Brandon Leads Eagles to 75-69 Road Victory Over the Grizzlies

By DAVE GUFFEY | Photos By WILLIAM MUNOZ

Guard Drew Brandon scored 27 points to lead the visiting Eastern Washington Eagles to a hard-fought 75-69 win over the University of Montana Grizzlies Thursday evening in a Big Sky Conference contest in UM’s Dahlberg Arena.

EWU improves to 8-1 in league and is 17-5 overall and remains in second place in the conference trailing league-leading Sacramento State (9-1) by just a half of a game.

The Grizzlies, who had a six-game winning streak snapped, go to 7-3 in the Big Sky and 11-10 overall, and lead Northern Arizona (6-3) by a half-a-game for third place.

It was an uphill battle for Montana most of the way. The Griz took their first lead of the game at 24-22 on a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Mario Dunn with 4:20 to go until halftime.

The Griz maintained that slim 2-point advantage briefly, and took their biggest lead of four points (29-25) on a trey by senior forward Mike Weisner with 3:19 left until intermission. The Eagles responded with eight unanswered points after that though, and took a 33-29 lead on a 3-pointer by Drew with 1:12 left until the break, and that is how the first half ended.

EWU never trailed in the second half, but the game was tied twice in the last 20 minutes of action. The second deadlock was at 52-52 on a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Brandon Gfeller with 11:45 remaining. The Eagles regained the lead at 55-52 on a trey by Brandon with 10:57 left to play, and they never relinquished their lead after that.

The Grizzlies could never get closer than four points the rest of the way. UM trimmed EWU’s lead to 73-69 with 14 seconds left, but Eagle junior forward Venky Jois iced the game with a pair of free throws with eight ticks to go, to give EWU its ninth win in its last 10 games.

Dunn led the Griz and tied his career-high with 17 points, and was 5-of-6 from 3-point range. Gfeller added 14 points, followed by Weisner with 12

UM junior forward Martin Breunig added 11 points and a game-high 12 rebounds for his third double-double of the season, but was an uncharacteristic 4-of-11 from the floor. He had entered the game shooting 59.3% from the field, which ranked him 12th in the nation.

“They just fronted him as everyone else has done, we just weren’t patient and weren’t willing to move the ball from side to side to get it in there or to get a good shot for most of the game until we got in a hole and started executing in the second half,” said Griz head coach Travis DeCuire about Breunig. “We got what we wanted for the most part, but unfortunately we dug ourselves a hole in the first half.”

Griz senior guard Jordan Gregory could not find his shooting touch, and made 2-of-13 shots and finished with 7 points, although he did tie his career-high with 6 assists.

Brandon, a 6-4 senior, was 10-of-20 from the floor, made 3-of-7 treys and was 4-of-6 from the line. Also in double figures for EWU were sophomore forward Felix Van Hofe and Jois with 12 points each. Jois also had 9 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 steals, and 2 blocks.

BBQ“We just fell asleep, we didn’t leave them wide open,” DeCuire said. “We didn’t know where they were and we made the mistake of turning our back to the guy. We’re supposed to creep in there to help, but we’re supposed to know where our guy is so that we can close out. We just didn’t know where he was and it ended up being an uncontested shot.

“We gave them the game,” an obviously disappointed DeCuire said. “We gave it to them. We gave it to them and then when we fought to get it back, we got cheated. We made it hard for him (Brandon) to get the ball where he wanted and do his job, but we could’ve been more patient and done some more things.
We just didn’t guard him.”

Van Hofe started in place of junior guard Tyler Harvey, who did not make the trip due to an injury. Harvey is the NCAA scoring leader, averaging 23.4 points a game.

Both teams shot the ball well. The Griz were 22-of-48 (45.8%) from the floor, 13-of-24 (54.2%) from behind the arc, and 12-of-13 (92.3% ) from the line. The Eagles made 25-of-49 shots (51.0%), 11-of-14 treys (45.8% – which is a season-high by a UM opponent), and 14-of-20 (70.0%) charity shots. The Griz had a 28-25 edge on the boards.

The Griz host Idaho this Saturday, Feb. 7, in Dahlberg Arena, with tip-off at 7:05 p.m. The Vandals won 80-71at Montana State Thursday night. EWU plays the Cats in Bozeman this Saturday, in a 2:35 p.m. contest.

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Parker Kelly of Eastern Washington is trapped by Brandon Gfeller and Martin Breuing©williammunoz
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Martin Breuing grabs a rebound©williammunoz
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Verky Jois of EasternWashington is guarded by Martin Breuing©williammunoz
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Mario Dunndreaws a foul as he drives the basket©williammunoz
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MikeWeisnerdrivcing layup©williammunoz
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Martin Breuing shots over Verky Jois of Eastern Washington©williammunoz
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