By Rory Noble
At times during the first half of the College of Idaho/EOU game in Caldwell, it seemed like the Mountaineers couldn’t buy a three-pointer. The Yotes, it seemed, couldn’t miss.
C of I came into the game riding a seven-game winning streak and had moved up to a top ten ranking nationally. The Mountaineers had a small winning streak of their own of two games. Expectations were high for both teams as they took the court.
The Yotes proved that they were worthy of their national ranking as they ran out to an early 6-0 lead with less than three minutes gone. A steal by Josh Wilson led to a three-pointer by Taylor Pruitt. Next, Sydney Donaldson hit a jumper and then Wilson added a free throw for the six-point lead.
EOU cut the lead to just a single point after a layup by Tony Eackles, Jr. and a free throw and jumper from Kalvin Johanson. Pruitt was then fouled on a three-point attempt and went to the line. He hit two of his three free throws to put C of I up by three points with 14:27 left in the half.
Donaldson hit back-to-back three-pointers that put the lead back to six points less than a minute later. EOU’s Craig Tucker knocked down his own shot from three-point land to cut the lead the three. C of I hit the got the next five points to give them an 18-10 lead at the midpoint of the first half.
EOU cut the lead in half on a pair of free throws from Eackles, Jr. and a jumper by Trevor Phillips. The teams then traded baskets for about four minutes. The Yotes started to roll after a steal by Antonio Garrett led to a Joe Vaz jumper. Eackles, Jr. hit a couple of jumpers during this time, but Garrett popped a couple of three-pointers and completed a three-point play after a layup to put C of I ahead 33-22 with less than two minutes left in the first half.
Kyllian Wood finished off the EOU scoring for the half by connecting on a jumper and tossing a couple of free throws in with about a minute remaining. The Yotes went to the locker room up by nine points at the half, 35-26.
The Yotes hit four of their six long-range shots in the half while EOU only connected on one of nine.
The second half wouldn’t be much better for EOU. With 14:16 remaining in the game, EOU had managed just two points on a Johanson jumper. C of I outscored EOU 8-2 in that short time and looked as if they would put the game away.
With about 10 minutes left, the Yotes had increased their lead to 22 points, 55-33. EOU was struggling from the field and was losing the defensive battle as well. Four of the previous five possessions by C of I had resulted in scores deep in the paint.
However, despite being down by as many as 23 points, the Mountaineers did not give up. Shots started dropping here and there when they hadn’t earlier in the game. With 1:27 left in the game, a fast break layup by Tucker cut the lead to 11 points, 62-51. A pair of missed free throws by C of I’s Wilson allowed the Mountaineer men to cut the lead to just nine points with 1:11 left in the game.
A battle of the free throws ended the game. The Yotes won that battle, as they had won most every battle within the game, five points to one point. The Yotes won handily, 67-54.
The loss gave EOU an overall record of 14-10 and a conference record of 5-9. For the Yotes, their eight consecutive win keeps them atop the CCC standing with a perfect 12-0 conference record and an impressive 21-5 overall record. The Yotes, along with Southern Oregon, Northwest Christian, Oregon Tech and Northwest University, have clinched CCC tournament spots.
College of Idaho’s Antonio Garrett led all scorers with 15 points. Demitrius Perkins and Joe Vaz added 10 points each, Vaz pulled down 9 rebounds as well. The Mountaineers were led by Tony Eackles, Jr.’s 13 points. Kalvin Johanson added 11 points and Derek Maloney had 10 points and 8 rebounds. Kyllian Wood pulled down 12 rebounds total.
Next up for the Mountaineers is a trip west on Feb. 14 and 15 to meet Corban and Northwest Christian respectively.