Before Eastern Washington guard Jacob Davison was hindered by a pair of preseason injuries, coach Shantay Legans thought he might be the Eagles’ primary scorer.
Davison looked the part in a 85-81 victory against Montana State on Saturday at Reese Court.
Two-handed dunks in traffic and transition. A pair of 3-pointers late in the first half and two more baskets to start the second. A healthy Davison’s team-high 23 points came in a variety of ways for the Eagles (5-12, 3-3 Big Sky), who completed their home sweep of the Montana schools.
Before EWU downed the Bobcats (7-10, 4-3), it upset rival and preseason conference favorite Montana 78-71 on Jan. 10, the Eagles’ first back-to-back wins of the season.
“It was frustrating not playing as well I as I know I can due to injury, but I’ve just stayed the course and kept working in private,” Davison said. “So it felt great tonight to just show everyone I’m back.”
EWU, which shot 57.9 percent from the field, was also paced by guard Tyler Kidd, who scored 15 of his 17 points in the first half.
The 5-foot-9 guard from Skagit Valley Community College made 3 of 4 3-point attempts to help get EWU out of an early hole.
“I was feeling good,” Kidd said. “(MSU) kept going underneath, and if they’re underneath I’m going to shoot it every time.”
Davison’s 3-pointer at the 4:47 mark of the first half gave the Eagles a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. EWU made 10 of its first 20 3-point attempts.
Big Sky preseason MVP Tyler Hall had a game-high 26 points for Montana State, which trailed the entire second half but twice cut EWU’s lead down to a single possession.
When Montana State guard Keljin Blevins’ 3 made the score 63-62, EWU forward Jesse Hunt (15 points, 10 rebounds), answered with a 3-pointer.
Blevins hit another long jumper at the 1:06 mark to cut the Eagles’ lead to 84-81, but EWU drained the clock on its next possession before Mason Peatling (13 points) corralled an offensive rebound, was fouled and hit 1 of 2 free throws.
Blevins (23 points) had an opportunity to tie the score at the buzzer, but his 3-pointer was short.
“To see the hard work by our players and staff pay off makes me happy as a coach,” Legans said. “It was huge the way we came out and played offensively – we haven’t really had an offensive game like that. I know it’s in us because we have a lot of good offensive players. Seeing that pay off is big-time.”
Hunt praised his team’s resolve in weathering Montana State’s short runs.
“We have great leaders, especially with (Peatling) back. He’s been terrific for us,” Hunt said.
EWU has beaten Montana State 10 times in their past 13 meetings.
“Pretty fast-paced game,” Hall said. “I thought we had a chance here and there, but (EWU) made the right plays and did the little things, and that’s why they got the win.”
Hall breaks Big Sky scoring record
That record, broken last March, was broken again Saturday at Reese Court by Hall, Montana State’s four-year stalwart.
Hall, a 6-foot-5 guard from Rock Island, Illinois, hit an early 3 to surpass Bliznyuk’s 2,169 career points.
Legans praised and congratulated Hall but wished he set the record in another gym.
“Bittersweet that he did it here … ” Legans said. “He got a chance to beat it here. We all loved Bogdan. He was an amazing player.”
Bliznyuk plays professionally in Europe and was on the Los Angeles Clippers’ summer league team last year.
Hall said he was proud to break the record, but not in a losing effort.
“Big accomplishment, but I don’t usually like to talk about it,” Hall said. “I put in a lot of hard work, so I’m proud and a lot of people have helped me. It would have felt a lot better if it happened in a win.”
Hall lauded Bliznyuk, who he faced for three seasons.
“Great player, very tough matchup, and I heard he’s doing well where he is,” Hall said. “There’s a lot of good players that come out of this league.”
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