EWU knocks off Northern Arizona behind another Peatling double-double

EWU clinches a first-round bye in Big Sky Tournament following win and Southern Utah loss

EWU+senior+forward+Mason+Peatling+goes+up+for+a+putback+layup.+Peatling+scored+27+points+and+grabbed+15+rebounds+in+EWU%27s+80-70+win+over+NAU+Saturday.

Mckenzie Ford for The Easterner

EWU senior forward Mason Peatling goes up for a putback layup. Peatling scored 27 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in EWU's 80-70 win over NAU Saturday.

By Drew Lawson, Sports Editor

This season, the EWU men’s basketball team (12-4, 19-8) has turned to senior forward Mason Peatling whenever its opponent puts the pressure on. Saturday was no different, as Peatling poured in 27 points and 15 rebounds in EWU’s 80-70 victory over Northern Arizona (9-8, 15-11).

Peatling’s effort resulted in his 12th double-double of the season.

“I got a lot of empty boards,” Peatling said. “Just me and the ball, (so I) just have to go get it … when we can get up and down and play that style, we’re really hard to beat.”

NAU came out firing, hitting seven of its first 10 three-pointers. EWU quickly responded and flipped a seven-point deficit to a six-point halftime lead after sophomore guard/forward Kim Aiken Jr. scored eight straight points. EWU was up 40-34 at the break.

Mckenzie Ford for The Easterner
EWU sophomore guard/forward Kim Aiken Jr scored eight straight points as EWU went on a big run to close the first half against NAU Saturday.

After halftime, EWU kept the pressure on, building a lead as large as 19. EWU went on a 26-5 run between the 3:32 mark of the first half and the 13:56 mark of the second half.

EWU’s response to NAU’s hot shooting was much better than its response during the second half of Thursday’s game against Sac State, when the Hornets erased EWU’s 17-point lead and turned it into a six point lead using blistering shooting. EWU had to scramble to escape with a 77-76 win.

Peatling said EWU wasn’t satisfied with Thursday’s result despite the win, so they wanted to show growth in Saturday’s game.

“We were trying to take away their threes, but we didn’t do it well early,” Peatling said. “We adjusted and took guys out of their comfort zones. That allowed us to get on a bit of a run in the second half.”

EWU head coach Shantay Legans said defensive intensity was an emphasis coming into Saturday’s game.

“Our players were talking about setting a defensive tone,” Legans said.

EWU had four players score in double figures. Aside from Peatling’s 27 points, Aiken scored 12 while junior guards Jacob Davison and Jack Perry contributed 13 apiece.

Freshman point guard Ellis Magnuson started the game and played nearly six minutes, but redshirt freshman guard Casson Rouse played the rest of the game, scoring seven points and dishing five assists.

Rouse said he tried to come into the game and provide energy with his extended minutes.

“Whether I’m on the bench or starting, it doesn’t really matter,” Rouse said. “I just like to stay ready.”

Mckenzie Ford for The Easterner
EWU redshirt freshman guard Casson Rouse played nearly 35 minutes during EWU’s 80-70 victory over NAU Saturday.

EWU protected the ball well, committing just five turnovers.

With the win, EWU built a three-game lead over fourth-place NAU. The Eagles clinched a top-five seed in next month’s Big Sky Conference Tournament with the win and Southern Utah’s loss to Weber State Saturday.

EWU can clinch a top-three seed in next month’s Big Sky Conference Tournament with its next win. Only four games remain in the regular season.

Legans said it’s important that EWU is well prepared for each game before the tournament. That preparation will look different for each game, because each game presents an opponent with a different playing style.

EWU will now head on the road for its final two true road games of the season. Next up is a trip to take on the SUU on Feb. 27 before a big matchup with Northern Colorado on Feb. 29. EWU and UNC are tied for second place in the BSC.