South Dakota Heats Up and Knocks Off Eagles 77-71

Eagles hit 11 3-pointers to open nine-point lead, but Coyotes make 10 of last 13 shots to overtake EWU

For 29 minutes, it was vintage Eagle Basketball. But for the last 11, the Coyotes had the corner on hot shooting.

The Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team used 11 3-pointers to open a nine-point second half lead, but South Dakota made 10 of its last 13 shots and defeated EWU 77-71 in a non-conference game Sunday afternoon (Nov. 29) at “The Nest” in Sacramento State.

Eastern fell to 3-3 on the season with the loss, while USD of the Summit League won its third-straight game – including wins on back-to-back days – to improve to 4-3. Eastern led 47-38 with 17:03 remaining and 53-46 at the 11:06 mark, but South Dakota out-scored the Eagles 31-18 the rest of the way.

“That was a really good team – that’s why they came in here and beat Sacramento State by six and us by six,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. “We’ll just have to learn from it.”

The Coyotes held Eastern’s Venky Jois to just three shots from the field (he made all three), but the preseason MVP of the Big Sky Conference equaled his career high with seven assists. Defensively, though, EWU allowed South Dakota to make 58 percent of their shots from the field. The Coyotes also made 18-of-21 free throws compared to 7-of-11 for the Eagles.

“Credit Venky – he had seven assists and just one turnover,” said Hayford. “South Dakota’s game plan on him was to not let him shoot the ball. And Venky did a fantastic job finding open players. They took away our primary scorer, but we shot the ball well from the outside in the first half and the start of the second half. But they were just a little better than us today.”

The game was part of the post-Thanksgiving Sacramento State Basketball Invitational, with the Eagles also playing Saturday evening against the University of the Pacific of the West Coast Conference, and coming out on top 70-63. The Coyotes were a 96-90 winner over host Sac State in Saturday’s other game.

 

Won-Lost Records . . .  

* The Eagles are now 3-3, and have played teams from five different conferences thus far.

* After a 1-3 start to the season, South Dakota is now 4-3 after its third-straight win. Before knocking off Sacramento State 96-90, South Dakota beat South Dakota Mines & Technology 83-63. The member of the Summit League has also lost to Wright State (77-69), Northern Illinois (72-65) and Kansas State (93-72), with a win over Cal State Northridge (76-72).

 

What It Means . . .

* There was no tournament winner, but if there was, then Sunday’s game was a pseudo championship game between teams that won on Saturday. There was also no all-tournament team.

 

What's Next . . .

* Eastern remains on the road to face San Francisco on Tuesday (Dec. 1), then returns home to face Great Falls on Dec. 6.

 

Keys to Game . . .

* Eastern sank 11-of-19 3-pointers in the first 21 1/2 minutes of the game, but sank just one of their last 11 attempts. Meanwhile, the Coyotes made just 3-of-7 treys in the game, but two of them came during their 10-of-13 stretch to end the game.

 

Top Performers . .

* Senior graduate transfer Austin McBroom finished with 11 points and a trio of 3-pointers, but played 20 of his 27 minutes in the second half after picking up two early fouls. He entered the game ranked 21st in NCAA Division I in minutes played (36.6 per game).

* Senior Venky Jois equaled his career high with seven assists against a Coyote defense that double and triple teamed him when he got the ball in the post. He scored eight points on 3-of-3 shooting from the field and 2-of-5 from the free throw line, and also had six rebounds and a pair of blocked shots. He entered the USD game ranked seventh in NCAA Division I in field goal percentage (.694).

* Sophomore Bogdan Bliznyuk led the Eagles with 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field with a pair of 3-pointers.

* Redshirt freshman Cody Benzel came off the bench to score 12 points in eight minutes on 4-of-7 shooting from the 3-pont stripe.

 

Turning Point . . .

* After the Eagles took a 53-48 advantage, the Coyotes used runs of 7-0 and 8-0 to take a 63-58 advantage with 5:54 to play. A 3-pointer by Cody Benzel – his fourth of the game for the Eagles – knotted the game at 67-all, but the Coyotes took the lead for good at the 2:55 mark. A pair of baskets in the last two minutes, plus three free throws in the final 28 ticks, clinched the win for USD. Eastern missed its last four shots of the game.

 

Key Stats . . .

* The game matched teams with similar styles, with Eastern entering the game averaging 82.4 points per game and averaging 8.8 3-pointers made and 26.8 treys (44-of-134 for 32.8 percent). The Coyotes entered the game averaging 76.8 points, with 3-point averages of 8.5 makes and 21.3 attempts per game (51-of-128 for 39.8 percent).

 

Team Highlights . . .

* Eastern made 9-of-17 3-point shots in the first half to take a 37-34 halftime lead. The Eagles led by as many as seven in the first half and didn’t trail for the final 14:09 of the half. The Coyotes trailed for the first 11:55 of the second half as well.

* Senior Venky Jois continues to climb the Big Sky Conference career leaders list for blocked shots. His school-record total of 199 is fourth, just eight from third, 13 from second and 48 from the league record. He attempted five free throws, giving him 503 in his career to break the school record of 499 set by Dave Hayden from 1970-73. His 288 free throws made are fourth in school history, with Rodney Stuckey (2006-07) owning the record of 386. 

 

Notables . . .

* Eastern has faced South Dakota twice before, losing on Dec. 20, 2012, by a 78-72 score at the DakotaDome. Eastern won 70-61 the following year (11/15/11) in Cheney.

* Next year, the tournament is expected to be played in Cheney, with the Eagles and Hornets hosting two non-conference opponents from the same leagues (Denver from the Summit and San Francisco from the WCC are the tentative opponents).

 

More Comments from Head Coach Jim Hayford . . .

On USD: “They had a really good game plan against us on a really quick turnaround. So I give them a lot of credit. They shot really well from the free throw line.”

On Final Minutes: “It was tied up at the last media timeout, but they came down and got one of their few 3-pointers on the night. We had a chance to tie it back up, but we missed a great wide-open look that just didn’t fall. They got it back up to a two-possession game and then we couldn’t pull it back in.”

On Free Throws & USD Shooting: “We need to get to the line more – they shot a lot more free throws than we did. They made 70 percent of their shots in the second half, and they did it with 2-point baskets. They were able to take our bigs away from the rim because their bigs are shooters. Quite frankly, they were quicker than us -- they got by us and got to the line. They attempted 48 shots but only seven were 3-pointers. But if you go down there and take away the rim, they are going to kick it out to some pretty good shooters.”

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