Both the men’s and women’s Bobcat basketball teams played against the Eastern Washington Eagles last week, finishing the showdown with mixed results. The women’s team kept their win streak rolling on the road with two more wins in Cheney, Washington—vaulting them to second place in conference play after eight straight wins (10-2 overall). The men’s team didn’t fare as well, losing both games here at home and extending their losing streak from the week before to four straight games.
Even without starting guard Jacob Davison—ranked fourth in scoring in the Big Sky Conference last season—the Eagles came out strong on Thursday, showcasing their team’s aggressive offense and consistent defense. EWU’s starting forward Tanner Groves drove hard through the paint throughout the game, shooting nine for nine at the line and totaling 26 points total—a career high.
“They got the best post guy in the league,” said Bobcats head coach Danny Sprinkle. “[Groves] is playing like the MVP of the league to be honest. He’s really hard to stop, and even when you double him, he’s a great passer and they got shooters all over the place and they put you in a predicament... We didn’t slow them down at all tonight.”
By the final buzzer on Thursday, the scoreboard read 93-77, Eagles. With the second game coming in just 36 hours, the Bobcats only had so much time to turn their defense around and get ready for Saturday’s finale.
“In the locker room talk after the game I didn’t say anything,” Sprinkle said. “I told them we got another game at noon, we got the same team you guys just played, we know what to do, we’ll go home and watch the film… You gotta let this sting until midnight, then we gotta get better tomorrow.”
For the first half of the game, the team’s adjustments seemed to work. The Bobcats came out with a strong defense and made a handful of great shots. They even opened with a seven-point lead in the first five minutes. But once the Eagles’ offense built its momentum, they became hard to stop. Though Montana State came into the second half only three points behind, they trailed by 16 at the end of regulation.
“They’re really hard to guard,” Sprinkle said. “They move the ball until they got the right shot, and when you got five guys that can shoot… it’s almost every time down the court that they’re getting a good shot. ”
The Bobcats managed to stop a huge run early in the second half, but they never quite picked up the speed to close the gap. Late in the half, the Eagles’ lead swelled to 24 points over MSU, but the Cats kept fighting to the end, closing the game at 85-69, Eagles.
“There’s highs and lows to every season,” said Bobcats starting guard Xavier Bishop. “You can’t panic or anything. A couple games ago you saw us on a seven-game winning streak. Right now we’re in a bit of a slump… but I’m confident my guys will figure it out.”
The Lady Cats will play against Idaho State this week. The second-ranked women’s Bobcats will battle the top-ranked Tigers on the road in Pocatello, Idaho on Thursday, Feb. 18, and at home in Worthington Arena on Saturday, Feb. 20, as they try to stretch their win streak to nine, while the men’s team pauses because of COVID-19.
“Our team will go on pause due to COVID restrictions,” a statement by Sprinkle posted to Twitter read. “Our resiliency & character have really been tested over the past few weeks. But with each test, we will become a stronger and more connected program. Tough times don’t last, tough people do!”