Acliese leads EWU to overtime win over first-place Montana State

CHENEY, Wash. — For the second week in a row, the Big Sky Conference’s top team came to Reese Court and were upset by the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team. Tonight, the Eagles hosted Montana State, the conference’s top team on an 11-game winning streak, and won 88-86 in overtime. The win moves the East to 14-12 overall and 8-7 in Big Sky action, while Montana State drops to 20-6 and 12-3. It was a rebounding victory after a 69-65 loss to EWU on Jan. 27, 2022 in Bozeman, Montana, as the two teams split regular season meetings with wins on their own floors. The Eagles have now won seven of their last eight games against the Bobcats, including the tournament championship a year ago. At the half, Eastern Washington led 41-38. With less than five minutes left in regulation time, the Eagles lost 70-63 and trailed 74-68 with just under three minutes on the clock. Eastern Washington then used a 7-0 run, which all came from the free throw line, to tie the game 74-74. It was Rylan Bergersen who hit the pair with 20 seconds left to tie the game. In the extra period, Eastern led by as much as five points, but reduced their lead to one point with 22 seconds on the clock. Bergersen would be the hero again, making the winning jumper with five seconds left that Montana State couldn’t answer. “(The game plan) was to move (the ball) side to side. Montana State is a top defensive team and they did a great job. Especially in the conference, they improved in defense. They put pressure on you, and popping the ball relieves some of that pressure and we were able to attack close-outs, where we are really good,” noted the head coach. David Riley. “We were solid with that, and I still think we have room to grow.” Eastern have now won three in a row at home after losing four in a row on the road, they are also 2-0 in overtime this season (67-64 at CSUN on 11/19/21). Four Eagles scored in double figures in tonight’s contest, but Linton Acliese III The stat line stands out the most with a 38-point effort. His new career high is the most points scored by an Eagle this season, and is tied for 14and in the program history. He was 13 of 19 from the field, 5 of 10 from three-point range, 7 of 8 from the free throw line, and also grabbed eight rebounds. The contest got off to a quick start, with both teams hitting their first three-point attempt to get things going. After the opening three minutes saw four lead changes, the Eagles began to settle. Linton Acliese III drained three three-pointers in the first six minutes of action, helping Washington East explode on a 12-2 run to take an 18-9 lead. After Eastern Washington built its biggest lead of 22-11, it was quickly reduced to 22-18 after a 7-0 Bobcat run. The Eagles held onto their lead, but Montana State slowly slipped away to trail just one point, 33-32, with 2:57 left in the first half. With 1:24 to go, the game moved to a 36-36 tie. With the contest locked at 38-38, the MSU bench received technical notice and Steele Venters makes the free throw attempt. CaseyJones then finished things off with a dunk at the buzzer and Eastern Washington took a 41-38 in the locker room. Acliese led the way with 19 points and four rebounds of 7-for-11 from the field with four three-pointers in the first half. At 1:54 into the second half, Montana State took its first lead since the start of the first half. The Bobcats used a 9-0 run for their biggest lead of the game, 55-50. The Eagles weren’t down for long, using a quick 6-0 run that included four points from Acliese to take a 56-55 lead. The game returned to a 63-63 tie before the Bobcats went on a 7-0 run to regain a 70-63 lead. After an EWU timeout, Jones broke the run with a layup, but Montana State began to pull away 74-67 with 2:49 remaining. That’s when the comeback began, as the Eagles scored seven straight points from the free throw line to tie the game 74-74. Bergersen’s two attempts with 20 seconds to go tied the contest, and Montana State’s rebuttal failed at the other end. Bergersen played the hero several times during the overtime period. His no-look pass to Jones for a dunk put the Eagles ahead 84-79 with 1:15 remaining. Montana State cut the lead to 84-82 and then to 86-85 after the Bobcats hit the triple and fired a foul, completing a four-run game to tie the game 86-86. With five seconds left, Bergersen ducked his defender, backed up and hit the winning jumper.

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