EWU Battles, but Western Carolina Explodes for 62 Second-Half Po - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

EWU Battles, but Western Carolina Explodes for 62 Second-Half Points in 97-80 Win

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The Eagles stumbled late as the Catamounts used a big second half to defeat the Eagles 97-80. (Photo: EWU Athletics) The Eagles stumbled late as the Catamounts used a big second half to defeat the Eagles 97-80. (Photo: EWU Athletics)

by EWU Athletics

It had the feel of a typical Big Sky Conference road game, but there was nothing typical about Western Carolina's second half shooting.

The Eastern Washington University men's basketball team battled for 35 minutes before the Catamounts surged ahead with 62 second-half points to defeat the Eagles 97-80 in a league-like non-conference game at Western Carolina in Cullowhee, N.C., Monday (Dec. 14) at the Ramsey Center.

Eastern junior Felix Von Hofe and senior Austin McBroom combined for 56 points on combined 20-of-33 shooting overall and 12-of-21 from the 3-point stripe. But the Catamounts were even hotter, hitting 73 percent of their shots in the second half on their way to a 56 percent shooting night.

Eagle senior Venky Jois played in his 100th game as an Eagle, becoming the 16th in school history to hit the century mark. He finished with 12 points and eight rebounds.

"Felix is really playing some great basketball for us, and Austin is a very special player," said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. "If we can get our two preseason All-Big Sky players (Jois and Bogdan Bliznyuk) playing the way we know they can and get improved contributions from the bench, the answers are there. We just have to get them there. We're offensively good enough to win these games, but we have to go get better on defense."

Eastern also had its second-most turnovers of the season with 17 leading to 23 Catamount points, and a late 11-0 Western Carolina run took command of the game. The Eagles led by seven early in the second half, but the Southern Conference opponent took the lead for good at the 12:15 mark. Prior to that, the game featured eight ties and nine lead changes.

"When it got away from us we had turnovers that led to baskets." Added Hayford. "We have great character, but (Western Carolina's late run) had more to do with the frustration of going on a long road trip and losing three games."

Eastern is now 5-6, having lost all three games on a difficult eight-day road trip to the East Coast that included three games in six days.. The Eagles play two more non-conference games before beginning Big Sky Conference play on Dec. 31. Western Carolina is 4-6, having lost 87-54 last Saturday (Dec. 12) at Davidson, now 7-1 and the same team EWU lost to 96-86 three days earlier.

Eastern returns home to face Morehead State of the Ohio Valley Conference on Thursday (Dec. 17) at 6 p.m. Pacific time in a game that will be broadcast live regionally on SWX. That ends EWU's four-game appearance in the Gotham Classic presented by the Gazelle Group. The Eagles from Morehead State are 5-3 following a 72-62 loss to Pitt on Sunday (Dec. 13). After a trip to play at Denver of Summit League on Dec. 20, Eastern will open Big Sky Conference play at Northern Colorado (Dec. 31) and North Dakota (Jan. 2).

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