Eagles manage road win at Northern Colorado
Last updated 1/28/2021 at 2:46pm
GREELEY, COLO. – It's never easy winning on the road in the Big Sky Conference.
So in this season of Covid-19 when teams are playing home-away matchups in one location – getting at least one win can be particularly fulfilling.
Eastern Washington University's men's basketball team managed that feat last week by earning a split in their series with Northern Colorado. The Eagles fell in the last minute, 78-76, on Thursday, Jan. 21, but used a late 7-0 run to pull off a win in the rematch Saturday that was also played in Colorado – winning 82-76.
Head coach Shantay Legans mixed up his personnel against the Bears on Saturday, inserting sophomore Michael Meadows into the starting lineup for the first time in his collegiate career and giving fellow sophomore Jacob Groves only his second start. Meadows responded with nine points, two rebounds and two assists while Groves added seven points and four rebounds as the Eagles overcame a season-low 27 points in the first half by scoring 55 points – a season high – in the second for the win.
"We are relying on players we trust, and they did a great job," Eastern head coach Shantay Legans said. "I couldn't be any prouder. We're trying of find the right recipe and we'll get there. We have some really, really good groceries."
Eight Eagles scored at least six points in a game that featured 20 lead changes and six ties.
Tanner Groves, Kim Aiken, Jr. and Jacob Davison all scored in double figures, including a double-double by Groves with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Aiken had17 with eight boards, and senior Davison came off the bench for the first time in three years and scored 11.
Trailing 43-34 with just over 14 minutes left in the game, Eastern battled back, taking a 47-46 lead on a Davison steal and Aiken basket with 11:44 to play. Both teams exchanged leads of no larger than six points from there, culminating in Jack Perry's 3-pointer with 5:11 that gave EWU a 65-61 lead – and sparking their eventual 7-0 run to go up 72-64 with 2:48 to play.
Eastern made all 10 of its free throw attempts in the last 52 seconds to preserve the victory.
"You have to be happy for these young men," Legans added. "They did a great job today."
It was nice salve for painful, two-point loss to the Bears on Thursday - watching as UNC's Matt Johnson hit a pair of free throws with one second to play for a 78-76 win.
There were four ties and three lead changes in the early going, but the Bears got hot to take command. Tied at 11, UNC went on a 7-0 run and took an 18-11 advantage.
Eastern trailed 33-30, but UNC scored the next five points and eventually led at halftime 47-38. The Bears took their biggest lead of the night at 62-51 with 13:20 to play, but Eastern used a 14-4 run over the next six minutes to knot the score at 65.
Tanner Groves gave Eastern its first lead since the opening minutes with a 3-point play with 7:13 to play that was the fifth lead change of the game. There were four more lead changes and four ties down the stretch, and the game was knotted at 76 in the final minute as neither team hit a field goal in the final two minutes.
Northern Colorado missed a field goal attempt with 13 seconds to play to set-up EWU for a potential game-winning possession. But a steal by UNC's Johnson was followed by a backcourt foul by EWU, and Johnson nailed both charity shots for the win.
Tanner Groves led Eastern with 20 points to go with 10 rebounds for a double-double. He was 7 for 10 from the field and 6 for 6 from the line. Sophomore Tyler Robertson added 16 points, 12 in the first half, on 5-of-13 shooting from the field and 5 for 6 from the line.
Eastern, 3-2 Big Sky, 4-6 overall, is scheduled to host Sacramento State on Jan. 28 and 30 in its next home games at Reese Court. Through all games this weekend, Montana State sits on top at 6-0, followed by Southern Utah (6-2), Sacramento State (4-2), Idaho State (5-3), Eastern (3-2) and Weber State (2-2).