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Eagles fall in CBI semifinals at Nevada

EWU ice cold in second half


Last updated 3/24/2016 at 10:21am

A sensational first half just wasn’t enough for the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team to advance in the College Basketball Invitational.

Playing without the school’s all-time leader scorer because of an injured knee, the Eagles led 45-43 at halftime, but faltered in the second half and lost 85-70 to Nevada March 21 in the quarterfinals of the CBI at the Lawlor Events Center in Reno, Nevada.

Eagle senior Venky Jois was unable to play because of a sore knee suffered March 16 in Eastern’s opening-round win, 79-72 over Pepperdine.

The Eagles first-half performance was eye-opening and included 51 percent shooting and a 7-of-14 performance from the 3-point stripe.

“The first half was the game we wanted to play,” Eastern head coach Jim Hayford said. “We just couldn’t sustain it in the second half.”

But the second 20 minutes proved to be brutal as the Eagles missed their first 10 shots to start the second half, and a resulting 13-0 wolf Pack run gave Nevada a lead it would never relinquish. An 11-0 run later in the half put the game away.

In the first half alone, there were 12 lead changes and eight ties, and the 13 lead changes in the game were a season high and the nine ties were the second-most of the year for the Eagles.

In the process of making 13 3-pointers in the game for 356 on the season, the Eagles shattered the previous Big Sky Conference and school records of 344 3-pointers set by last year’s squad.

“Credit Nevada — they played a very good game and shot the ball well against our zone,” Hayford said. “We knew if we were going to win here we would have to win a shootout.”

Three-point shooting marksmen Felix Von Hofe and Austin McBroom led the way with 20 and 17 points, respectively.

Eastern, which finished 18-16 on the season, earned the second-round game after catching fire in the second half against Pepperdine

With Jois on the bench, Bogdan Bliznyuk picked up the slack as the sophomore guard/forward scored 23 of his game-high 25 points in the second half, plus adding 11 rebounds for a double-double. McBroom finished with 24 points while Von Hofe added 14.

The win was Eastern’s first victory in a national tournament as a member of NCAA Division I in four tries, and was the first overall since the 1940s when the Eagles advanced to five NAIA Championships.


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