This archived article was written by: David Osborne Jr.
The college basketball season has officially started and the Utah State University Eastern Golden Eagles have soared throughout the beginning of the season. Although their first four games have all come on the road, the team looks good and proven that they can push through adversity to make sure that when the final buzzer sounds, they are the team with the most points.
The Golden Eagles started off the season traveling to Twin Falls, Idaho, to participate in the College of Southern
Idaho Tournament. In the first game of the season, Eastern faced South Mountain Community College. Head coach Adjelma “Vando” Bechelli said, “Our offense worked really good against this team.” This certainly was the case with the team scoring 92
points, 46 of which were scored in the paint. Better yet, 31 points came from players that started on the bench. However, Vando added, “We did have 26 turnovers against them which we need to work on.”
Assistant Coach Justin Brown pointed out that there were three players that really stuck out during this game. “Kendahl Amerson, Trahmier Burrell and Travon Langston all stepped up offensively during this game.” Amerson led the team with 25 points, while Burrell and Langston added 11 and 10 respectively. Jaleni Neely, the starting point guard for the Golden Eagles, added another nine points, seven assists and hit all five of his free-throw attempts from the charity stripe.
The Golden Eagles got their first win of the season and it was a resounding win, 92-69. The next day the team finished the tournament, playing against Central Wyoming College. What started out shaping up to be a close game with the Golden Eagles only leading by two at half time, turned into another blow out during the second half where they outscored CWC 41 to 23. Vando pointed out that the key to winning the game was his team’s defense. Brown took it a step further saying, “We told them [the team] to take away their [CWC] three-pointer, and they did.” CWC took 20 three-point shots and only hit five during the game. Three Golden Eagles scored in double-figures: Neely with 16, Vitor Machado with 12 and Amerson with 10. Alioune “Ali” Tew grabbed 10 rebounds, six coming on the offensive end to help the team out as well. “The whole team played well and we executed, only had 12 turnovers, that will help win games,” pointed out Vando.
Over the weekend of November 8-9, the Golden Eagles headed south to Yuma, Ari., to play against Tohono O’odham Community College and Arizona Western College. In the game against TOCC, USU Eastern played in a way that can only be described as lights out. “The whole team played well, we killed them on the boards and we are versatile,” stated Vando.
Brown pointed out that the way the team is able to score is on the penetration of the guards, which opens up many
different options and is the key to their offense. “We had six players in double-digits, that is incredible,” said Vando. Neely led the
team again with 19 points and added six assists, Todd Helgesen added 17 points and 10 rebounds, Tew had 15 points, Amerson added 14 while Burrell and Langston had 10 apiece.
To make the victory better, the Golden Eagles scored 38 points in the paint and shot 56 percent from the field. The final game of the weekend pitted USU Eastern against the AWC Matadors. AWC was the home team of the tournament, but the Golden Eagles had ideas of spoiling home court advantage for them. Unfortunately for Eastern, they started out flat and found themselves down 38-19, but were able to cut it down to a 14-point deficit at halftime, 50-36. It became a tale of two halves for the Golden Eagles during this game, but it remained close until the end.
Brown said, “Jelani was key to our comeback, he hit four three’s in a row.” Vando added the sentiment that Neely was a key to the comeback, but it was the team’s ability to make stops on the defensive end and capitalize in transition. “Playing five-on-five is always hard, playing five-on-four is much easier.” Neely led the team for the third game in a row with 31 points while Langston added 13 more points in the game.
The Golden Eagles got 27 points from behind the 3-point arc and connected on 26 of their 36 free throws. At the end of the game, AWC had a chance with three seconds left, but the Golden Eagle defense was able to “swarm and keep them from getting a shot,” according to Brown. The final score was 77 to 75.
The Golden Eagles will play their first home games of the season in the Bunnell-Dmitrich Athletic Center on Nov. 15-16 against Impact Prep Academy out of Las Vegas, Nev. Both Brown and Vando pointed out that their key to success is going to be following the goals that the team has set. Brown said that the goal is, “Be 2-0 every weekend.” Vando
added, “We need to get better each week at something, that is our other goal.”