his game-high 29 points after halftime, as the Eagles were able to withstand UND shooting 52.7 percent in the frame. Hunt was a force in the paint all game, finishing with 16 points and eight rebounds. Washington ended up with 12 points and junior guard Ty Gibson contributed eight.

“Our guys have figured out their roles and are a really excited bunch,” said Legans. “They are happy we are ringing in the new year with a win. It was great seeing our team come out and play the way they played.”

For UND, senior forward Dale Jones notched 20 points and 11 rebounds, while junior guard Geno Crandall had 13 points and four boards. The Eagles had 38 points in the paint, versus just 22 for the Fighting Hawks. EWU also picked up 15 steals, to go along with 19 bench points.

The victory ended a seven-game road losing streak for the Eagles (6-9), who will return to Reese Court next week for a home stand against Portland State, Sacramento State and Idaho. EWU has played just three home games all season, coming away with a win in each contest.