Saturday, March 14, 2015

Eastern Washington Is The Big Sky Champion

It was a classic Big Sky title game, with both teams looking to be in control at different times. In the end, it was Eastern Washington making a stunning comeback in the final five minutes to beat Montana and take home the Big Sky title.

Early on, Eastern Washington looked like the team with more energy, and they got off to a nice start, building an early 14-7 lead. They had some missed chances early, but were active defensively, and really attacking the basket, especially going right at Martin Breunig (trying to get him in foul trouble). However, Montana weathered the storm, and took a 30-29 lead into the half.

In the second half, it was the Mike Weisner show, as he had a career high 18 points. He hit big shots throughout the second half, and at times found himself guarding Tyler Harvey, and doing a good job. He was really outstanding. Martin Breunig was also really great all game long. He finished with 23 points, 17 rebounds, and did a nice job defensively as well. If Montana had help on to win, he would be the one getting all the accolades, and rightfully so. He was outstanding.

At the 6:18 mark, Montana hit a basket to go up 59-48, and the crowd was going nuts. It was then that Eastern Washington went into a full-court press, which seemed to fluster Montana. The score was 61-52 at around the four minute mark. Then, Drew Brandon got a bucket, and Montana was called for a five second call after the couldn't get the ball in. After the TV timeout, Tyler Harvey hit a three, and suddenly it was a four point game and Montana was reeling. All told, EWU went on a 21-4 run to close the game out, save for the garbage time bucket by the Grizzlies with a second left.

Tyler Harvey, the nation's leading scorer, was at his best down the stretch. At the six minute mark, he had just ten points, and didn't seem to have any openings (many kudos have to go to Mario Dunn of Montana, who was sensational defensively). He had eight points down the stretch, including an and-1 on a 15 footer from the baseline, which gave EWU a four point lead with 43 seconds left, and the Grizzlies were never able to get any closer.

Montana has had trouble closing out opponents this year - Against both Sac State and Idaho, they had win probabilities of 97%+ in the final three minutes. I mentioned this in one of my previews coming into the tournament, and it turned out to be the Achilles heel for the Grizzlies. That's a tough way to lose.

Two other EWU players should be noted in a recap about the game. One is Bogdan Bliznyuk, as the freshman was outstanding, finishing with 13 points and 5 rebounds. At times, he was the only Eagle capable of getting buckets, and he kept the game close early in the second half. His future is very bright, obviously. The other guy is Drew Brandon, who finished with 16 points and 7 rebounds. His shooting has been unsteady this year, but it was on point in this game. One other Montana player to note is Jordan Gregory, who was getting to the basket all night. What a Big Sky tournament he had.

From an NCAA tournament standpoint, Eastern Washington had the best resume in the Big Sky conference, which should hopefully push them up a few lines when the brackets are announced. It has been a wildly successful season for the Eagles, who capture their second Big Sky championship, and could be even better next season.

What a classic.

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  1. Congrats to the Eastern Washington Eagles!! So glad they won it...they deserve of luck in the Big Dance! Represent well !
    The season's best conference team won in a hostile place and against a Montana team that had some help from bad controversial calls in the previous 2 tourney games to get there! A Weber State fan.

  2. Harvey played like an MVP for the final seven minutes. His play also exposed my greatest critique of his game, the reliance on three pointers. Dating back to his first game back from injury, from when his slump began and mostly rode itself out, Harvey still shot 55% on two point shots. Tonight, he took over when he entered the arch. My hope for next season, and the first round of the NCAAs, is for Harvey to use the two to open up his threes.

  3. Congratulations to EWU as they played the best basketball in the tournament. They will be the best match-up of any BSC team in the dance. Montana ran out of rabbits feet finally. Travis DeCuire did a good job this year but he better learn how to close out games. He did the same thing every game in the tournament and blew leads each time. Maybe that is the reason he wasn't COY.

  4. Decuire is a hothead. Mark my words...that confrontation with NAU will not be the last one we see Decuire get into. I foresee a few suspensions in his future. The way he whipped up his crowd after that exchange reminded me of something a player would do, not a coach. I think he is a very good coach, because that Montana team is not very athletic and they still win, but he is going to get into all sorts of scraps with officials, coaches, and players before it's all over. Did anyone even notice him putting his hands on the player that dove back to the bench? Anyone?

  5. Doug Fullerton proves again what a complete and utter douche bag he is. If you are going to suspend a coach for yelling at another coach, then you need to suspend the coach that yelled back in the very next instance in retaliation. Nothing would have escalated if Decuire would have just walked away. Fullerton is a complete idiot and incapable of logical reasoning. He is a bush league commissioner at best with an ego the size of the Big Sky. I have heard people talk negatively about this guy for I know why. He is not very smart but thinks he has the capacity to talk down to others (read his statement on Coach Murphy, condescending as if he is the grand father of the universe). Time for a new commissioner so this conference can avoid being the laughing stock of the nation (in the words of Andy Katz ESPN..."how the heck is that not a technical foul?")

  6. The comment that implies yelling back at the coach that began the fracas is more to blame than the one that started it is just laughable. Murphy started it, so he's gonna get most of the blame; it's not complicated. Also, you apparently missed the part where Murphy—after the mid-court scrum cleared up—went over to the Griz bench & decided to berate one of Montana's assistants for reasons anyone can guess. Murphy should have been suspended, he got suspended, & no-one else should be suspended (& hasn't been). Fullerton made all the right calls here.

    I also thought it was funny how Jordan Gregory & Kris Yanku were all smiles & waiting to shake hands at the end. Then, after seeing the scrum start, they both look over and are like "we gotta get in on that!"

  7. You are clearly a Montana fan or a Fullerton supporter. Bottom line is that your logic is wrong. You don't excuse the reaction of one coach because the other coach reacted first. No one touched any one. A coach has a right to express himself and they do all the time throughout the entire game. The bottom line is that Jack gave him a tongue lashing because it's Decuire's job to control his bench and he failed to do so - and endangered the safety of the players on the court as a result and marred the results of the game. If Decuire didn't like what Murphy had to say, then he should have walked off, but instead he escalated it. Logic is not on your side. Jack Murphy didn't do anything illegal or wrong. He was making sure Decuire didn't allow that kind of bench behavior again. Unfortunately, the league has no interest in ensuring that behavior stops so Coach Murphy had to take it upon himself.