This was the resolve Eastern Washington coach Shantay Legans had in mind.
Not only did EWU chip away at its latest double-digit deficit to force overtime, ultimately beating Northern Colorado 89-84 at Reese Court on Monday to gain sole possession of second place in the Big Sky Conference standings, it won a game it appeared to have lost.
When Northern Colorado guard Trent Harris banked in a a falling, putback shot as the the final buzzer sounded in regulation, he was immediately mobbed by teammates who thought they knocked off the preseason league favorite.
A subsequent video review by officials soon revealed that the Northern Colorodo’s penultimate shot didn’t hit the rim, resulting in a shot clock violation before the final attempt left Harris’ hands.
EWU (13-6, 6-2 Big Sky) took advantage of the mulligan in its second overtime game in three days, boosted again by senior forward Mason Peatling.
Peatling scored 21 points, dished out seven assists and corralled 22 rebounds, none bigger than when he got his hands on teammate Casson Rouse’s missed free-throw attempt before laying it in, giving the Eagles a 84-79 lead with 40 seconds left in the extra session.
A hustle-play saved ball by Peatling moments earlier gave EWU a possession that led to Kim Aiken Jr.’s go-ahead 3-pointer, giving the Eagles an 81-79 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
“He’s doing a man’s work – it’s tough out there getting double-teamed and tripled-teamed,” said Legans, whose team beat Southern Utah 81-78 in overtime on Saturday. “ He’s making plays for his teammates and he’s getting yelled at by his crazy coach to make layups, and he still has 30 points.”
Aiken (23 points, eight rebounds) and fellow guard Jacob Davison (20 points) also boosted the Eagles.
EWU has had double-digit deficits in all four of its Big Sky home games, flipping on the switch in the second half to beat Portland State (71-69), Southern Utah and Northern Colorado. League-leading Montana (11-9, 7-2) put EWU in too deep of a hole in a 90-63 rout in Cheney.
The Eagles have won four straight since the Montana loss on January 9, putting themselves a half-game game back of the Grizzlies before a three-game road stretch at Sacramento State (11-7, 4-5), Northern Arizona (11-7, 5-4) and Montana.
EWU, Northern Colorado and Southern Utah were in a three-way tie for third before the Eagles downed the Thunderbirds and Bears in dramatic fashion.
Harris’ layup at 5:21 mark of the first half gave the Bears - the Big Sky’s top 3-point shooting team (10.2 made 3-pointers a game) - a 37-24 lead, the biggest of the game. EWU, which didn’t shoot a single free-throw in the first half, answered with a 33-13 run, capped off by a Rouse 3-pointer.
The night’s marquee conference game featured nine lead changes and seven ties.
Northern Colorado guard Bodie Hume put down a big dunk in the final minute of regulation to tie the game at 74 with 31 seconds left, and EWU was forced into a turnover on its next possession, giving the Bears a chance to steal a win in regulation.
Harris wasn’t sure if his would-be game-winning bucket counted.
“I felt like I heard the shot clock go off, but I didn’t know,” said Harris, who had 15 points. “But then my teammates tackled me, so I thought it was good. Then they reviewed it and waved it off.
“It was fast-paced game between fast-paced teams, we just made some minor mistakes that cost us in the end.”
Peatling, who had 30 points in his previous game to eclipse the 1,000-point mark in his career, was happy with the official’s review, though he didn’t expect it.
“I thought the game was over, honestly,” Peatling said. “Then I saw we were drawing up plays, so if we get lucky, I’ll take it. Then they called the shot clock violation, and from there I knew we’d win.”
EWU finished 14 for 18 from the free-throw line, hitting 6 of 8 attempts in overtime.
Northern Colorado was paced by guard Jonah Radebaugh (17 points, nine assists) and post Kur Jockuch (16 points).
“They are one of the best offensive teams in the conference, but we got stops when we needed them,” Legans said of Northern Colorado. “They shot well early and had a run in the second half, but our guys buckled down and they defended well.”
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