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Eastern Washington revels - but not too much - in epic win at Stanford

UPDATED: Wed., Nov. 15, 2017, 3:56 p.m.

Eastern Washington’s bench celebrates a score against Stanford during the Eagles’ 67-61 win earlier this season. (Ben Margot / Associated Press)
Eastern Washington’s bench celebrates a score against Stanford during the Eagles’ 67-61 win earlier this season. (Ben Margot / Associated Press)

The morning after one of the biggest wins in Eastern Washington basketball history, Shantay Legans wasn’t exactly soaking in the glory.

Instead, the first-year Eagles coach and his young staff were absorbed in the scouting report on UNLV, where the Eagles will play Friday night.

Down the hall, the players were toiling over term papers.

“We have some pretty mature guys on this team, and they’re moving on,” Legans said Wednesday morning, not 12 hours after the Eagles shocked Stanford 67-61 at storied Maple Pavilion.

And what stories the Eagles will tell their grandkids one day. After the game, senior Bogdan Bliznyuk reflected on his freshman year and the landmark win over Indiana.

“I thought about that game, and about games like this,” said Bliznyuk, who led the way Tuesday with a game-high 23 points. “That was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, and so is this.”

Bliznyuk and the Eagles were coming off a 10-point loss Sunday at Washington. Raised in nearby Federal Way and growing up a Husky fan, Bliznyuk lamented that “we left a lot on the table at UW.”

The Eagles didn’t lose their confidence. Quite the opposite, Legans realized on the plane flight the next day to San Francisco.

“We were in that game,” said Legans, who had told his players that they had a chance to beat the Huskies.

“They probably thought I was crazy,” Legans said. “After the game, maybe they realized I’m not so crazy.”

With the passion of the converted, the Eagles made all the big plays against Stanford, picked to finish fifth in the Pac-12. Unlike recent Eastern teams, they made most of them on defense. Against a taller lineup, they won on the boards (34-33) and in the paint (with four blocks to two).

On the open floor, they held the Cardinal to 2 for 16 from beyond the arc in the program’s first win over a Pac-12 team in 15 years.

“They’re having fun playing defense right now,” Legans said. “I told the players that if we can hold them to under 70 points, we can win.”

The Eagles (2-1) did that with room to spare. In fact, the Cardinal were lucky to get out of the 50s.

True to their DNA, the Eagles also won this one with some deadly 3-point shooting – 44 percent.

“We know we have players who can score,” Legans said.

Now he has players who believe in their coach and his system.

“I told our players we’ll have to play through a lot of things in this game, including their coach on the sideline – I tend to get a little into it,” Legans said.

Who could blame him? As a player at Cal, Legans never won at Stanford.

“I am so happy our guys came out and played the way they played,” Legans said. “I grew up at a Cal Bear fan and I can tell you it is a great feeling to win here.”

For Legans, the good feelings were amplified by dozens of text messages from old friends and teammates in the Bay Area, where he was raised.

“That meant a lot,” Legans said.


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