The standout performance of Saturday’s epic basketball game at Reese Court: Eastern Washington forward Jacob Wiley carrying daughter Aliya on his shoulders when it was done.
How did he have the strength?
Wiley and his teammates had just played one of the most exhilarating, draining contests in school history, one that contained a season’s worth of superlatives.
Eastern Washington 130, Portland State 124, in triple overtime.
But the final score barely scratches the surface of a game that also marked Jim Hayford’s 100th win at Eastern and also kept the Eagles tied for second place in the Big Sky Conference.
Eastern (16-8 overall and 8-3 the Big Sky) put up the most points in program history and got 45 points each from Wiley and forward Bogdan Bliznyuk. Now they share the EWU single-game record with Rodney Stuckey, whose retired jersey made a nice backdrop as they posed for photos after the game.
It’s a wonder they didn’t ask for chairs after playing 53 minutes each in an afternoon with more turns than Bliznyuk’s spin move in the paint.
Ultimately, that’s what decided a game that lasted almost three hours and included 13 ties and 16 lead changes: Eastern’s inside strength, which finally wore down the quicker Vikings until three of their starters had fouled out.
“In the last 35 minutes of that game – second half and three overtimes – I don’t remember an offensive execution that any guy on our team missed,” Hayford said. “If it was isolation for Bogdan or post-up to Jake, other players had to have proper spacing or get the ball to them with good timing.”
After playing from behind in the first two overtimes, the Eagles got their reward in the third extra period after two PSU starters had already fouled out.
Wiley opened with a layup and a foul shot, then Bliznyuk added a layup for a 117-112 lead with four minutes left.
However, PSU (11-10 overall and 4-6 in the Big Sky) was back within three with 1:35 left on a layup by Deontae North. That play disqualified Wiley, who went to the bench as a crowd of 2,025 cheered his 18-for-2 shooting and 17 rebounds.
Now the game rested on the shoulders of Bliznyuk, who had 10 rebounds and nine assists in narrowly missing his second career triple-double.
“Next guy up, make the right play, make the right decision,” said Bliznyuk, who knew the Vikings were waiting but plunged ahead anyway.
He did that four times in the next 40 seconds, drawing a foul every time. Bliznyuk was good on seven of eight free throws, while PSU came up empty on five straight possessions.
Eastern finished 34-for-43 from the foul line, the clincher coming when Felix Von Hofe hit two more to make it 128-120 with 22 seconds left.
“It was a classic – that was something else. It was two teams just going at it,” Hayford said.
Both teams started slowly. PSU led 11-9 after nine minutes, but EWU took charge with a 12-0 run that showed the inside-outside game to perfection.
Ferris High’s Cody Benzel had 12 points on four 3-pointers, while Wiley – oming off a 38-point night against Sacramento State – and Bliznuky dominated the paint. Eastern also dominated the boards in the first half, 18 to eight.
Ahead 39-26 at halftime, the Eagles pushed the advantage to 16 on two foul shots by Wiley. However, PSU’s speed in transition was often too much for the Eagles.
The Vikings got 35 points from De’Sean Parsons – who was 14-for-17 from the field – and 30 from Deontae North.
PSU, led by Deontae North’s took its first lead of the second half with eight minutes. A back-and-forth second half ended with a missed 3-pointer by Caleen Robinson.
PSU led by four early in the first overtime, but Eastern rallied and took a 97-95 lead on Wiley’s layin with nine seconds left. However, the cheers were silenced when Traylin Farris hit a layin at the buzzer to force a second overtime.
Again the visitors had the advantage, taking a 110-108 lead on North’s 3-pointer with 17 seconds to play, but Bliznyuk answered with two foul shots. PSU had one more chance to win, but Bryce Canda missed a long three to set up the final overtime.
Next up is a Thursday game at North Dakota, which is tied for second in the conference with the Eagles at 8-3. That can wait for now.
“We’ll let them rest and get Monday off – I think they earned it,” Hayford said.
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