The Eastern Washington University men's basketball team couldn't quite get over the hump, and ended up falling 75-73 to South Dakota from the Summit League on Sunday (Dec. 10) in Vermillion, S.D.
After rallying from a 13-point deficit in the first half, the Eagles forced a pair of ties in the second half and pulled within two with 2:50 to play. But Matt Mooney scored all nine of USD's points after that, including a dagger with 1:32 to play on a 3-point basket.
On a night in which the Eagles sank a season-high 46 percent of their shots from the field, true freshman Jack Perry hit a pair of 3-pointers for Eastern in the last two minutes. But an Eagle miss with 16 seconds left stalled out the upset attempt.
Three Eagles scored in double figures, led by a career-high 19-point effort by sophomore Mason Peatling. Eastern lost for the fourth-straight game, and hasn't had a lead in any of them.
The loss dropped EWU to 3-7 on the season, while USD improved to 9-3. The Coyotes entered the game 82nd in the ratings percentage index (RPI), while Eastern was 190th. The Eagles next play Tuesday (Dec. 12) at Wyoming, which is 7-3 and No. 57 in the RPI.
Records . . .
* The Eagles are now 3-7 on the season, with their last victory coming on Nov. 24 by an 83-62 score against Eastern Kentucky in the MGM Resorts Main Event in Las Vegas.
* Now 9-3 on the season, South Dakota had beaten Drake 93-65 in its last outing, and is now 5-0 at home and 4-3 away from home thus far. In those previous four home victories, USD had won by an average of 31 points per game. The Coyotes lost to Duke 96-80 on Dec. 2, and previously fell to Northern Colorado from the Big Sky Conference by a 63-62 score on Nov. 25 on a neutral court.
What it Means . . .
* The end is near for the Eagles during the stretch of playing10-straight games away from home. Eastern hasn't played at home since beating Walla Walla 82-61 on Nov. 10, but will get that chance after the Wyoming game. The Eagles are in the midst of playing four road games in a 10-day stretch, but earlier had a season-opening stretch that included seven games in a 15-day span. Thus far, the highlight of season has been EWU's 67-61 victory over Stanford on Nov. 14 in EWU's first win over a Pac-12 opponent since 2002.
What's Next . . .
* Eastern closes its 10-game road stretch when the Eagles play Dec. 12 at Wyoming, a team which is 7-3 thus far and ended EWU's season a year ago in the College Basketball Invitational. The Cowboys beat Pacific 86-72 on Saturday (Dec. 9) in their last outing. Following the end of the road gauntlet at Wyoming, EWU will host Cal State Northridge on Dec. 17 at 1 p.m. and the University of Providence from Great Falls, Mont., on Dec. 20 at 6 p.m.
Keys to Game . . .
* Eastern kept it close thanks to its best shooting performance of the season, making 45.6 percent (26-of-57) after a 56 percent second half (15-of-27). Eastern sank 9-of-23 3-pointers for its second-best shooting percentage of the season at 39.1 percent. The Eagles made all 12 of their free throws.
Turning Point . . .
* The Eagles fell behind by 13, but Mason Peatling scored seven Eastern points in a 9-0 run to pull Eastern within four. Eastern held South Dakota scoreless for nearly three minutes during the run, including a 4:04 stretch without a field goal. The Eagles eventually tied the game at 34 and 36 early in the second half, but could never take a lead. The Coyotes regained a trio of nine-point leads, but the Eagles stayed within striking distance for the remainder of the game.
Top Performers . . .
* Senior Bogdan Bliznyuk made 7-of-15 field goals with a pair of 3-pointers to finish with 18 points, nine rebounds, four assists and a pair of steals.
* Sophomore Mason Peatling had his second-straight double figure scoring performance, making 6-of-9 shots from the field to finish with 19 points. He hit his only 3-point attempt and sank all six of his free throws, and also had four rebounds and a pair of blocked shots. He eclipsed his previous career high of 13 at Montana last season.
* True freshman Jack Perry also had his best game as an Eagle, finishing with 13 points on 4-of-8 shooting overall and 3-of-5 from the 3-point stripe. His previous best was nine points at Seattle.
* Junior Jesse Hunt came off the bench to scored eight points, grab five rebounds and dish out a pair of assists in 22 minutes of action.
Key Stats . . .
* Although the Eagles had a season-best field goal percentage, defensively they allowed the highest percentage against the Eagles this season. South Dakota made only 2-of-12 of its 3-point shots, but were efficient inside of the arc by making 26-of-39 for 66.7 percent. The result was 54.9 percent for the game for the Coyotes, who out-scored Eastern inside the paint 46-28. The 46 points in the paint were the most against EWU this season.
Other Team Highlights . . .
* Senior Bogdan Bliznyuk came a rebound away from his second-straight double-double, finishing with 18 points, nine rebounds, four assists and a pair of steals. His assist performance moved him into 10th in school history with 304 in his career, and he moved into 11th with 115 3-pointers made. He now has 1,590 career points, just 213 behind the school record of 1,803 set by his former teammate Venky Jois from 2013-16. Bliznyuk's former teammate at Todd Beamer High School in Federal Way, Wash., Trey Burch-Manning, joined Matt Mooney with a team-high 19 points for USD.
Notables . . .
* Eastern is 1-3 versus South Dakota in four meetings which have taken place between 2010 and 2017. The Eagles lost 78-72 on Dec. 20, 2010, in the first meeting in Vermillion, S.D.; won 70-61 at home the following season on Nov. 15, 2011; and lost 77-71 on Nov. 29, 2015, in a neutral site game in Sacramento, Calif.
* The Eagles are in the midst of a stretch of 36-straight days without a home game – one of just four NCAA Division I teams with such a road stretch this year. Eastern's 15-day road trip from Nov. 11 to Nov. 25 is the books, but there are more travel miles ahead. Eastern plays four more road games before a pair of pre-Christmas home games. The first leg of EWU's road stretch included 4,432 airline miles, while the other trips in the road stretch will include 6,408 miles. That's a total of 10,840 air miles, not including ground travel.