Eagles Defend Home Court Against Rexburg

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USU Eastern Press Release

PRICE – Utah State Eastern men’s basketball picked up two wins over the Rexburg United on Friday and Saturday at home.

Both teams battled on Friday night with the Eagles coming away with a 96-95 victory over the United. Freshman guard Blaze Nield made a layup with 2.3 seconds left to put the Eagles over the top.

“We did a poor job on defense. We didn’t rotate well and we let gaps open when we switched. We paid the price and they scored a lot of threes,” said USU Eastern head coach Vando Becheli.

The key stat of the game was that the United made 21 three-pointers on Friday and shot 65 percent from behind the three-point line.

“We underestimated them a little bit and let them hit some threes. When they started to make some threes, it built some confidence in them and they started to make more,” said sophomore Ognjen Pantovic.

Nield led the Eagles with 32 points along with four rebounds and four assists. Pantovic put up a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds to go along with three assists on Friday.

“He has been working hard in practice and he is finally getting back in shape. When he is healthy and in shape, he can help us a lot on both offense and defense,” said Becheli.

On Saturday, the Eagles defeated the United 103-72. The Eagles started off the game hot with a 25-7 start in the first half.

“We played better in the beginning because we had a different approach this time than yesterday. We defended better and rebounded the ball better tonight,” said Pantovic.

The Eagles shot 53.1 percent from the field in the second half to help maintain their double-digit lead. Becheli said that it was an all around better performance than Friday because of the bench and transition play.

“The bench was more alive and they competed hard to defend and made the other team work for their shots,” said Becheli.

USU Eastern’s bench scored 44 points with freshmen David Andrew leading the way with 15 points. Nield was the Eagles’ leading scorer again in the win, finishing with 23 points along with four rebounds and four assists.

The Eagles now have a record of 5-1 and will hit the road this week to Rock Springs for a tournament beginning on Friday. They will take on Western Wyoming on Friday night at 7 p.m. and then follow that game up with an afternoon game on Saturday against Central Wyoming. Becheli said that the games will be a challenge but knows if his team improves taking care of the ball, rebounding and defense play that they will have a chance to have a great holiday weekend.

“It is going to be tough with two games but if we win, will be huge for us,” said Becheli.

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