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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