Eastern Washington has three weeks before its Big Sky Conference slate opens, but Jacob Davison’s league MVP candidacy is well underway.
Davison poured in 39 points and added six rebounds, five steals and five assists in the Eagles’ 98-82 win over North Dakota on Sunday at Reese Court.
Using dunks, 3-pointers, midrange jumpers and driving layups, the dynamic junior shot 17 for 27 from the field and helped EWU (5-3) pull away from the Fighting Hawks (4-5).
Davison, who came in averaging 18.5 points per game, scored 17 in a late 8-minute stretch for EWU, which trailed 63-62 at the 11:16 mark of the second half.
The Eagles scored 32 points in the final 10 minutes to hold off North Dakota, which left the Big Sky Conference for the Summit League in 2017.
“Whoever had the mismatch, we’d set them up with the ball screen,” said Davison, who had a career-high 41 points in a home win against Northern Arizona last season. “And tonight it happened to be me and it worked out great.”
Davison led five Eagles in double figures, joining point guard Ellis Magnuson (14 points) and forwards Mason Peatling (12), Kim Aiken Jr. (11) and Tanner Groves (11 points, three blocks).
“We saw that the floor was spread, and Jacob did a great job of getting to the rim,” EWU coach Shantay Legans said. “Tanner came in and did a really good job offensively and defensively, and that really changed the flow of the game.
Aiken also had a game-high 15 rebounds, earning him his fifth double-double of the season.
Magnuson, a true freshman from Boise, continued his steady play, dishing out six assists.
North Dakota shot 45.5% (30 of 66) from the floor and EWU made 52% (42 for 80) – but the Eagles were able to generate points off of turnovers. EWU scored 25 points off 15 UND turnovers, while only turning the ball over six times.
Two days after falling to Big Sky power Montana 77-70 in Missoula, UND played EWU to 12 ties and six lead changes and led 55-47 after Billy Brown’s bucket early in the second half.
But EWU continued to feed Peatling and Groves down low, outscoring UND 62-38 in the paint and shaking off its chilly 3-point shooting.
EWU, which ranks third in the country in made 3-pointers per game (11), hit 4 of 9 in the second half after going 4 for 13 in the first 20 minutes.
UND, picked eighth in the nine-team Summit League preseason poll, rarely sent EWU to the free-throw line. The Eagles sank 6 of 8 attempts.
Legans praised the late-game defense of Aiken, who helped EWU hold Hawks guard Marlon Stewart to 14 points after he scored 10 in the first half.
“We kept giving them open shots (in the first half),” Aiken said. “Then we stopped giving open shots, stopped fouling a lot and got steals to run in transition.”
“I was a little upset early in the game in our defense. We usually do a good job of not letting opponents get to their strengths, but we were allowing them to do that at times,” Legans said. “That was disappointing early in the game.”
De’Sean Allen-Eikens had 19 points and 11 rebounds to lead four Fighting Hawks in double figures.
EWU plays host to an NAIA school – Multnomah University (6-5) of Portland – on Friday.
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