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Eastern Washington men roll to victory after 21-0 first-half run

LAS VEGAS – Eastern Washington used outstanding defense Wednesday to go on a 21-0 first-half run and rout Eastern Kentucky 83-62 at the T-Mobile Arena as part of the fourth annual MGM Resorts Main Event men’s basketball tournament.

After leading 39-16 at halftime, the Eagles led by as many as 28 in the second half and no less than 19 in the victory. EWU had a 40-13 advantage in bench points and 16-1 in assists as the Colonels made just 19 field goals in the game.

EWU held the Colonels to 34.5-percent shooting from the field in improving to 3-3 on the season, while EKU fell to 2-3. Eastern Kentucky went 13 minutes, 8 seconds without scoring during EWU’s run, missing 14 shots as the Eagles opened a 30-11 advantage.

“It felt better today and we were pretty good,” EWU head coach Shantay Legans said. “Our guys came out and did a great job defensively. They picked up our game plan and what we needed to do.”

Three Eagles scored in double figures, including a collegiate career high of 16 points by senior graduate transfer Benas Griciunas. Senior Bogdan Bliznyuk had 13 points and junior Cody Benzel scored 11.

Griciunas had his best game as an Eagle – and career high as a collegian – on 7-of-10 shooting from the field. He also had five rebounds.

Bliznyuk finished with 8-of-10 shooting from the free-throw line, and also had five assists and four rebounds.

Benzel had a season-high in points, making 3 of 4 from the 3-point line.

Junior Jesse Hunt chipped in six points and a team-high six rebounds, including two of EWU’s nine offensive boards in the game.

Redshirt freshman Jacob Davison scored nine points and had five rebounds, and has scored all 40 of his points this season in EWU’s last three games. He came off the bench to score 20 against Georgia State on Nov 20, and had 11 one game earlier versus UNLV.

During EWU’s 21-0 run, seven Eagles scored, with Bliznyuk and Griciunas both contributing four.

The Eagles also had five offensive rebounds in the first half, scoring eight second-chance points.

Eastern Kentucky missed its first three shots of the second half. At that point the Colonels were 6 of 28 from the field.

But Eastern Kentucky made 21 of 30 free throws, including 18 of 25 in the second half.

The Eagles snapped a two-game losing skid since a 67-61 victory over Stanford on Nov. 14 in EWU’s first win over a Pac-12 Conference opponent since 2002.

Eastern Washington had a 39-point turnaround, having lost to Georgia State 68-50 on Monday in its MGM Resorts Main Event opener.

The Eagles end a 15-day road trip on Friday when they play at Utah at 5 p.m. Eastern is on a three-game stretch in which it is playing teams it has never played before – Georgia State, Eastern Kentucky and Utah.