In head coach Jim Hayford's 500th game with Eastern Washington the Eagles picked up the program's first postseason victory.
Bogdan Bliznyuk scored 23 of his game high 25 points in the second period as the Eagles (18-15, 10-8 Big Sky) wrested control of the game from the visiting Pepperdine Waves (18-14, 10-8 WCC). They did it without the program's all time leading scorer, Venky Jois, who did not play in the second half due to a knee injury. As they have all season long the Eagles relied on the three ball to get the job done tonight, hitting 14 of 32 attempts from distance — they shot just ten two point field goals. The raucous student section made sure each one of those three pointers was heard by the visiting team.
"It was a really fun home court environment," Hayford said after the game.
Senior guard Austin McBroom (24 points) not only got to pick up a postseason win on his home court but got to take a stab at a hometown team. McBroom is from Los Angeles and Pepperdine's campus is located in Malibu, Calif.
"They're (Pepperdine) about five minutes away from my mother's house," McBroom said, "so it feels good to beat a team from close to home."
Early in the game EWU employed full court pressure against the Waves and kept them from getting their offense in sync. Which was critical because after a hot start the Eagles offense fell apart.
After taking a 2-0 lead Pepperdine fell behind and needed until the 3:35 mark of the first half to reclaim the lead on a Lamond Murray Jr. (24 points) three pointer. Eastern went just two of 17 from the field over the final 10:35 of the half. Yet they trailed by just five points, 34-29, at the start of the second half.
They were a completely different team after halftime.
"I'm very disappointed, more so about the second half," Pepperdine head coach Marty Wilson said. "For us to give up 50 points, that's not a Pepperdine basketball team."
The Eagles started hot, as they had in the first half, but stayed hot. And Pepperdine went ice cold.
In the two minutes leading up to the under-12 minute media timeout the Eagles went on a 7-0 run and built their lead to eight points. They would stay comfortably in control for most of the remainder. The only real speed bump came with 5:30 to play when an 8-0 Waves' run, all from senior Jett Raines (13 points), made it a four point game.
But Eastern responded and Pepperdine had no answer, even at the free throw line where the Waves hit just ten of 19 shots.
The only real consolation for Marty Wilson, who just finished his fifth year at the helm, was that his seniors never stopped. His first full class, in a program he has steadily improved year-after-year, played until the very end of their college careers. Jett Raines picked up a block on a Jesse Hunt layup with nine seconds remaining. On the other end of the floor Stacy Davis (8 points) — a three time all-WCC first team member and the Waves' all-time leading scorer with 1,786 points — swished home a three pointer as time expired.
The Waves, making back-to-back postseason appearances for the first time in over a decade, will have to wait for the first postseason win of the Marty Wilson era. The Eagles on the other hand, fresh off the program's first postseason win, will head south to Reno, Nevada on Monday and look for a second against the Nevada Wolfpack.