Eastern Washington’s cache of offensive weapons can be a distraction.
Often lost in the Eagles’ depth and scoring balance is their ability to take care of business on the other end of the floor, which helps generate even more production.
EWU is establishing itself as a brawny defensive team, too, and shutting down Montana State 85-69 on Saturday in Bozeman was the latest example.
The Big Sky Conference-leading Eagles (10-6, 9-2) flummoxed the Bobcats (9-7, 6-4), forcing several scoring droughts, 14 turnovers and a 4-for-16 mark from behind the 3-point line.
“If we can defend, we can score at a high rate,” EWU coach Shantay Legans said after sweeping the Bobcats in the two-game series. “We’re a good defensive team.”
EWU shot 51.7% from the floor (30 for 58) and was efficient inside and from deep (13 for 27 on 3-point attempts).
Even without two-time All-Big Sky guard Jacob Davison (flu-like symptoms), the Eagles, winners of seven straight games, scored in a variety of ways.
Junior forward Tanner Groves was steady, sophomore guard Mike Meadows had his fifth straight double-digit scoring game and versatile junior forward Kim Aiken Jr. was back to his double-double ways (12 points, 13 rebounds).
“We definitely have an artillery and the coaches are using it well,” said Aiken, who also scored 20 points in Thursday’s 82-74 win. “We have several guys who are capable of scoring 30 points.”
Legans had all the faith in Aiken, one of EWU’s two All-Big Sky returners whose offensive production recently took a backseat to his efforts on defense and ball movement.
“When he plays like that, he’s one of the top three players in the league,” Legans said.
EWU, which led 36-33 at halftime, found its groove in the second half in a fanless, cavernous Worthington Arena.
Sophomore point guard Ellis Magnuson scored nine points in EWU’s game-changing 18-2 run, sparking a 49-point second-half surge.
Montana State, which was atop the Big Sky standings before dropping four straight games to Weber State and EWU on consecutive weekends, saw its three leading scorers – Xavier Bishop, Amin Adamu and Jubrile Belo – combine for 26 points.
“Defense is always going to win you a ballgame,” Aiken said
Tyler Robertson (10 points, 10 rebounds) also had a double-double for EWU, which plays host to rival Montana (9-6, 5-6) on Thursday in Cheney before facing the Grizzlies on Saturday in Missoula.
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