When Weber State University and Eastern Washington met at the Dee Events Center, both teams came into the game with a chip on their shoulder, chasing the first place Montana Grizzlies. When the game came to a close, EWU held a 75–70 victory.
“When you don’t come into the game mentally ready, reminiscing on previous wins, you come out flat. They come out aggressive and they kick your butt, and that’s what they did,” Wildcat junior center Zach Braxton said.
The Eagles started the game on an 8–0 run, with the Wildcats going scoreless for the first four minutes of the game. Junior Brekkott Chapman was able to end the run and get the Wildcat offense started.
Chapman had a hot hand early, scoring the first nine points for the Wildcats, all from behind the arc.
Weber State, known for their slow starts, began exposing the Eagles after they switched into a 2–3 zone midway through the first half. Using ball movement to keep the Eagles’ defense on their heels, the Wildcats shot 8 of 13 on 3-pointers in the first half.
Weber State showed their resilience in the first half, as they trailed for over 19 of the game’s first 20 minutes, but they were able to take a 31–30 lead after sophomore Jerrick Harding hit a contested 3-pointer from the left wing with seven seconds left on the clock.
Weber State came out of the locker room after halftime on fire, shooting 83 percent from the field to start the second half. The Wildcats got off to a 12–2 run off of Braxton’s back, who, after scoring just two points in the first half, added six points in less than five minutes.
This run was short-lived, thanks to Eastern Washington’s Bogdan Bliznyuk, who averaged 20 points per game coming into this match.
With WSU alum Damian Lillard courtside, the crowd got to witness a scoring clinic. But instead of it being “Dame Time,” it was “Bliz Time.” With the WSU great in attendance, Bliznyuk reached 1,996 career points. That’s good for fifth in Big Sky Conference history, passing Lillard in the process of the win over the Wildcats.
Bliznyuk dominated the entirety of the second half for the Eagles, shooting 8 of 12 from the field and scoring 13 of their first 21 points in the second half. Bliznyuk finished with a game-high 27 points after just eight first-half points. He added seven rebounds in the game.
“He’s got size for a guard and handles the ball really well,” said senior Ryan Richardson, who had the task of guarding Bliznyuk for most of the game. “He’s crafty, and when he gets in the lane, there’s not much you can do. You have to try your best to make him shoot threes and tough, contested shots inside the arc. He’s just a good player overall.”
Bliznyuk ended up too much for the Wildcats to handle as he sealed the game with his 65th-consecutive-made free throw to give the Eagles a 75–70 win.
“We really take it one game at a time. Now we’re focused on practice tomorrow so that we’re ready to go Saturday, unlike tonight,” Braxton said.
The Wildcats, now with a 12–3 conference record, continue their push to March Madness and hope to end the season on a high note at home against Idaho.