EWU men’s basketball splits on road, move to 4-3 in Big Sky

With home stand upcoming, Bliznyuk is two points from breaking scoring record


Senior forward Bogdan Bliznyuk surveys the defense during a recent home game. Bliznyuk is averaging 18.7 points, 3.6 assists and 1.0 steals on the season | Bailey Monteith for The Easterner

By Michael Brock, Sports Editor

The EWU men’s basketball team split a pair of road games over the weekend, beating Northern Arizona 81-76 on Jan. 18 before losing 66-62 to Southern Utah on Jan. 20. As a result, the Eagles are 4-3 in Big Sky Conference play and 9-11 overall.

With 46 points over the two games, senior forward Bogdan Bliznyuk is now just two points away from passing Venky Jois as the program’s all-time leading scorer.

In the first half of the win over NAU, the Eagles went on an 18-0 run (all on three-pointers, by five different players) to open up a 29-7 advantage. They led by as many as 28 in the opening frame and by 21 at halftime.

But the Lumberjacks would make a run of their own, using an 11-0 spurt to cut the deficit to 12 early in the half. A few minutes later, the game was in single digits. EWU maintained a seven-point lead for the next four minutes, however NAU wouldn’t go away.

With 1:06 remaining, freshman guard Jack Perry hit a three-pointer to give the team a four-point lead, then junior guard Ty Gibson made a reverse layup with 28 seconds left. Bliznyuk knocked down four free throws in the final seconds to seal the win.

For the game, Bliznyuk had 28 points, six assists and five rebounds. Junior guard Cody Benzel had 16 points (on 5-of-6 from three), while Perry chipped in 11 points.

The Eagles shot 15-of-23 from deep, which head coach Shantay Legans said was important to the victory. “That was the ballgame,” said Legans. “Our guys knocked down shot after shot after shot. We have a confident group of shooters […] It’s hard to make shots in this type of arena, and our guys were banging in shots.”

EWU got off to a slower start in the loss to Southern Utah, falling behind by as many as 10 in the first half, and trailed 35-30 at halftime. Bliznyuk—who entered the game 20 points away from breaking the scoring record—was limited to 12 minutes in the opening frame due to foul trouble. Just six minutes into the second half, Bliznyuk headed back to the bench with four fouls.

Senior guard Sir Washington drives into the paint against Idaho on Jan. 12. Washington had 15 points and 5 rebounds in the team’s loss to Southern Utah on Jan. 20 | Bailey Monteith for The Easterner

Still, without their senior leader, the Eagles used a pair of 7-0 runs to turn a five-point deficit into a seven-point lead. SUU tied the game back up at 48, as Bliznyuk re-entered the game. He promptly went on a solo 6-0 run before fouling out just a basket short of the record.

The Thunderbirds tied the game up at 54, and both teams went scoreless in the final 2:22 to force overtime. SUU made its first two shots in the extra frame, shooting 4-of-6 from the field compared to 3-of-7 for EWU. Ultimately, the Eagles fell 66-62.

Bliznyuk had 18 points and seven rebounds for the game, while senior guard Sir Washington scored 15 points. Sophomore forward Mason Peatling had his first double-double of his career, chipping in 10 points and 10 rebounds.

EWU struggled from distance in this one, knocking down 4-of-21 (19 percent), but shot well on 2-pointers, finishing at 40.0 percent overall. The Thunderbirds, meanwhile, shot just 35.6 percent, but made 11-of-28 of the 3-pointers (39.3 percent).

“We were hoping to get a full forty-minute game with that defense,” said Legans. “In the first half we let them stay in the game. We were close at the end of the game and they [snuck] one out. I am looking forward to them coming back home to our place.”

Next up for the Eagles is a home stand against North Dakota (Jan. 25) and Northern Colorado (Jan. 27).