Eastern ends long road trip with 85-69 loss to Utah - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

Eastern ends long road trip with 85-69 loss to Utah

Photo: Eastern Washington Athletics Photo: Eastern Washington Athletics

By Eastern Washington Athletics

Thankfully, the Eagles are coming home.
 
A 14-night/15-day road trip came to an end for the Eastern Washington University men's basketball team when it fell behind by 19 at halftime and lost to a hungry Utah squad 85-69 Friday (Nov. 24) at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.
 
Runs of 12-2 and 9-0 by Eastern in the second half – including a stretch in which EWU held Utah without a field goal for more than five minutes -- was too little too late. Utah used runs of 9-0 and 10-0 in the first half, and 14-2 to start the second half to help open a 33-point lead. The Eagles made 12 of their last 18 shots, but at one point was just 14-of-48 (29 percent).
 
"I have a lot to learn, but our team played hard," said first-year head coach Shantay Legans. "We were down big, but we came back and kept fighting. I give them all the credit in the world.
 
Senior Bogdan Bliznyuk paced the Eagles with 17 points, while redshirt freshman Jacob Davison scored 13 in this third double figure scoring performance in his last four games. Sophomore Mason Peatling got hot in the second half and finished with 11 points, and sophomore Luka Vulikic added 10 with a career-high seven assists.
 
"We have good shooters, but we have gone up against some good competition," said Legans. "This is building toward the future for us. We could have scheduled other teams and our stats would look beautiful. But we took a test when we came on the road, and I thought we did a good job. We're 3-4 with one of the hardest schedules in the country. I'll take that all day. But we have to keep getting better and make some of these shots."
 
In the first-ever meeting against Utah, Eastern was out-shot 52 percent to 39 percent. Utah is now 5-1 on the season, having suffered its first loss of the season two nights earlier by an 85-58 score against UNLV, getting out-scored by the Runnin' Rebels by 10 in the first half and 17 in the second.
 
 
Records . . .
 
* The Eagles are now 3-4 on the season. In its previous outing, Eastern enjoyed a convincing 83-62 win over Eastern Kentucky on Wednesday (Nov. 24) in the MGM Resorts Main Event in Las Vegas. The Eagles are coming off a third-straight appearance in a national postseason tournament, and were 22-12 overall a year ago. Eastern finished 13-5 in the Big Sky to finish second behind regular season champion North Dakota, and then the Eagles advanced to the semifinals of the league tournament.
 
* The Eagles ended a three-game stretch in which they played teams they've never played before – Georgia State, Eastern Kentucky, and Utah. The Utes are now 5-1, and were coming off their first loss of the season, 85-58 to UNLV on Dec. 22, having defeated Ole Miss 83-74 two nights earlier in Las Vegas on Nov. 20.
 
 
What it Means . . .
 
* With its third game against a Pac-12 foe this season, the Eagles capped a season-opening road trip that included six games in a 13-day span. The Utah game continued a stretch of 10-straight games away from home by EWU, which was visiting its fourth state in the last two weeks. However, Eastern will still play four more road games before playing at Reese Court again on Dec. 17. Thus far, the highlight of the first two weeks of the schedule has been EWU's 67-61 victory over Stanford on Nov. 14 in EWU's first win over a Pac-12 opponent since 2002.
 
 
What's Next . . .
 
* Upon returning to Cheney on Sunday (Nov. 26), the Eagles will stay home a week before playing at Seattle on Dec. 3 at 1 p.m. at Key Arena. The Eagles will face former EWU head coach Jim Hayford, whose first Redhawks team is 1-3 after falling to Washington 89-84 earlier Friday (Nov. 24). Eastern fell to the Huskies on Nov. 12 by a 79-69 score. Seattle will host Idaho State on Nov. 27 at Key Arena and Kennesaw State at the Connolly Complex on the SU campus before taking on the Eagles.
 
 
Keys to Game . . .
 
* David Collette, a 6-foot-10 senior forward, scored early and often for the Utes. He scored 18 of his game-high 24 points in the first half, and made 11-of-12 shots from the field in the game. He played just 18 minutes, and also had five rebounds and a blocked shot.
 
 
Turning Point . . .
 
* Knotted at 11, Utah used hot-shooting to go on runs of 9-0 and 10-0 to open a 37-17 advantage with 5:20 left in the first half. Eastern cut the lead to 14, but the Utes scored eight of the last 11 points in the first half and 14 of the first 16 in the second half to open a 60-29 lead. The Utes led by as many as 33 and no less than 16 the rest of the way.
 
 
Top Performers . . .
 
* Senior Bogdan Bliznyuk, a candidate for Big Sky Conference Player of the Year honors, scored a team-high 17 points on 5-of-14 shooting from the field and 6-of-8 from the free throw line. He also had a team-high eight rebounds.
* Sophomore Mason Peatling scored eight of his season-high 11 points in the second half, including one stretch when he scored eight-straight EWU points. He made 5-of-7 shots from the field.
* Redshirt freshman Jacob Davison scored 13 points, and now has scored all 53 of his points this season in EWU's last four games. It was his third double-figure scoring performance in four games -- he came off the bench to score 20 against Georgia State on Nov 20, and had 11 one game earlier versus UNLV.
* Sophomore Luka Vulikic had a career-high seven assists, and also scored 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the field. His previous high for assists came in EWU's opener versus Walla Walla with four.
 
 
Key Stats . . .
 
* It was a tough shooting night for the Eagles, who made only 39.4 percent in the game, including 5-of-27 from the 3-point stripe for 18.5 percent. Meanwhile, Utah sank 51.7 percent overall, and made 9-of-26 treys for 34.6 percent. The Utes also had a 38-34 advantage in points in the paint and out-rebounded EWU 40-31.
 
 
Other Team Highlights . . .
 
* With Bogdan Bliznyuk scoring four early points, Eastern forged an 11-11 tie on basket by Luka Vulikic with 14:20 to play. Eastern hit four of nine shots to that point. In the first half, Bliznyuk scored 11 points and Jacob Davison had seven on 3-of-3 shooting. They combined for 18 of EWU's 27 first-half points and were a combined 7-of-11 from the field, while the rest of the team was just 4-of-23 (17 percent) before intermission.
 
* At one point, Utah was 20-of-30 from the field for 66.7 percent, but cooled down significantly. The Utes had a stretch of five makes in 17 attempts, including a stretch of seven misses in a row as the Eagles held them without a field goal for 5:06. In all, the Eagles had a 12-2 scoring run, with Mason Peatling scoring the last six points in that stretch. Eastern ended the game on a 9-0 run.
 
 
Notables . . .
 
* The Eagles are in the midst of a stretch of 36-straight days without a home game – one of just four NCAA Division I teams with such a road stretch this year. Eastern's 15-day road trip from Nov. 11 to Nov. 25 is the books, but there are more travel miles ahead. Eastern plays four more road games before a pair of pre-Christmas home games. The first leg of EWU's road stretch included 4,432 airline miles, while the other trips in the road stretch will include 6,408 miles. That's a total of 10,840 air miles, not including ground travel.
 
 
Comments from Head Coach Shantay Legans . . .
 
On Utah Game: "We had some shots and we had a gameplan defensively that we thought would work, but we need to do a better job getting our guys prepared. We gave up 85 points and they shot better than us from the field. I have to do a better job to get them prepared to go against teams like this."
 
On Utah: "Utah is a very good team – they have size, athleticism, good shooting and they have a great coach. They came in prepared and were ready for us. Our players do everything we ask of them, and we just have to make sure we are putting them in positions to be successful. We'll get better with that."
 
On Collette: "There was no denying him. We had guys flying around him, and maybe we should have sent the double-team earlier. We have to make sure our guys our prepared for that. Coach (Larry) Krystkowiak did a great job of getting his players in the right positions, and we'll go back and watch exactly how he did that. We have a big guy in Benas (Griciunas) and he's much better than he showed tonight. We're going to get him some touches inside and he's going to score those."v

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