Mason Peatling did everything he could inside to help Eastern Washington chip away at a deficit it faced most of regulation.
It was the 6-foot-8 Australian’s range that pushed the game to overtime Saturday at Reese Court, where the Eagles went on to clip transfer-heavy Southern Utah 81-78 in Big Sky Conference play.
Peatling hit a 3-pointer with 24 seconds left to knot the score before the extra session, helping EWU (12-6, 5-2 Big Sky) win in come-from-behind fashion.
Most of Peatling’s 30 points, 11 rebounds, five blocks and five assists came near the rim, where the senior operated against a longer, more athletic Thunderbirds roster EWU head coach Shantay Legans dubbed the most physically talented in the conference.
Peatling attacked the Southern Utah big men, shooting 11 for 16 from the free-throw line, and the Eagles got the stops they needed in a contest that appeared to be in the Thunderbirds’ hands.
“Once we got more into their bench, I had more of an advantage inside one-on-one,” Peatling said. “They were throwing guys at me all game. We were trying to get points any way we could, but in the final minutes we were out of timeouts and were trying to get easy buckets.”
“Mason is a great shooter, and all five guys on the floor should be able to hit big shots,” Legans said. “He was so much inside that (Southern Utah) thought they were going to hand it off to a guard for (a 3-pointer), but Mason was open.”
Southern Utah (11-7, 4-3) led 71-65 with a minute left. EWU senior guard Jacob Davison hit a 3-pointer as he was fouled, but missed the subsequent free throw highlighting how the Eagles struggled from the line (15 for 27).
The Thunderbirds turned the ball over on their subsequent possession, setting up Peatling’s game-tying 3-pointer. Southern Utah still had a chance to win in the closing seconds, but Davison came up with a key steal near the rim, sending the game to overtime.
EWU’s defensive intensity didn’t waver in overtime, forcing Southern Utah into missing its final nine shots.
“We only gave up one field goal in overtime,” Legans said.
Southern Utah led 63-52 at at the 9:36 mark in the second half when forward Andre Adams – a transfer from Arizona State – scored inside. The Eagles answered by closing the game on a 19-8 run.
The Thunderbirds, who beat Big 12 member Nebraska earlier this season, boast a roster of a half-dozen big-school transfers, including Adams (11 points, eight rebounds) from ASU, forward Dwayne Morgan (22 points, eight rebounds) from UNLV, guard John Knight III (14 points) from Utah State, forward Cameron Oluyitan (10 points) from Boise State and guard Jakolby Long (eight points, eight rebounds, four assists) from Iowa State.
Legans said Southern Utah was showing “disrespect” in pregame warmups.
“You look down at their team and they’re doing windmills and all these other dunks, and our guys are focused and locked in,” Legans said. “And they’re talking a lot of trash, but our guys aren’t fazed by that.”
Kim Aiken Jr. scored 11 points for EWU and added six rebounds and three blocks. He accounted for three of EWU’s 10 3-pointers (10 for 27). Ellis Magnuson added nine points and five assists and fellow freshman guard Casson Rouse had five assists.
Davison, the team’s leading scorer (17.9 ppg), was held to 11 points after missing most of the first half due to foul trouble.
The Eagles remain in a two-way tie for second place in the Big Sky standings with Northern Colorado (12-6, 5-2), which makes the trip to Cheney on Monday.
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