On the final day of its four-game, eight-day road trip, the Eastern Washington men’s basketball team rediscovered its shooting touch against the team atop the conference standings.
But Weber State is no slouch itself offensively, and the Wildcats became the third Big Sky opponent to shoot better than 50% against the Eagles this season in a 90-84 victory Monday night in Ogden, Utah.
Weber State paired its efficient shooting – 29 of 54 overall (53.7%) – with a 26-for-29 effort from the foul line, dwarfing the Eagles’ 6-for-9 night at the stripe.
During this road trip, on which Eastern went 1-3, the Eagles attempted 56 free throws while their opponents attempted a combined 101. That includes a 26-point victory at Idaho State followed by a 69-65 loss at Montana and a 61-59 defeat against Montana State.
Eagles coach David Riley said the team wasn’t necessarily fatigued physically. But mentally, he said, they might have been, as the Eagles didn’t hold as well to their scouting report against Weber as they did in previous games on the trip.
The Eagles lost for the fourth time in five games and dropped to 11-11 overall, 5-6 in Big Sky games. Weber State (17-5, 10-1) is the lone one-loss team in the Big Sky.
The Eagles built a 25-24 lead but then fell into foul trouble. Starters Linton Acliese III, Rylan Bergersen and Ethan Price each had two first-half fouls, as did bench players Casey Jones and Ellis Magnuson. Acliese – who finished the game with a team-high 21 points – played only six of the first 20 minutes.
“Those guys are really important to our team, and we have guys who are off the bench that are really good who can step up,” Riley said in a postgame radio interview, “but I think that took (a little bit of) our rhythm away.”
Weber State finished the half on a 13-3 run and carried a 46-35 lead into the break. Then, Seikou Sisosho Jawara began the second half with a 3-pointer to push the lead to 14. He finished with 20 points, making 9 of 14 field-goal attempts.
Eastern got within six, 60-54, on an Acliese 3-pointer with 12:04 left. But they didn’t get any closer until Bergersen hit a 3 with five seconds left, and Koby McEwen hit a pair of free throws for the last of his game-high 24 points to ice the Wildcats’ victory.
All five of Eastern’s starters reached double digits in scoring. Acliese got his 21 on 10-of-12 shooting from the field. Bergersen had 17 points (7-of-9) after being held to a combined 21 in his previous three games, and the true freshman Price had 16 for his second-highest total against a Big Sky opponent.
Angelo Allegri had 14 points and 10 rebounds for his second consecutive double-double, and Steele Venters, who shot 4 for 22 in the two games in Montana, made 4 of 15 shots against the Wildcats to finish with 11 points.
The Eagles made more than half their shots (51.5%) for the fifth time this season but had just five bench points, all from Jones.
Eastern will return home on Tuesday but won’t play again until visiting Southern Utah on Saturday. They are scheduled to play their next home game on Feb. 10, against Weber State.
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