Blake’s block saves Vandals’ win over EWU

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MOSCOW — Nate Sherwood scored 23 points, and former North Idaho College standout Brayon Blake blocked a shot at the buzzer to give Idaho a 66-64 victory over Eastern Washington on Friday night before 3,192 at Cowan Spectrum.

Idaho (17-7, 9-3 Big Sky Conference) has won seven of its last eight games and moves into third place in the conference standings, a half-game back of Weber State (9-2). Eastern Washington (12-13, 7-5) has lost two straight.

“What a game,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said. “Obviously, with 20 lead changes, I thought both teams were very well prepared. They were able to take away a number of things, and did a good job of taking away Vic (Victor Sanders). We made Bogdan work for his shots and with some foul trouble in the second half, with my main two guys to guard him, Brayon (Blake) and Nate (Sherwood), I thought we did a good job on him. It just came down to a couple of stops at the end of the game.”

Idaho jumped out to a 5-0 lead but EWU went on a run to take a lead of its own. The lead changed hands seven times in the first half, as neither squad could build much of an advantage, with the Eagles taking the 29-26 lead into the break.

The Vandal defense stepped up in the second half, and stepped up almost immediately. Chad Sherwood got a steal on the opening possession and knocked down a 3-pointer from the corner going the other way to tie the game up immediately. The lead traded hands a couple more times, before the younger Sherwood stepped up.

Nate Sherwood took over midway through the second half, scoring 11 straight for the Vandals over a five-minute stretch. Chad Sherwood hit a 3-pointer to mix things up, followed by five more from Nate. In the end, the Sherwoods scored 19 points over seven minutes, taking Idaho from down three to up four.

The game featured six lead changes in the final 2:46.

Cody Benzel hit a 3-pointer to give the Eagles 64-63 lead with 43 seconds left. Blake answered with a layup for the Vandals, and after Sir Washington missed two free throws for Eastern Washington, Sanders split a pair of free throws with 12 seconds remaining.

The Eagles’ Bogdan Bliznyuk took possession at the top of the arc with seven seconds left, dribbled the floor and drove through three defenders when Blake blocked his layup.

Blake added 15 points for the Vandals. Sanders finished with eight points, eight rebounds and nine assists.

Bliznyuk had 16 points and 13 rebounds, and Benzel chipped in 15 points to lead Eastern Washington.

“We came up one play too short,” Eastern coach Shantay Legans said. “It was great game and a lot of fun. It was going back and forth and there were a lot of lead changes and ties. Players on both sides stepped up and made big shots.”

Although sick and throwing up at halftime, Bliznyuk led the way for the Eagles with the 19th double-double of his career.

In the 10 meetings since Idaho re-joined the Big Sky Conference in the 2014-15 season, EWU is 6-4 and the average winning margin for the winning team is just 6.2 points (62 points total). The victory helped Idaho take a two-game lead for third place in the Big Sky Conference standings ahead of fourth-place EWU and Northern Colorado.

On Thursday, Eastern plays host to Montana, and Idaho is home vs. Montana State.

E. WASHINGTON (12-13)

Peatling 4-5 0-0 8, Benzel 5-10 0-0 15, Perry 1-4 0-0 2, Gibson 1-1 0-0 3, Bliznyuk 6-18 3-3 16, Polanco 0-0 0-0 0, Griciunas 4-10 0-0 8, Davison 2-4 2-2 6, Washington 1-7 4-6 6. Totals 24-59 9-11 64.

IDAHO (17-7)

Scott 1-5 2-5 4, Blake 6-13 1-2 15, N.Sherwood 9-13 2-4 23, C.Sherwood 2-4 0-0 6, Sanders 3-13 1-2 8, Blakney 1-1 0-0 2, Mkrtychyan 1-3 0-0 2, Allen 0-3 0-0 0, Callandret 2-8 0-1 6. Totals 25-63 6-14 66.

Halftime—E. Washington 29-26. 3-Point Goals—E. Washington 7-20 (Benzel 5-8, Gibson 1-1, Bliznyuk 1-5, Davison 0-1, Washington 0-2, Perry 0-3), Idaho 10-27 (N.Sherwood 3-4, Blake 2-2, C.Sherwood 2-4, Callandret 2-6, Sanders 1-7, Allen 0-1, Scott 0-3). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—E. Washington 31 (Bliznyuk 13), Idaho 35 (Scott, Blake, Sanders 8). Assists—E. Washington 8 (Bliznyuk 3), Idaho 15 (Sanders 9). Total Fouls—E. Washington 16, Idaho 12. A—3,192 (7,000).

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