Led by junior guard Tyler Harvey’s 23 points, Eastern Washington had five players score in double-figures in Saturday’s 89-86 victory over Idaho.
The Eagles needed all the help they could get as the Vandals took the conferences best team down to the wire.
“Our guys battled their tail off,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said. “We got some stops, we got out in transition and we gave ourselves a chance to win this basketball game.”
Three Big Sky teams entered Saturday with an unblemished conference record — Sacramento State, Idaho and Eastern Washington.
With Sacramento State’s loss to Northern Colorado prior to Idaho’s game against EWU, the Saturday night game inside Cowan Spectrum was for sole possession of first place.
Eastern Washington improved to 12-4 on the season, with a perfect 3-0 record in Big Sky competition. With the loss, Idaho is now 7-7 with a 2-1 record in conference play.
After it opened conference play with three-straight home games, Idaho gets a five-day break before heading to Sacramento, California to play Sacramento State.
“This one does sting a little bit. I felt like we kind of let it slip away,” senior shooting guard Connor Hill said. “I thought we made a lot of errors, if we wouldn’t have made those errors we could’ve won this game. Give credit to Eastern — they played well, they made shots.”
Down three in the final seconds of the game, Idaho senior point guard Mike Scott had the chance to tie the game.
Verlin said it was a play they work on all the time.
“We didn’t execute it as well as we should have,” he said. “We had Connor wide-open in the corner. They switched off on that handoff and Mike couldn’t turn the corner and couldn’t get it to Connor. Didn’t really get the shot we wanted there.”
While the Eagles had five players score in double-figures, the Vandals had four of their own.
Hill led the way with 16 points and not too far behind was Scott with 15. Sophomore guard Sekou Wiggs finished with 13 points and freshman forward Arkadiy Mkrtychyan had 12 points and seven rebounds.
“Round one versus Eastern — heck of a game,” Verlin said. “January 31st, we’ll see what round two has in store for us. Our next step is to get ready for Sacramento State.”
Korbin McDonald can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org