EWU men’s basketball sweeps the weekend as Bliznyuk sets scoring record

At 6–3 in Big Sky play, the Eagles are tied with Idaho for third in league standings.


Senior forward Bogdan Bliznyuk poses with his career points record plaque on Jan. 25. Bliznyuk passed former teammate Venky Jois to become EWU’s new all-time leading scorer. | Photo courtesy of Ron Swords

By Michael Brock, Sports Editor

EWU men’s basketball history was made at Reese Court on Thursday, Jan. 25, as senior forward Bogdan Bliznyuk became the school’s all-time leading scorer.

A little over a minute into the 95–71 victory over North Dakota, Blizyuk passed to junior guard Cody Benzel on the left wing and cut through to the right corner. Benzel swung it to junior guard Ty Gibson, who quickly passed to freshman guard Jack Perry, who hit a waiting Bliznyuk in the corner for three.

The triple gave the senior forward 1,805 career points at EWU, besting former teammate Venky Jois for tops on the program’s scoring list. When Bliznyuk hit the three, head coach Shantay Legans called timeout to celebrate the achievement.

“It was very special,” said Bliznyuk following the victory. “It’s a moment that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

The Eagles rode the milestone momentum to a 25–5 lead, opening up the game 12-of-15 from the field. They led by as many as 22 in the half, and held a 50–36 advantage at the break. Bliznyuk had 14 points, five assists and four rebounds in the opening frame, as EWU registered its most points in any half on the season.

After halftime, UND hit back-to-back threes to cut the Eagles’ lead to 50–42, the closest it had been since the opening minutes. The Fighting Hawks narrowed the deficit to eight on three separate occasions, including 55–47 with 17 minutes to go. That’s when EWU went on a 14–0 spurt to go up 69–47 and put the game away for good.

On his record-setting night, Bliznyuk ended up with 28 points (12-of-15 shooting), eight rebounds and seven assists. Benzel had 15 points on 5-of-9 from three. Sophomore forward Mason Peatling contributed 11 points and 11 rebounds, while senior guard Sir Washington also had 11 points.

“I’m glad we have Bogdan,” Legans said after the game. “He played great tonight […] Before the game he got a chance to talk to the guys and got them really fired up […] For us to come out and play that way was really exciting for us.”

Both teams shot the ball well, with UND knocking down 45.1 percent of their tries, compared to 52.8 percent for the Eagles. The difference was EWU made 15 threes compared to eight for the Fighting Hawks.

On Saturday, Jan. 27, the Eagles faced off against Northern Colorado. Both teams entered the game 5–3 in the Big Sky, with UNC already beating EWU 88–75 in the first contest of league play on Dec. 29. This time around, the Eagles got their revenge, coming away with the 67–65 victory over the Bears.

The game was back-and-forth throughout, with 11 ties and six lead changes. Neither team led by more than seven at any point.

Midway through the first half, with his team leading 17–13, Bliznyuk made more history. With 12 points up to that point, the senior forward moved into No. 10 on the Big Sky all-time scoring list.

The Eagles led by a small margin for the majority of the rest of the half. That was until UNC senior guard Andre Spight completed a four-point play in the final seconds to give his team a 37–36 lead headed into the break. Bliznyuk had 19 points in the opening frame and Peatling had eight, as the Eagles shot 54 percent.

The Bears opened the second half on a 6–2 spurt, and led for the next few minutes. EWU took the lead briefly with 12:32 remaining, but a three-pointer by UNC flipped the advantage again.

With the Bears hold a 51–48 advantage, EWU went on a 10–0 run, including seven points from Bliznyuk. UNC tied the score back up at 58 with 6:38 to go on a 7–0 spurt of their own.

Peatling scored the next four points of the game, and the Eagles led until Spight’s three-pointer tied it up at 65 with two minutes to go. Following a miss by EWU, Peatling made perhaps the biggest play in the win—drawing a charge and giving his team back the ball.

Both teams traded empty possessions, then with 7.5 seconds remaining, Sir Washington was fouled. He made both free throws to put his team up 67–65. After a timeout, Spight raced the length of the court and narrowly missed a running three-pointer that would’ve won the game.

Bliznyuk ended up with 26 points and five rebounds in the win, while Peatling had 17 points and 15 rebounds for his third straight double-double.

Coming in, UNC junior guard Jordan Davis was averaging 15.9 points per game, while Spight was notching 19.9 points per game. The Eagles held Davis to 10 points (5-of-15 shooting) and Spight to 14 points (3-of-16 shooting).

“We did well against (Spight),” said Legans. “He’s really good and that’s a really good, well-coached team. You have to give them a lot of credit for battling back every time. That last shot looked like it was in.”

With the win, EWU (6–3 Big Sky, 11-11 overall) is now tied with Idaho for third in the league standings, with Montana leading the way at 9–0 and Weber State second at 6–2. Montana State and UNC are 5–4, while Idaho State is 4–4.

“Every game is important, and every single game we play is going to be like this,” said Legans. “It comes down to certain possessions, offensive rebounds and blocking out. Every game we’ll feel that way the rest of the way.”

The Eagles will travel to Sacramento State (Feb. 1) and Portland State (Feb. 3) this weekend.