POCATELLO — Glen Dean performed down the stretch like a young man who had simply had enough.
Of losing on the road, that is.
Instead of letting his Eastern Washington men’s basketball team go under for a 19th consecutive time on the road, the Eagles’ sophomore point guard came up with big play after big play in the waning minutes of Saturday night’s Big Sky Conference showdown against Idaho State, leading EWU to a thrilling 69-67 triumph over the Bengals at Holt Arena in Pocatello.
The win, which was the first on the road for the Eagles since Jan. 10 of 2010 – when a bucket by Dean in the final four seconds secured a 75-73 win over Montana State in Bozeman – and snapped an 18-game road losing streak that included 12 straight this year.
Dean, who finished with a game-high 17 points, scored eight of those in the final five minutes, and assisted on three other baskets as the Eagles (8-15 overall, 5-6 in the Big Sky) overcame a nine-point second-half deficit to reel in the Bengals (6-16, 2-8) and greatly enhance their chances of making the sxi-team field in the Big Sky Tournament.
“The last three minutes tonight, he looked like the player from a year ago,” Eastern coach Kirk Earlywine said of Dean, who was the BSC’s freshman of the year last winter, but missed the first seven games this season with a stress fracture in his foot. “He hasn’t been right, and we all know that.
“But that looked like the old Glen Dean.”
Dean, a 5-foot-10, 170-pounder, fueled the last of several second-half Eastern comebacks with a bucket off a tough drive that cut ISU’s lead to 56-53. And he followed that up with a nice bounce pass that led to a 3-point bucket by Jeffrey Forbes, who finished with nine points.
He scored on another drive that made it 63-61 with 2:36 left, and then hit Tremayne Johnson with another nifty pass that resulted in a lay-in bucket and three-point play that tied the game at 63.
Two minutes later, with the Bengals leading 67-63, Dean knocked down a huge 3-ponter and then dished out another assist to Johnson, who put the Eagles up 68-67 with 20.5 seconds remaining. And in was Dean’s free throw with 5.9 seconds remaining that gave Eastern its final margin of victory after a desperation shot by ISU’s Kenny McGowen at the final buzzer failed to connect.
“I was so happy with our guys,” Earlywine said. “I thought it was unbelievable resiliency, just hanging in there at the end. A month ago, two months ago, we don’t win that game.
“It’s fun to watch these young guys just keep growing right before our eyes.”
Along with Dean’s offensive production, the Eagles got 15 points from Johnson and 11 from junior guard Cliff Colimon.
Eastern now gets a week off before returning to Reese Court next Saturday to take on Weber State at 7:05 p.m.