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Eastern Washington University Basketball

Eastern Washington men earn key 85-76 win over Northern Colorado to extend Big Sky lead; Eagle women keep step on NAU

Eastern Washington forward Cedric Coward shoots against Northern Colorado during Saturday’s Big Sky Conference game in Greeley, Colo.  (Courtesy of EWU Athletics)
By Dan Thompson The Spokesman-Review

Eastern Washington picked up a significant 85-76 victory Saturday over Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colorado, to extend its lead in the Big Sky standings to two games with three more games remaining.

Junior Cedric Coward scored a career-high 30 points – twice as many points as he’d had in any of his past four games – making 13 of 18 shots from the field to go with six rebounds.

“I knew he was going to have a big game going into this game,” EWU head coach David Riley said in a postgame radio interview. “(Coward) always responds.”

Senior Jake Kyman added 14 points and junior Ethan Price had 12 to become the 25th player in Eastern Washington men’s basketball history to score 1,000 career points. Price also grabbed 10 rebounds to record his first double-double of the season.

After frittering away a late seven-point lead two nights earlier in a 78-71 loss at Northern Arizona, Eastern Washington (18-10, 12-3) held Northern Colorado (17-11, 10-5) to six points in the final 5 minutes, during which the Bears made 3 of 12 shots from the floor while the Eagles made 6 of 8.

“(Northern Colorado) is a talented offensive team, and it just shows the heart of our guys,” Riley said. “… Every game from here on out is a championship game. This game put us in a good spot.”

The Eagles’ reward was a much safer lead atop the standings, with home games against Montana and Montana State ahead this week before closing out the regular season at Sacramento State.

If the Eagles, who ended a two-game losing streak, beat third-place Montana on Thursday, they will clinch their second consecutive Big Sky regular-season championship.

Northern Colorado shot 40% overall, its third-lowest percentage in Big Sky play. After halftime, the Eagles made 17 of 29 shots (58.6%) from the field and the Bears made 11 of 34 (32.4%).

Eastern trailed 32-20 in the first half but evened the score at 43 right before halftime on junior Casey Jones’ free throw. Jones, who leads the Eagles in free-throw attempts, finished 6 of 9 at the line and scored eight points.

Quiet in the first half, Kyman attempted 11 shots after halftime and finished 6 of 14 from the field. He also grabbed four rebounds and had two assists.

“When he is able to (play) with a head of steam like that, when he can get to that midrange,” Riley said, “for Jake Kyman, that midrange is a layup.”

Dane Erikstrup and LeJuan Watts each added seven points off the bench for the Eagles, who swept the season series .

Dejour Reaves led the Bears with 21 points on 8-of-18 shooting from the field. Saint Thomas, a Big Sky Player of the Year candidate, added 16 points, nine rebounds and three steals.

Women

Junior Jaleesa Lawrence scored six of her team-high 19 points in the final 40 seconds as Eastern Washington held off Northern Colorado 68-63 at Reese Court in Cheney.

The Eagles improved to 23-5 overall and 13-2 in Big Sky Conference play with three games remaining until the conference tournament. They remained one game ahead of second-place Northern Arizona and two games ahead of third-place Montana, the only two teams that can still catch the Eagles in the standings.

Lawrence, who made 8 of 8 free-throw attempts, finished four points shy of her season high and one rebound shy of a double-double. The Eagles outrebounded the Bears 40-33, compensating for Eastern’s 31.8% shooting.

The Bears (13-13, 8-7) made 21 of 50 shots (42%) from the field but also had 12 turnovers, twice as many as the Eagles . Bears sophomore Aniah Hall came off the bench and led all scorers with 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field. Her senior teammate, Hannah Simental, added 16 points.

Eastern led 37-23 at halftime after stretching its lead to as many as 18. With 1:03 to go in the fourth quarter, Gabi Fields made a 3 to cut Eastern’s lead to four points.

But Lawrence answered with a layup on Eastern’s next time down, and the Bears never got within a possession.

Redshirt sophomore Aaliyah Alexander added 16 points and made 7 of 8 free throws – as a team Eastern was a season-best 21 of 22 at the line – and grabbed seven rebounds.

EWU senior Jamie Loera had 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists. It was the ninth time this year she has scored double-digit points while also recording at least five rebounds and five assists.

Eastern heads to Montana to play the Grizzlies (19-7, 11-4) on Thursday and the Montana State Bobcats (15-13, 9-6) on Saturday.

The Eagles’ regular-season finale is March 4 at Reese Court against Sacramento State (5-22, 4-12).