EWU loses OT heartbreaker to Montana State, 91-90 - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

EWU loses OT heartbreaker to Montana State, 91-90

EWU Athletics

It was a fight to the bitter end, befitting two teams with impressive winning streaks.
 
The Eastern Washington University men's basketball team was outscored 7-2 from the free throw line in overtime and Montana State survived for a 91-90 Big Sky Conference victory Saturday (Jan. 28) in Bozeman, Mont.
 
Jacob Wiley scored 34 points for the Eagles and Sir Washington had 13, including 3-pointers with 6.7 seconds left and at the buzzer to send the game into overtime. Bogdan Bliznyuk added 13 points as Eastern had its three-game winning streak ended at the hands of MSU, which won for the fifth-straight time.
 
Eastern led the entire first half, but after that it was a thriller, with the game featuring 13 ties and an additional three lead changes. Eastern's last lead in the game came with 9:14 to play, but EWU could never get over the hump despite a stretch of making 12-of-15 shots from the field until Felix Von Hofe and Ty Gibson both missed potential game-winning shots in the final seconds.
 
"It was a great basketball game and both teams played their hearts out," said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. "It was a shame somebody had to lose. We needed some heroics by Sir at the end of regulation with his two huge 3-pointers. But the overtime was tough. One of our hallmarks is free throw shooting and we were 2-of-6 and they were 7-of-8. That can be the difference in close games."
 
 
Won-Lost Records . . .  
 
* The Eagles are now 14-8 in their 34th season as a member of NCAA Division I and 6-3 in the league as they continue their 30th season as a member of the Big Sky. Eastern is now 10-1 at home and 4-7 on the road as EWU hadn't lost since falling at Weber State 70-67 on Jan. 14. Eastern had won for the sixth time in eight conference games Thursday (Jan. 26) with a 72-60 victory at Montana.
* MSU is 11-12 on the season and 6-4 in the Big Sky, and haven't lost since falling at home to North Dakota 90-85 on Jan. 12. Montana State is 9-5 at home this season, including Thursday's 94-91 double-overtime win over Idaho. Eastern beat the Bobcats 82-64 in Cheney on Jan. 5.
 
 
What It Means . . .
 
* The Eagles came up just short in an effort to register their sixth sweep on the road in Montana in the last 30 years since joining the Big Sky in 1987. Eastern swept the Grizzlies and Bobcats in Montana in 2015, 2004, 2003, 2002 and 1990. Eastern entered the game just one game from first-place Weber State (7-1) and are still a half-game from North Dakota (7-3 after falling 68-67 at Northern Arizona on Saturday). Eastern will remain in third place at 6-3 regardless of results of other games tonight. Montana State (6-4) closed the gap on Eastern, but EWU is also still ahead of Montana (5-4), Portland State (4-3) and Idaho (4-4). The top five teams secure first-round byes in the Big Sky Conference Tournament March 7-11 to Reno, Nevada. There are still nine games left to play for the Eagles in the league season.
 
 
 
What's Next . . .
 
* Eastern returns home to Reese Court to host Sacramento State on Thursday, Feb. 2 at 6:05 p.m. Pacific time, then host Portland State on Saturday, Feb. 4 at 1:05 p.m. in a game televised by SWX.
 
 
Keys to Game . . .
 
* The Eagles had 15 turnovers, while Montana State had just four, a season low for an Eastern opponent this season. The Bobcats, who had 16-2 advantage in points off turnovers, had their last miscue with 13:50 left in regulation. The result was MSU getting seven more field goal attempts in the game than the Eagles. The Bobcats made 46 percent overall, and sank 7-of-13 shots from the 3-point stripe after intermission to finish 13-of-26 in the game (50 percent). MSU entered the game ranked 12th in NCAA Division I with an average of 10.0 per game. EWU finished 10-of-25 after entering 99th with an average of 8.3.
 
 
Top Performers . . .
 
* Senior graduate transfer Jacob Wiley had 34 points for his third 30-point performance of the season – all in his last five outings. He made 15-of-18 shots from the field and 6-of-9 free throws, and had nine rebounds, three assists and a pair of blocked shots. He entered the game ranked eighth in NCAA Division I in blocked shots (2.9), ninth nationally in field goal percentage (.628) and 53rd in free throw percentage (.865).
* Junior Sir Washington made 4-of-7 shots from the field, including 3-of-4 3-pointers, in finishing with 13. It was his fourth double-figure scoring performance of the season. He also had six rebounds and three assists. His 3-point play with 9:14 left in regulation provided the final lead for EWU in the game at 59-58, then he hit a 3-pointer with 6.7 seconds left to pull EWU within two. After a MSU free throw, he hit another trey at the buzzer to send the game into overtime knotted at 81.
* Junior Bogdan Bliznyuk, after scoring 28 points two nights earlier against Montana, had 13 before fouling out. He also had six rebounds and a pair of assists. He entered the game ranked 69th nationally in scoring (18.6).
* True freshman Mason Peatling, coming off a career-high 13 points at Montana, had six points and six rebounds, plus two assists and a blocked shot.
* Senior Felix Von Hofe finished with eight points with a pair of 3-pointers. He entered the game ranked 27th in NCAA Division I with an average of 2.95 3-pointers per game. He remains 14th in career 3-pointers in the Big Sky with a current total of 230, which is 30 from the school record of 260 set by his former Eastern teammate Tyler Harvey from 2013-15.
 
 
Turning Point . . .
 
* Despite EWU missing four free throws in the first three minutes of overtime, a basket by Jacob Wiley knotted the score at 90 with 1:20 left. After a missed 3-pointer by the Bobcats, Eastern had a chance to take the lead but had a turnover with 32 seconds to play. A free throw by Devonte Klines with 28 seconds left provided the final margin.
 
 
Key Stats . . .
 
* Four perfect season streaks came to an end for the Eagles in the one-point loss. Eastern lost for the first time in 12 games this season when the Eagles have scored at least 73 points. Eastern also is now 4-1 in overtime, and had entered the game with a record six overtime periods this season. It was also EWU's first loss in seven games this season when the Eagles have out-rebounded opponents. They had a 39-33 advantage against MSU after winning the boards 36-27 two nights earlier versus Montana.
* Eastern made 50 percent from the field at Montana and then made 54 percent against the Bobcats, giving Eastern its fourth-straight game making at least half of its shots. However, EWU is now 9-1 in the 10 games the Eagles have hit that mark. Eastern had a home sweep the previous weekend, collectively out-shooting its two opponents 53 percent to 38 percent and opening second half leads of 25 (Northern Arizona) and 30 (Southern Utah).
 
 
Team Highlights . . .
 
* The Eagles jumped out to leads of 6-1 and 18-7 and led the entire first half before settling for a 42-39 halftime edge. Eastern's biggest lead of the half came at 28-14 on a 3-pointer by Felix Von Hofe at the 8:29 mark, which was followed by a flurry of 3-pointers by MSU. The Bobcats at one point had eight-straight attempts that were all beyond the 3-point arc (making 5), and MSU finished the half making 6-of-13. Overall, MSU made 11 of its last 20 shots after starting the game 3-of-14.
 
 
Notables . . .
 
* Eastern has now won eight of the last 11 meetings against MSU, but had its five-game winning streak stopped with an 85-71 loss in Bozeman last season in the lone meeting between the two schools. Eastern has won 19 of the last 34 after winning just once in the previous 13 games (not counting two MSU forfeits). The Eagles are 39-45 all-time against MSU, including a 31-36 record as a member of NCAA Division I (21-12 in Cheney, 10-24 in Bozeman). The records include two MSU forfeits in the 1993-94 season. In the 2011-12 season, Eastern recorded a huge 82-66 road victory over the Bobcats in the first Big Sky Conference game in the head coaching career of Jim Hayford, then later in the year won in Cheney 69-52. Hayford is now 8-3 versus the Bobcats, including a 3-3 record in Bozeman and 5-0 mark at home.
* Eastern extended its school record against MSU, giving EWU seven extra periods this season. Eastern defeated Seattle 80-76 in double overtime on Nov. 22 and then beat Denver in its next game in overtime by an 85-80 score. Two games later, the Eagles played at Seattle in another double-overtime thriller, winning 93-88. In its most recent OT game, Eastern beat Morehead State 88-86 on Dec. 13. The previous record for overtime periods in a single year was five in the 1998-99 season, including four extra periods in a 101-100 loss to Weber State on Jan. 16, 1993. The Eagles had no overtime games last season, two in 2014-15, one in 2013-14 and four in 2012-13
 
 
More Comments from Head Coach Jim Hayford . . .
 
On Turnover Difference and Reliance on Wiley: "We turned the ball over a little too much and we asked a lot out of Jake. We were putting the ball in his hands every single time. Some of those turnovers turned into easy points going the other way, and that's why we didn't have a lead going down the stretch. Their shooting was phenomenal. They had players make some baskets, then they made some big free throws when they had to. When you have a close game you look at all those things, and those are plays that make the difference. They made one more winning play than we did. It was a great basketball game -- they were a little better than us."
 
On Split in Montana: "We should have gotten two wins. Give them credit, then won, and I don't like it when we win and the other coach says they should have won. But we were right there. We just made a few too many mistakes. They really took great care of the ball with just four turnovers. We did a good job and Felix guarded Tyler Hall well. We just needed to make one more winning play."

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