Before Eastern Washington suffered one of its worst Big Sky Conference home losses in recent history Saturday – Weber State led by as many as 23 points in a 84-72 decision at Reese Court – the Eagles were efficient.
EWU (2-10, 0-1) opened Big Sky men’s basketball play by putting Weber State (7-5, 1-0) in a 23-10 hole.
Mason Peatling, who had a career-high 25 points, was scoring from inside and out.
Luka Vulikic took advantage of smaller guards in the paint and showed why he’s one of the conference’s most versatile commodities.
But after starting point guard Jack Perry suffered a possible concussion late in the first half and didn’t return, EWU didn’t generate as many open looks.
Weber State turned the Eagles’ misses into transition baskets, shot 53 percent from the field and took advantage of a near 8-minute lull in the second half in which EWU didn’t hit a single shot.
“Credit goes to (Weber State coach) Randy Rahe,” EWU coach Shantay Legans said. “They were down early, but stuck to their game plan. His team played with a lot of confidence today, and we need to be a better transition defensive team.
“It’s Big Sky play. It’s time for us to step up and make some of those plays.”
EWU suffered its first double-digit home loss in Big Sky play in nearly five years, a 87-76 loss to Portland State on Feb. 24, 2014.
Playing his first full game of the season after suffering a leg injury, Peatling, a 6-foot-8 forward, connected on 3 of 4 3-pointers and also had six rebounds.
A slew of injuries hindered EWU during its nonconference slate. When it appeared the Eagles would be healthy for Big Sky play, key reserve Austin Fadal sat out after suffering an injury at practice earlier in the week.
High-scoring Weber State, picked second in the preseason Big Sky polls, was true to form.
One of the nation’s top scorers, Weber State guard Jerrick Harding (21.9 ppg), was held in check most of the first half, but scored 18 points.
He hit both of his 3-point attempts as Weber State shot 53 percent from 3-point range (8 for 15).
Weber State was also paced by two other guards, Caleb Nero and Cody John, who had 19 points apiece.
With Peatling back in the lineup, guard-heavy EWU strayed from shooting 3s, attempting only seven until midway though the first half. The Eagles, who average 30 attempts a game from long range, finished 6 for 18.
“We’re trying to get the rim every time we can,” Peatling said. “In nonconference, we were playing against more athletic defenders, so we thought we had more of an advantage going inside (against Weber State).”
Jacob Davison (13 points), Vulikic (12 points), Tyler Kidd (12 points) and Jesse Hunt (11 rebounds) boosted EWU, which shot 38 percent from the field.
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