This archived article was written by: Bronson Harker
The College of Eastern Utah’s men’s basketball team put on quite a show on the last weekend of January. The Eagles hosted the College of Southern Idaho and unfortunately gave them a little too warm of a welcome. In the first half of the game on Jan. 26, CSI outscored the Eagles by 17.
The game became a battle in the second half. CEU controlled the game and played their best half of basketball to that point in the season. Scoring 65 points in the second half showed to the fans, as well as the players, that the Eagles have the potential to do great things with the team they have.
Coach Bryan Zollinger feels that the team has “mental barriers” that they need to overcome.
This was shown as the players were rather hesitant to attack a bigger CSI team in the first half. It was a different story in the second half.
The Eagles were ultimately defeated 110 to 104. The next night CEU came out with their talons exposed and pounced on CSI quickly. Unfortunately, their efforts came shy of a victory as CSI came back from a 46 to 37 half time deficit to win their conference game and remain on top of the Scenic West Athletic Conference.
“We can get ’em next time,” announced Jeremy Lathan. It is apparent that wins do not just fall off trees into our lap, so you can bet Coach Z still has the team pruning the weak branches and grafting in better, stronger ones. Alas, the fruit of victory will only come when the team gathers together all the essential tools they have in their sheds, and goes out and gets it.
The first weekend of February brought two wins to the Golden Eagles, improving their record to 16 wins and six losses overall. Colorado Northwestern, although better this year than in previous seasons, is the quintessential example of being bottom of the pack. The first game saw the Spartans downed 93 to 80. In the second game, the Eagles defeated them yet again 109 to 90. Tony Dalton, a freshman-combo guard from Moab, Utah, had a career best 17 points.
“I played with the confidence my team needs me to. If I am able to score then defenses have one more person to worry about,” he said. The Eagles need players like Dalton to step it up while still receiving the same offensive contribution from their leaders.
Coach Z felt, “we played good enough to win but it is hard to hide the fact that they haven’t won any games yet and are down to seven players.” Six Eagles scored in double figures: Jeremy Lathan 12, Anthony Oliver 13, Tyler Kepkay 31, Rafael Moreira 15, Eric Deardon 13 and Dalton 17. Moreira has played better basketball the last two weekends and led the team both nights in rebounding.
Coach Z’s players agree that they definitely need to step it up to reach what Z called the “upper echelon.” It is said that offense win games, but defense wins championships and CEU is in the run to win the SWAC.
Kepkay efficiently gives his team more points than any single player does in the nation, yet recognizes winning is the ultimate goal. “My team needs me to score but I need to look for other parts of the game where I can help us win.” Defensive intensity and tremendous effort throughout the whole game is what is needed for the Eagles to ultimately finish the season with a bang heading into the playoffs with confidence that they have earned the right to end the season as champions.
This weekend the CEU will host Salt Lake Community College. The Eagles and Bruins are even in conference play this year. Eric Dearden believes, “with defensive pressure beginning with the guards, it should filter down to our bigs. I hope to bring defensive intensity that will give us the chance to beat SLCC both games.”
Coach Z feels that if the Eagles defensively focus on containing SLCC’s Gary Wilkinson, and not allow players like Brain Green to have wide-open looks, then the Eagles will have the same opportunity to win both games this weekend. Green had 20 points on eight of nine shooting, including four of five from the land of the three ball when SLCC beat CEU earlier this season. The following game CEU was victorious and Green was three of 13 from the field, including zero of seven behind the arc.
Rome was not built in a day but with the playoffs fast approaching, the College of Eastern Utah Golden Eagles need to organize the pieces of the puzzle to strand together an eight-game winning streak before heading to Twin Falls, Idaho, to take on CSI for their last two conference games before the conference tournament.