USU Eastern Press Release
Utah State Eastern men’s basketball defeated #13 College of Idaho Golden Eagles 76-75 on Saturday at home. Coming into the game, the Golden Eagles of CSI were highest scoring team in the country, but in the first half the Eagles only allowed their opponent to score 39.
USU Eastern trailed by five at halftime despite having their top three bigs in the rotation sitting out with foul trouble. Eagles’ head coach Vando Becheli had to go to his bench to help fill the void and the bench stepped up on Saturday.
“The guys who came off the bench kept us in the game,” said Becheli.
“Our bench did amazing tonight. Tyler, Anthony and Vojtech kept the energy and did their job,” said USU Eastern sophomore Ognjen Pantovic.
Freshman guard Tanner Nygren provided a spark at the end of the first half by scoring eight points in eight minutes of action to keep up with CSI.
After halftime, the Golden Eagles built their lead up to double-digits and led the Eagles by 13 at the first media timeout. CSI continued to have a lead throughout the majority of the second half and led by as much as 15 with six minutes left.
In the final minutes of the game, the Eagles came back and cut the Golden Eagles’ lead to three with one minute remaining. Sophomore guard Matija Novkovic, freshman guard Blaze Nield and Pantovic combined for 15 points during the Eagles’ comeback.
With seven seconds to play, Nield made two clutch free throws after being fouled to put the Eagles up by one. The Eagles’ defense halted the CSI attack on the final play of the game and got the comeback win in front of a great crowd.
USU Eastern forced 21 turnovers on Saturday, something Becheli feels was a major reason why the Eagles pulled out the win.
“If they don’t do that, then we probably don’t win the game. We took advantage of their turnovers and scored,” said Becheli.
Pantovic said after the game that he owes the USU Eastern coaching staff for helping his team be ready for CSI.
“We got to give our coaches a lot of credit. Coaches did amazing preparing us on defense and we kept them out of their rhythm,” said Pantovic.
For Pantovic, he would go on to put up 16 points and eight rebounds after early foul trouble while Nield led the Eagles in scoring and assists with 23 and five, respectively.
“Blaze is a great leader and our best player. I have never played with a point guard like this. He is versatile and will play almost a whole game without being subbed,” said Pantovic.
Saturday’s win over CSI moves the Eagles to 14-6 overall and 2-0 in Scenic West Athletic Conference play.
The Eagles will have a quick turnaround this week as they take on nationally-ranked Salt Lake Community College on Thursday in Taylorsville. Thursday’s game will start at 7:30 p.m. and can be seen on the Scenic West Digital Network.