Eagles Struggle in Rock Springs

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USU Eastern Press Release 

PRICE – Utah State Eastern men’s basketball lost two games this weekend during the Mustang Invitational in Rock Springs, Wyoming. The Eagles lost to the tournament host Western Wyoming Mustangs 62-61 on Friday. It was the first road loss of the season for the Eagles and first loss to the Mustangs after previously beating them in Ephraim and in Price.

The Eagles held a steady lead throughout most of the beginning of the game until the Mustangs took the lead with 10 minutes left in the half. Both teams would exchange the lead down the stretch of the first half until the Eagles entered halftime with a 32-31 lead. In the beginning of the second half, neither team could get anything going offensively.

The Eagles did manage to build a nine-point lead with just over ten minutes left. Western Wyoming came back and tie the game at 50-50 with five minutes left in the game. The game went down to the wire in the final minutes with both teams exchanging the lead. With 17.6 seconds, left the Eagles made a field goal to go up 61-60. After multiple timeouts, the Mustangs scored the go-ahead field goal to take the lead 62-61 with 8.2 seconds left. In the final seconds of the game, the Eagles failed to get a shot to go in and gave the Mustangs the win.

“Turnovers killed us in the game, not just the last seconds of the game but during the whole game,” said USU Eastern Head Coach Vando Becheli. Freshman Blaze Nield once again led the Eagles in scoring with 23 points. Sophomore Ognjen Pantovic was the team’s leading rebounder on Friday night by finishing with eight rebounds.

On Saturday, the Eagles would go back and forth with the Central Wyoming Rustlers before losing by a final score of 97-87. There were 10 lead changes and the game was tied four times on Saturday. The key problem for the Eagles was defense and turning the ball over to the Rustlers.

“We weren’t consistent on defense and we gave up a lot of runs. We also kept giving them easy shots and they didn’t turn the ball over,” said Becheli.

Pantovic led the Eagles in scoring on Saturday with 22 points while grabbing nine rebounds. Nield put in 19 points, three rebounds and three assists against the Rustlers. The Rustlers forced 16 USU Eastern turnovers on Saturday, which led to 16 points. Saturday’s loss puts the Eagles on a two-game losing streak and at an overall record of 5-3.

“We need to be more consistent on defense and I hope we learn from our mistakes this past weekend,” said Becheli.

This week, they will head to Ontario, Oregon for the TVCC Holiday Invitational where they will play three games in three days starting on Thursday against Everett Community College. Thursday’s game against Everett will tip off at 4 p.m. at the campus of Treasure Valley Community College.

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