Eastern Washington was without the services of the country's leading scorer in Tyler Harvey, but the Eagles held off Sacramento State at home Thursday, using a seven-man lineup to claim a 64-61 over the Hornets.
In Harvey's absence, his third game missed after suffering a quad contusion against Idaho on Jan. 31, Ognjen Miljkovic led Eastern with 16 points but had to withstand a one-man push late.
After the Eagles went up 60-50 with 4:49 remaining, they struggled to put the ball in the hoop while Mikh McKinney rallied the Hornets. In the last three minutes, McKinney nailed a pair of three-pointers, then was fouled on another with four seconds left. He dropped in all three free-throws, making it a 62-61 game. Drew Brandon hit a pair of freebies for Eastern, however, and Sac State couldn't get a final shot up.
McKinney's one-man display at the end gave him 21 points to lead all scorers. Eastern got 15 from Parker Kelly and another 13 from Brandon, both of whom played all 40 minutes of the contest. The Eagles swatted a whopping 13 blocks on the night, including five from Garrett Moon.
Eastern improved to 19-5 with the victory and 10-1 in conference play, while Sac State dropped to 16-7 and 10-2.
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The rest of the Big Sky was chaos on Thursday night, aside from Montana squeaking by North Dakota in Grand Forks, claiming a 65-61 win to improve to 9-3 and keep up with Eastern and Sac State ahead of it.
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In Moscow, Idaho blasted Portland State in the second half on the hot hand of Connor Hill. The Vandals scored 57 with Hill dropping home seven three-pointers in the second half. Hill went 8-of-9 from deep in the game to finish with 28 points and Idaho won 87-76.
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The rest of the action saw the three teams at the bottom of the standings all claim wins, two of them on the road.
In Ogden, Southern Utah completed a season sweep of Weber State, defeating the ice-cold Wildcats 65-56 in front of 7,113 fans at the Dee Events Center to end a 20-game conference road game losing streak.
"I think we're moving in the right direction," Southern Utah head coach Nick Robinson said. "Obviously Randy (Rahe) has a young team himself and we're going through some similar things in terms of inconsistency. But I like where we're moving."
"For us to get a road win at this particular time of the season is important for our team," Robinson said.
Weber State lost starting point guard Jeremy Senglin to injury with about nine minutes left after taking a shoulder or forearm to the face on a screen. His status for the future is unknown.
In his absence the Wildcats rallied, and an "and-one" conversion from center James Hajek pulled Weber within three points with a minute left. But Chris Golden was blocked on a three-pointer (Weber shot 5-of-26 from deep) leading to a dunk by Juwan Major to seal the SUU win.
"When you're not mentally focused and sharp, shots don't go in, you fumble the ball, you do silly things you shouldn't happen out there," Weber head coach Randy Rahe said. "The game is totally a mind game and you gotta be focused. I'm not putting it on these kids, it's on me. I've got to find a way to get these guys consistently mentally ready to play."
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Idaho State claimed a home win against Northern Arizona to help shake up the conference race for teams vying for top seeds in the tournament. The Bengals pushed ahead of the Lumberjacks late in the first half, going on an 18-3 run in the final five minutes to take a 42-33 lead into the locker room. Idaho State cruised from there on 24 points from Chris Hansen.
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Equally as surprising as Southern Utah's win at Weber State was Montana State taking down Northern Colorado in Greeley. Michael Dison scored 23 points on 10-of-15 shooting the help the Bobcats to the upset win, just their second Big Sky win of the season.
2014-15 BIG SKY STANDINGS