Jacob Davison knew just one approach when he rallied Eastern Washington to a victory on Saturday.
Attack, attack, attack.
Davison led all scorers with 26 points, and his scoring punch was critical as the Eagles won a back-and-forth game 71-69 against Portland State in a Big Sky Conference men’s basketball contest at Reese Court.
EWU (9-5, 2-1 Big Sky) needed all of Davison’s scoring output. Forced to rally late after giving up a double-digit lead, Portland State (7-9, 1-3) held the Eagles scoreless over the final 2 minutes and nearly erased a 10-point deficit. Matt Hauser’s 3-pointer with 44 seconds left produced the final points of the game, but the Vikings had a chance to steal a road win in the game’s waning moments.
Hauser missed a potential go-ahead 3-pointer with 4 seconds left. EWU’s Mason Peatling was fouled after collecting the rebound, but he missed the front end of a 1-and-1 opportunity at the foul line. Markus Golder snared the rebound for the Vikings, but he picked up his dribble as he advanced up the court and was unable to get off a shot before the final horn.
EWU coach Shantay Legans said his team, which was picked as the preseason favorite to win the conference, still is learning how to close out games.
“It comes down to making free throws,” he said. “I have confidence our guys will make them.”
EWU fell behind by as many as 12 points in the first half but recovered to close within 32-30 at the break.
Vikings junior guard Holland Woods scored 14 points before halftime, including nine in a 2-minute stretch behind a trio of 3-pointers. His final bucket of that spurt gave Portland State a 26-14 lead – its largest of the game – with 8:51 remaining in the half.
The game evolved into a showdown between Woods and Davison, who helped the Eagles fight back into contention by continuously knifing his way into the lane for layups at the rim. He scored 12 points during a 16-6 Eagles run, and his 17-foot jumper with 45 seconds left in the half provided the margin at intermission.
“When you get him going to the basket, he’s hard to guard,” Legans said of Davison.
Davison shot 6 for 11 from the field for 14 points in the first half to keep EWU close. The rest of his teammates combined to shoot 6 for 17, including 3 for 12 from anyone not named Davison or Peatling.
A 6-foot-7 post, Peatling has struggled to avoid foul trouble at times this season – he has fouled out of six contests – but he remained on the floor and was a steadying presence in the post. The Vikings had little response for Peatling’s proficient back-to-the-basket game, and the EWU senior finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds.
EWU entered the contest averaging 87.1 points per game, the second-best mark in the country behind No. 1 Gonzaga’s 88.5.
Portland State, meanwhile, averages 78 points a game and had its reason to flex with a nation-best 15.9 offensive rebounds per game.
While both teams’ strengths were on display, the Eagles’ scoring prowess more than offset the visitors’ 12 offensive rebounds, five of which came in the game’s first few minutes.
Kim Aiken contributed with 15 points and 15 rebounds for the Eagles.
Woods led the Vikings with 22 points, but he was held in check in the second half with Aiken shadowing him on the floor. Golder added 14 points for Portland State.
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