Back on track
Tony Eackles Jr. hung in the air for what seemed like minutes. He contemplated passing for a brief second only because the defense was glued to him. In the end, somehow, Eackles Jr. lofted the shot high enough to hit what turned out to be the game-winning shot with six seconds on the clock.
The Eastern Oregon University men’s basketball upset No. 21 Concordia 82-80 Saturday when Willy Ligon’s fade-away from the corner missed the basket as the clock expired.
“We had the ball and I was 95 percent sure I was going to shoot the ball,” Eackles Jr. said. “I pride myself on being a closer. I grew up watching guys like Michael Jordan and Dwayne Wade.
“I have no idea how that shot went in. But, you practice those shots all the time. That’s a credit to the work you put in during the summer and the spring to get ready for these moments. I thank God it went in.”
It was a true back-and-forth game, featuring eight ties in the second half. Neither team led by more than four points in the second half.
Both teams shot lights out. Concordia finished the game shooting 53 percent from the floor, but the Mountaineers were just a little bit better, shooting 58 percent.
“Anytime you shoot that well, you’re going to have a great chance to win the game,” EOU head coach Jared Barrett said. “We’ve spent a lot of practice time the last week just shooting the ball, and you could see it paid off tonight.”
On the floor a new found confidence was apparent with the shooting practice. Sophomore Kalvin Johanson only had eight points, but took shots he usually shies away from, or doesn’t make at a high percentage.
“It was great to see Kalvin take those baseline shots without even thinking about it tonight,” Barrett said. “He can make them. It’s just a matter of having the confidence to go out and do it in a game.”
Kevin Attila picked up the offensive effort in the second half. The senior guard had just two points in the opening 20 minutes of play, but scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half.
“Kevin is a natural shooting guard playing the point for us this season,” Barrett said. “This is something we need a little more from him.
“He sent me texts the night before wanting to know what more he could do. One of the things I told him was to take the shot when he was open.”
EOU (14-9 overall, 5-8 CCC) got a balanced scoring attack. Eackles Jr. led the way with 19 points. Deonta Edwards added 14 points, while Trevor Phillips finished with 13 points.
Ligon led Concordia with 19 points. Adam Herman finished with 14 points.
By sweeping the weekend schedule, EOU moved to within a game of fifth place.
“We talk about that every week. In this conference you’re a good weekend away from being in it, and a bad weekend from being out,” Eackles Jr. said. “At this point we just have to keep building.
“We have the momentum now. We just need to use it.”
Behind 18 points from Eackles Jr., the Mountaineers coasted to a 72-66 conference win against Warner Pacific Friday night.
The Mountaineers jumped out to a 40-32 lead after the first half. EOU shot 40 percent from the floor, making 5-of-13 from behind the arc in the opening 20 minutes of play.
But, someone turned off the offensive switch in the second half. The Mountaineers only made 5-of-19 attempts from the field in the second half.
EOU held onto its lead by making shots at the free-throw line, converting 19-of-25, and finished the game 30-of-42.
Warner Pacific managed 20 attempts to the free-throw line, but made just eight attempts.
Phillips added 16 points, seven rebounds and four blocks. Kyllian Wood had a double double with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Michael Hall had 16 points off the bench to lead the Knights. Sean Gaines finished with 11 points, while Ryan Parks had 10.
The Mountaineers will travel to College of Idaho for a 6:30 p.m. tipoff Friday.
In the last meeting, Jan. 10, the Yotes picked up a 75-67 in Quinn Coliseum behind Demetrius Perkins’ game-high 22 points.
No. 10 College of Idaho comes into the game leading the conference with a 10-2 record, and is 20-5 overall.