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Eastern Washington men can still reach Big Sky tournament

Another second-half swoon in Thursday night’s 60-56 home loss to Big Sky Conference rival Montana State has the Eastern Washington men’s basketball team taking a long, hard look over its collective shoulder in its late-season drive to qualify for the six-team BSC tournament that starts March 5.

The loss to the Bobcats dropped Eastern (5-9 BSC) into sixth place in the conference standings, a game ahead of Idaho State and Sacramento State, which are both 4-10.

That means Eastern still controls its destiny. But with its remaining games coming against conference-leading Montana (12-3), at Reese Court tonight at 5, and on the road against third-place Weber State (10-4) Wednesday, the Eagles will probably need some help.

Montana thumped EWU 66-47 in Missoula earlier this winter, and Weber put an 80-68 beating on the Eagles in Cheney on Feb. 12.

Kirk Earlywine, Eastern’s head coach, is well aware of the stiff challenges ahead but still believes his young team is capable.

“If we can win Saturday, we’ll be that much closer to getting in,” he said following the disappointing loss to MSU. “But I’m not big-picture enough to look at things from a global perspective, so to speak. We’ll just try to get ready to win on Saturday.”

Working in the Eagles’ favor is the fact that Idaho State’s last two games are against second-place Northern Colorado (10-3) at home on Monday and against MSU (6-8) in Bozeman on Wednesday. Sacramento State must deal with red-hot Weber at home tonight before facing UNC in Greeley, Colo., on Wednesday.