This archived article was written by: David Osborne Jr.
The Utah State University Eastern men’s basketball team opened region play with the beginning of spring semester. They are in District 1 Region 18. Region 18, which consists of the Scenic West Athletic Conference is known as one of the most competitive conferences and continues to produce teams that are championship contenders.
Going back five seasons, to the 2006-07 NJCAA basketball season, Region 18 has produced two national champions (Salt Lake Community College 08-09 and the College of Southern Idaho 10-11.) In those same five years when the SWAC has not produced a national champion they have been in the top four in the nation (CSI fourth place finish 06-07, SLCC second place finish 07-08 and CEU third place finish 09-10.)
USU Eastern started region play on their home court inside the Bunnell-Dmitrich Athletic Center against the Colorado Northwestern Community College Spartans on Jan. 6, 2012. After starting the season with a record of 12-2, and coming off of a long break for the holidays, the Eagles looked to be firing on all cylinders. Three of the five starters and one player off the bench had point totals in double figures including: McKay LaSalle 20, Chase Flint 17, Demetrus Richardson 11 (off the bench) and Neveij Walters 10. Head coach Brian Edelstein said, “Mckay was unbelievable from three.” LaSalle hit 6-11 from beyond the arc. “His stat line may not show it, but Dom [Dominique Lawrence] gave us lots of good energy,” added Edelstein.
When asked about the turning point in the game, Edelstein “When one of their [CNCC] players had a breakaway dunk and missed it, they had a hard time overcoming it and we took advantage.” “Our half-court defense was great, defense really gave us the lead and eventually the win.”
At the end of the game the scoreboard had USU Eastern beating CNCC 76-58. Along with his 17 points, Flint had the team high in rebounds and assists with 12 and 7 respectively. The team as a whole brought down 47 rebounds (35 defensive and 12 offensive) and shot 38 percent from the field. The only dark spot was the free-throw shooting where the Golden Eagles made 20 out of 38, giving them a meager 52 percent from the charity stripe.
On Jan. 13, the Golden Eagles headed over the mountain to visit the Snow College Badgers. In what was their region debut on the road the team fell short in more ways than one. In the first half, the Golden Eagles gave up 50 points and let the Badgers shoot 42 percent from the field and even worse an amazing 53 percent from beyond the three-point line.
“We let them get comfortable early and were certainly not good enough on the defensive end,” commented Edelstein on the first half of the game. The second half was almost the same story, but the defense by the Golden Eagles stepped up a little bit. The team held the Badgers to 44 points, giving up 44 percent from the field and 37 percent from long distance.
The Eagles had three players end the game in double figures lead by Dashaun Wiggins with 28 while bringing down 11 rebounds for a double-double.
The next day, Jan. 14, the team visited the Bruins from Salt Lake Community College. After the meager defensive performance the day before, the Golden Eagles made defense a priority against SLCC. The team held the Bruins to 42 percent from the field and only gave up 26 percent from behind the arc. With the clock winding down, the score was tied, but a SLCC player got enough space and tossed up a buzzer-beating shot that put the Bruins on top taking the win 79-76.
Edelstein commented, “It is tough to lose on a 40-footer at the buzzer, but we had a much better defensive effort and gave ourselves a chance to win on the road.”
The teams finished with three players with double-digit point totals and were once again led by Wiggins with 34. Flint finished the game with 11 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists; giving him his fifth straight double-double. The Golden Eagles finished shooting 47 percent from the field.
On Jan. 20, 2012 the Golden Eagles will play host to the Northern Idaho Cardinals in the BDAC at 7:30 p.m. The next day they will host the College of Southern Idaho at 5 p.m. in the BDAC. The Golden Eagles from CSI come down to Price ranked sixth in the NJCAA Top-20 Poll, averaging 89 points a game and average giving up 67 points a game. The NIC Cardinals come in ranked 16th in the polls and average 81 points a game offensively and only give up an average of 64 points a game. To beat both NIC and CSI Edelstein said, “We need to make sure that we bring the same type of energy that we brought against SLCC.”