Bogdan Bliznyuk wins another Big Sky Player of the Week - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

Bogdan Bliznyuk wins another Big Sky Player of the Week

Photo: Eastern Washington Athletics Photo: Eastern Washington Athletics

By Eastern Washington Athletics

The peak is still a ways away, but the climb Bogdan Bliznyuk made up the mountain last week was breathtaking.
 
The Eastern Washington University men's basketball standout moved up four positions on the Big Sky Conference's all-time scoring list in a sweep last week of the Montana schools, and was rewarded with Ready Nutrition Player of the Week honors on Monday (Feb. 19). The senior has now been honored three times by the league this season and five times in his career.
 
On his way to moving into fifth in Big Sky Conference history in career scoring with 1,969 points, Bliznyuk averaged 22.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists while leading the Eagles to wins over Montana and Montana State. Five other different Eagles had double-figure scoring performances in the sweep – and one performance with 13 rebounds – as the Eagles kept hold of fourth place in the league standings.
 
Bliznyuk is now 31 points from becoming just the fifth player in league history to hit the 2,000-point mark in his career after making 53.3 percent of his shots from the field and all 11 of his free throws last week. He has extended his streak of charity shots without a miss to 63.
 
"We had a great team effort to sweep the Montana schools, but Bogdan is an amazing player and had an amazing week," Eastern head coach Shantay Legans said. "He's bigger than a lot of guys guarding him. If they put a big guy on him he'll easily maneuver around him, and if they put a small guy on him he can post up and get the ball. We have very good passers and we do a good job of screening to get him open."
 
Formerly from Lutsk, Ukraine, and a 2014 graduate of Todd Beamer High School in Federal Way, Wash., Bliznyuk made 8-of-13 shots to finish with 19 points, six rebounds and five assists in a 74-65 victory over Montana to snap the Grizzlies' 13-game winning streak.
 
He then had a near triple-double in an 84-79 win over Montana State, finishing with 25 points, nine rebounds and nine assists while making 9-of-17 from the field and all nine of his free throws. Bliznyuk had the lone triple-double in school history as a sophomore, but on seven occasions an Eastern player has flirted with a triple-double (within a combined total of three rebounds and/or assists). Two of those have been by Bliznyuk, including the MSU game.
 
This season, Bliznyuk has made 50.5 percent of his field goals (14th in the Big Sky) and 90.7 percent of his free throws (first in the Big Sky, ninth in NCAA Division I) to average 20.0 points (third, 42nd nationally) through 27 games. He is also averaging 6.7 rebounds (seventh) and 4.0 assists (second) to rank as the only player in the league to be in the top 10 in scoring, rebounding and assists.
 
The Big Sky Conference Player of the Year candidate now has 1,969 career points in 130 career games to rank fifth in league history. In fact, it took him just 10 minutes against Montana on Feb. 15 to move from No. 9 to No. 6. He passed Steve Conner from Boise State with 1,927 from 1974-78, followed by No. 7 Steve Hayes from Idaho State with 1,933 from 1973-77, No. 6 Damian Lillard from Weber State with 1,934 from 2008-12 and eventually tied No. 5 Tanoka Beard with 1,944 from 1989-93. A distant fourth is Larry Krystokowiak from Montana with 2,017 points from 1982-85 and Bruce Collins from Weber State with 2,019 from 1976-80.
 
Krystokowiak, now head coach at Utah, is one of only four players in the 55-year history of the league have hit the 2,000-point mark. Bliznyuk is just the third player since 2000 to crack the Big Sky's top 10, joining Weber State's Jeremy Senglin (2013-17) and Lillard. Senglin scored 2,078 points to rank only behind the record 2,102 Orlando Lightfoot from Idaho scored in three seasons from 1991-94.
 
If the Eagles play just the minimum of five games left this season and he maintains his average of 20.0 points per game, Bliznyuk would finish third in league history with 2,069 points. If Bliznyuk matches his 22.1 average in league games, he would finish with 2,079 to rank second and finish 23 behind the record of 2,102.
 
With 40 points against Sacramento State on Feb. 1, Bliznyuk moved up to ninth in league history as he passed Montana State's Nate Holmstadt with 1,864 points from 1995-99. Bliznyuk moved up four spots on the Big Sky list against North Dakota on Jan. 25 to 11th in the 55-year history of the Big Sky, then moved into 10th one game later. Besides passing EWU's Venky Jois (1,803 points from 2013-16) for the school scoring record, Bliznyuk passed the 1,810 points by Jim Potter from Idaho State from 1992-95, the 1,819 by Donn Holston from Idaho State from 1984-87, the 1,827 by Michael Ray Richardson from Montana from 1984-87 and the 1,841 by Tom Domako from Montana State from 1985-88.
 
The Eagles have been a solid free throw shooting team this season and are currently second in the league and ranked 22nd in NCAA Division I (76.9 percent, as well as tops in league games only at 82.1 percent). Bliznyuk is leading the league and ninth nationally at 90.7 percent, including 67-of-68 (98.5 percent) in league games only to lead the Big Sky.
 
Bliznyuk enters action this week having made 63 consecutive free throws dating back to EWU's game at North Dakota on Dec. 31. There is no known record for EWU and the Big Sky, but the NCAA single season record is 73 set by Gary Buchanan from Villanova over a 21-game stretch in the 2000-01 season. The career record of 85 came between Feb. 15, 2001, and Jan. 18, 2003, by Darnell Archey from Butler during a 57-game stretch.
 
He now has two performances in his 130-game career of at least 40 points, 10 with at least 30, 39 with at least 20 and 92 scoring in double figures, including the school record scoring total of 45 set as a junior. He's had 10 or more rebounds 19 times and double figures in assists twice. He also ranks tied for seventh in school history with 40 points at Sacramento State on Feb. 1 when he sank 15-of-18 shots.

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