Monday, February 16, 2015

Eagles defense steps up, EWU takes sole possession of 1st place with 64-61 win over Sac State

Photo from EWU Athletics instagram
In a rare defensive battler, the Eagles, still missing their leading scorer, took down Sacramento State at Reese Court on Thursday night 64-61 and took over sole control of the lead in the Big Sky Conference.

Tyler Harvey, the Eagle's and the Nation's leading scorer, was unable to go still nursing a deep thigh contusion suffered in the first half against Idaho on January 31st.  Despite his absence Eastern did not lack offensive fireworks as Parker Kelly and Ognjen "OG" Miljkovic were near automatic from deep all night. The Eagles drained 12 of 23 from beyond the arc, including 9 of 13 from OG and Kelly.  The Eagles were held under 70 points for the second time in as many games and the sixth time all season.  A tremendous defensive effort combined with slow patient offense improved their record to 3-3 in those games.

Junior Forward Venky Jois leads the Eagles in shot blocks this season with 54 but on a night when Coach Hayford's squad needed all 13 blocks to secure a win against the Hornets, it was Senior Forward Garrett Moon who led the way.  In 16 minutes off the bench Moon was asked to help shut down Mikh McKinney and Nick Hornsby.  Garrett (6'5" 190 lbs) recorded 3 blocks of Hornsby (6'7" 210 lbs), 2 blocks of McKinney (6'1" 170 lbs 18.8 points per game) and added 1 steal off of Dylan Garrity.  Moon finished with 5 blocks, 2 points, 2 rebounds and 1 steal.

OG led Eastern with 16 points and added 4 rebounds, 2 blocks and 1 steal in 34 minutes, just the second time this season he has played that many minutes.  Parker was right behind him with 15 points and a team leading 6 rebounds and added 2 blocks and 2 assists in 40 minutes.

Senior Point Guard Drew Brandon went into the game as the only viable ball handler with Harvey out and Sir Washington suffering a likely season ending fractured knee cap earlier in the week.  Drew gave Head Coach Jim Hayford 40 minutes with just 3 personal fouls.  He also was the third and final Eagle to score in doule figures with 13 points.  He added 5 rebounds 3 assists and 1 steal.

Venky did not look completely healed from his ankle injury, but played well in 27 minutes earning 7 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 blocks.  Felix Von Hofe got the start in place of Harvey, and racked up 5 points, 1 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block in 20 minutes. Kyle Reid played briefly and gathered in 1 rebound.

Bogdan Bliznyuk saw 21 minutes of action playing the 3 and 4 spots at times.  He finished with 6 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 block.

The Eagles rode a stifling defense and timely shots to a 16 point lead with 7 minutes remaining.  Sacramento State went into a desperate and effective press defense that let them finish the game on a 19-6 run and gave them a real chance to win, but as Sacramento State Head Coach Brian Katz said, "We just made a valiant effort at the end.  I'm really proud of how hard our guys played down the stretch to gives us a chance to win the game. but, you know, in truth they outplayed us for a solid 35 minutes, so they were the better team tonight for sure."

Mikh McKinney was a big part of the Hornets second half run scoring 14 of his game high 21 points in the second. Dylan Garrity was held to just 10 points.  Cody Demps led all players with 10 rebounds and added 6 points, 4 steals, 2 assists and 1 block for the Hornets.

The victory was finally sealed for Eastern when Drew Brandon sank a pair of FT's with 3.7 seconds on the clock then intercepted the full court inbounds pass.

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