EWU splits with league foe Southern Utah University

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Redshirt junior Kim Aiken Jr. added nine points and 10 rebounds in Thursday’s win.

By Randle Kinswa, Co-managing Editor

The EWU men’s basketball team (2-1, 3-5) won their first game in their first home Big Sky conference against Southern Utah on Thursday, 75-63. They lost the second 99-94.

Junior redshirt  forward Tanner Groves led the team with 25 points on 6-15 from the field which included 1-2 from beyond the arc. Groves was also 9-9 from the free throw line. Groves played just over 22 minutes due to foul trouble as well. 

Head coach Shantay Legans was impressed with Groves’s performance. 

“I was on his case at halftime about being more aggressive and being more assertive,” Legans said. “He did a great job in being our general on the defensive end … defensively he was a stud tonight … and he made some shots.”

“He did a great job in being our general on the defensive end … defensively he was a stud tonight … and he made some shots.” -Shantay Legans, Head Coach

EWU has not played a game since Dec 19. With over 25 days off, Groves said it took a while for him and the team to get back into the pace of a real game. 

“Getting used to the flow of the game,” Groves said, “coming back from 20 days … quarantining for 10 days … it was tough to get back into.” 

Groves also added that the team became more acclimated after halftime.

“But after we were able to get the first half out of the way … we were able to come back stronger in the second,” said Groves.

Redshirt junior Kim Aiken Jr. added nine points and 10 rebounds in Thursday’s win.

Tanner Groves shot 7-12 from the field and was 2-3 from beyond the arc, and finished with 21 total points.

Aiken Jr. said he was impressed with the team’s defensive effort.

“We tried to pick them apart defensively,” Aiken Jr. said. “Our defense was amazing … especially on [Southern Utah senior guard] John Knight [III].”

Knight came into Thursday’s game as SUU’s second leading scorer, and shot just 3-10 from the field. 

On Saturday’s rematch, EWU fell to SUU, 99-94. 

SUU outscored EWU in the paint, 38-22, Saturday, and shot almost three times as many free throws as EWU (34-12).

SUU was led by junior guard Tevian Jones, who was held to 11 in the first game, scored 27 points and added four rebounds in the second game.

Knight III scored 21 points and was 7-11 from the field in the second game. 

“Our defense was amazing … especially on [Southern Utah senior guard] John Knight [III].” -Kim Aiken Jr., Redshirt Junior

EWU was led by senior guard, Jacob Davidson, who scored 31 and was 9-18 from 3-point land. 

“There were a lot of things we just messed up on,” Davidson said. “Giving up scout points … knowing the players’ tendencies and still letting them go to their strengths.” 

Davidson said those missed assignments were a difference between the two games.

“We did really well with them on Thursday with that aspect,” Davidson said. 

Legans said SUU played a really good game, and added that they are well-coached and beat EWU in all facets of the game. 

“One of the things we take pride in is to be prepared and ready to go,” Legans said. “I [feel] like I let the team down by not putting them in the right positions.” 

Redshirt junior Kim Aiken Jr. added nine points and 10 rebounds in Thursday’s win.

Aiken Jr. added 23 points and 12 rebounds for his first double-double of the 2020-2021 season, and 17th career double-double. 

Groves shot 7-12 from the field and was 2-3 from beyond the arc, and finished with 21 total points. 

Through his first three Big Sky games, Groves is averaging 24 points per game. 

EWU will travel to Northern Colorado (3-4, 6-6) next week to play a two-game series against the Golden Bears, on Jan. 23 and 25.