CHENEY, Wash., Jan. 23 – Tyler Harvey scored 35 points for Eastern Washington, spoiling Southern Utah’s second-highest scoring and best shooting night of the season Thursday night as the Eagles took a 90-83 Big Sky win over the Thunderbirds.
However, the Thunderbirds couldn’t overcome the Eagles, who scored 38 points from the free throw line, with Harvey converting 20-of-20 opportunities. The Thunderbirds, on the other hand, failed to take advantage of their free throw opportunities as the best free throw shooting team in the Big Sky, who came in hitting 73 percent from the line, hit just 11-of-19 opportunities.
After taking the lead at halftime for the second straight game, this time at 39-38, SUU saw Eastern Washington hit a 3-pointer to open the second half, then gradually outscore the Thunderbirds 20-10 to open the second period in taking a 58-49 lead on a Harvey jumper with 12:14 to play.
Southern Utah battled back, however, pulling within 61-56 on a Kennedy free throw with 9:33 to go and a Kennedy jumper at the 5:25 mark made it a 66-62 game. EWU pushed its lead back up to nine, at 85-75 on a pair of Harvey free throws with 50 seconds to play, and although Kennedy answered with a 3-pointer to make it an 84-73 game the Thunderbirds couldn’t get any closer than six the rest of the way.
“What a great Big Sky basketball game tonight, with two teams going back and forth all game,” SUU Coach Nick Robinson said. “They had a nice run to go up early in the game but we battled back with a nice run of our own and it was a game that was close all the way.
“Unfortunately we weren’t able to stop Harvey, one of the best scorers in the conference,” Robinson added. “We made him earn it but he did a nice job making free throws under pressure.
“We’ve got to get back to making our free throws,” Robinson went on to say. “This one of the few times we’ve shot under 60 percent this season and if we make a few more it’s a different game going down the stretch. Maybe we don’t have to foul in some of those situations late in the game”
Eastern Washington overcame an early 4-2 deficit with a 17-0 run as the Thunderbird missed eight straight shots, but the Thunderbirds responded, getting back to within 21-12 with an 8-2 run that eventually became a 19-6 run that saw the Thunderbirds pull within 25-23 after an Anderson steal led to a Parsons 3-pointer. SUU eventually pulled out to a 38-34 advantage but EWU pulled within 39-38 by halftime.
Southern Utah had a season-best 31 rebounds as Hess pulled down a career-best nine and Jeffery had seven. The Thunderbirds also combined to dish out a season-high 14 assists, with Kennedy leading the way with a career-best six.