GRAND FORKS, N.D. – It was a heartbreaking way to end Eastern Washington University’s attempt at making history with a statement to the rest of the league.
Seeking its first Big Sky Conference men’s basketball road sweep in 10 years and the first in the league this season, North Dakota senior Troy Huff had a rebound basket at the buzzer to give second-place North Dakota a 69-67 victory over the Eagles on UND’s Senior Day on Saturday.
The game was a thriller to the very end, and featured a season-high 11 ties for EWU and three lead changes. En route to a combined 35 points and 26 rebounds, sophomore Venky Jois and junior Martin Seiferth both contributed double-doubles for a team playing without starting point guard Drew Brandon, who missed the game with a hand injury suffered in EWU’s previous game.
Eastern’s 13 missed free throws and 16 turnovers offset EWU’s 49 percent shooting from the field and a 40-33 rebounding edge. Eastern trailed 66-59 with 2:13 to play, but rallied to knot the score at 67 on a 3-pointer by Tyler Harvey with 15.5 seconds remaining.
“It was a great basketball game and we played through a lot of adversity,” said Eastern coach Jim Hayford of the afternoon road game. “We had to overcome Drew’s injury and played an emotion-filled team in North Dakota, plus we had a quick turnaround from playing on Thursday. Our players had it right there until the final buzzer.”
The Eagles were not only trying for the school’s first road sweep since the 2003-04 school year, but were also trying for the first road sweep by any team this season.
Despite the loss, Eastern returns home for its final two league games of the season in control of its own destiny in the hunt for one of seven berths in the Big Sky tourney.