MOSCOW, Idaho – Eastern Washington saw more of Idaho than it wanted on Thursday.
The Vandals were only down 54-52 with 13 minutes, 34 seconds to play, after 6-foot-10 Tanner Christensen was caught out on the perimeter as the shot clock ticked down and launched a successful 3-pointer.
But the Vandals’ season-long difficulty in keeping in contact with opponents in the second half allowed the Eagles to pull away for an 89-75 win.
EWU improved to 7-6 overall and 6-2 in the Big Sky Conference. Idaho is 0-14, 0-11.
Michael Meadows, who had scored 35 points in seven games this season, led EWU with 17 points. Gabe Quinnett had 18 for Idaho.
“The ball felt good in my hands,” Quinnett said.
Quinnett and Idaho coach Zac Claus noted the rivalry aspect of the contest.
“The energy they brought into the building kind of got us fired up,” Quinnett said of EWU.
“It’s a credit to those guys. They answered the bell in a game like this,” Claus said of the Eagles.
Scott Blakney came off the bench for Idaho to contribute 13 points, and Babacar Thiombane added 12.
EWU’s scoring leader Tanner Groves was held below his 17.3 average. He fouled out with about 2 minutes left with 12 points and six rebounds. But EWU’s Ellis Magnuson picked up the slack with 15 points.
Steele Venters scored 10 in the second half, including back-to-back 3s with about 8 minutes to play when the Eagles could really use them. The Vandals were hanging tough, trailing by five, until Venters’ effort allowed EWU to widen its edge to 67-56.
Jacob Groves contributed 12 points and gave the Eagles some early offense with a pair of baskets, including a 3-pointer.
But it was a choppy start to the first half for both teams, and EWU was only up five when Blakney came off the bench with about 4 minutes gone.
Blakney made his presence felt immediately with a putback and a defensive rebound. The Vandals got back within a point, 13-12, with Blakney in the post.
The Eagles went on a 7-0 run midway through the first half, but for one of the few times this season, Idaho weathered the storm. Blakney wrapped a pass around a defender in the lane to Thiombane, who slammed it home, followed by Damen Thacker’s 3-pointer that brought the Vandals back to within a point at 28-27.
The half ended with EWU up 38-34.
For Idaho to maintain that kind of contact late in games, though, Claus said the Vandals needed to be tougher on defense down the stretch.
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