Drew Lawson for The Easterner
On Dec. 30, 2019, the EWU men’s basketball team lost to the Idaho State Bengals on the road 75-69.
Tonight was a much different story.
EWU (15-4, 22-8) dominated offensively and pulled away in the second half to route ISU (4-15, 7-21) 100-75 Thursday in front of a passionate home crowd. EWU clinched at least a share of the Big Sky Conference regular season title after the win and Montana’s loss to Northern Colorado.
EWU sizzled on offense throughout the first half, putting up 46 points, 28 of which came in the paint. However, ISU kept pace, shooting 53% and putting up 41 points to hang around at intermission.
In the second half, EWU turned up the defensive intensity, at one point going on an 18-1 run that ISU didn’t come close to combating. EWU led by as many as 32 points during its 25-point victory.
EWU senior forward Mason Peatling said EWU executed its pregame plan defensively much better in the second half, which was a main reason for EWU’s dominant second half performance.
“We had a game plan, but we didn’t really execute it in the first half as we would’ve liked,” Peatling said. “Once we made some adjustments and reinforced what we wanted to do in the second half, the game went our way.”
EWU also pulled away in the second half due to hot shooting from behind the three-point line, hitting six shots from deep. EWU got a lot of open looks from distance after half, in part due to its ability to attack the paint and create good looks for shooters.
EWU redshirt freshman guard Casson Rouse said EWU’s goal was to make defensive stops and use those to create open lanes to the basket.
“We’re a good defensive team, so if we can get stops we know we can push the (ball) and get the ball to the rim,” Rouse said.
Three Eagles scored in double figures. Junior guard Jacob Davison poured in 23 points while shooting an efficient 9-15 from the field. Rouse added a career-high 21 points off the bench, part of a 42-point effort from EWU’s pine riders. Peatling had 16 points and 14 rebounds for his 14th double-double of the season.
One regular season game remains for EWU against Weber State. The Eagles can clinch the BSC regular season title outright with a win, an accomplishment that would net EWU the No. 1 seed in next week’s BSC tournament. EWU would share the regular season championship with UM if the Eagles lose and UM knocks off Southern Utah.
EWU head coach Shantay Legans said the regular season title is meaningful, but EWU’s ultimate goal is to win next week’s tournament, which would net EWU an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“We want to be ready and playing our best basketball when it comes (to be) tournament time,” Legans said. “The accomplishment of winning the league would be great, but at the end of the day, our goal is to play in the NCAA Tournament.”
EWU ends the regular season with Senior Day against Weber State on Saturday, March 7 at Reese Court at 2:05 p.m.