Talk about rising to your own occasion.
Two hours after Eastern Washington honored him and two others on Senior Day, Bogdan Bliznyuk left one more memory at Reese Court.
With 3 minutes, 46 seconds left in Eastern Washington’s 85-68 win over Northern Arizona on Saturday afternoon, Bliznyuk made two foul shots to set the Division I record for consecutive free throws with 74.
Seventy-four straight – let that sink in.
The last one was a swish, and the reality hit even before the ball struck the floor. Fans and teammates cheered, punctuating the moment with more hugs.
As if Senior Day weren’t emotional enough already.
“Someday it’ll sink in, and I’ll look back and say that was pretty crazy,” said Bliznyuk, whose last point scored at Reese Court was that history-making free throw.
Bliznyuk went into the game with 68 straight and needed five more to tie the single-season record of 73 held since 2001 by Gary Buchanan of Villanova.
Eastern coach Shantay Legans once played professionally in Europe with Buchanan, who took a great deal of pride in the record.
When Legans texted him that his record was about to fall, Buchanan replied that he doubted it.
Those doubts – and the record – were erased late in the game, following a media timeout during which Bliznyuk learned that he was one away from the record.
As the Eagles walked back onto the floor, Bliznyuk pondered the chances.
“Actually, I’ve been a little bit nervous lately going to the line,” Bliznyuk said. “I had a couple that bounced around the rim and went in.”
That happened early in the second half, when the first of two foul shots glanced off the front iron, caromed off the glass and into the cylinder.
“Once I got to the second one, I figured I might as well make it,” Bliznyuk.
“I think I’m a pretty good free-throw shooter, but it all came together this year. I think I can make every free throw.”
He’ll have that chance next week at the Big Sky Conference Tournament. The all-time record is 85, set in 2003 by Darnell Archey of Butler.
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