This archived article was written by: David Osborne Jr.
After spending a long hard month on the road, the Utah State University Eastern Golden Eagles finally headed home to continue through the heart of the basketball season. The last four games played at the Bunnell-Dimitrich Athletic Center were not the easiest however, as the team faced two of the toughest teams in not only the Scenic West Athletic Conference, but also the nation.
In the first game of the five-game home stand, the Golden Eagles faced off against the Salt Lake Community College Bruins, who were at the time ranked 21 in the nation. SLCC was ranked second in the SWAC followed directly by USU Eastern and the game was not one that disappointed or lacked in drama.
SLCC hit a last second three-pointer to force overtime with the Golden Eagles, knotting the score at 69 a piece. The ensuing extra time was filled with held breath and gasps as fans and USU Eastern players were left stunned, wondering how SLCC had come back and eventually stolen the game out from underneath the Golden Eagles. The final score in overtime favored the visitors, 83-79.
The Golden Eagles were lead by sophomore power-forward Todd Helgesen who registered 19 points. Alioune Tew added six points while leading the team in rebounds netting seven total; five defensive and two offensive. The team had four players end with point totals in double-digits, Nafis Walker and Jaleni Neely both had 13 while Kendhal Amerson and Trahmier Burrell had 10.
In the end, the Eagles beat SLCC in several different categories including turnovers, 21-17 and assists 17-14. The Eagles did however let SLCC bring down 40 rebounds, including 17 offensive rebounds.
On Feb. 1, USU Eastern faced rival Snow College. Snow is currently the fifth place team in the SWAC and the Golden Eagles were able to play well throughout the entire game and the home crowd was certainly able to help spur the team on. At the final buzzer, the Eagles defeated Snow for the second time this season, 81-69.
The Golden Eagles were lead by Neely who scored 21 points in the contest while dishing out two assists and bringing down five rebounds. Neely also went 2-3 from behind the 3-point arc while going 9-11 from the charity stripe. The team had two other players end up in double digits; Burrell netting 20 and Amerson with 14 more. The team led in almost every category except offensive rebounds giving up 13 while bringing down eight. The Golden Eagles led 34-27 in rebounds, 9-6 in assists and 5-1 in blocked shots.
During the third game of their home stint, Feb. 6, the Golden Eagles hosted the College of Southern Idaho Golden Eagles, currently ranked second in the nation, behind Indian Hills Community College.
The game was another tough fought battle for the team and after being blown out in Twin Falls, Idaho, they were looking for vengeance. At halftime the Golden Eagles were down 37-29.
During the second half, the team came out with lots of energy and shot a higher fieldgoal percentage improving from 42.3 percent in the first half to 52 percent, in the second half. The end of the game turned into a real nail-biter. After a controversial traveling call in which Neely was bumped and sent flying across the floor, CSI hit a floater with just over nine seconds left in the game to take the lead 77-75, unfortunately the Golden Eagles weren’t able to hit a shot as time expired.
Eastern was lead by Neely who recorded 21 points, dished out three assists and brought down three rebounds. Walker added 18 points to the Golden Eagles total while Helgesen had nine points and brought down 11 rebounds, four on the offensive end and seven on the defensive end.
On Feb. 8, the Golden Eagles faced the North Idaho College Cardinals. At the time USU Eastern was ranked third in the SWAC and NIC was ranked fourth with identical records in conference, 5-7. This was a pivotal game, as the winner would have the tiebreaker for the third place slot in the conference if they had identical records at the end of the regular season.
The Golden Eagles came out slow in the first half, hitting 52 percent of their shots from the field but shooting an abysmal 16.7 percent from behind the 3-point arc.
At halftime the Golden Eagles found themselves down 39-32. The second half wasn’t helpful to the teams cause as several key players sustained injuries keeping them from playing at their highest capacity. At the end of the game, the Golden Eagles found themselves down again at home, losing 78-65.
Burrell led the team with 13 points while bringing down nine rebounds; Amerson added 12 points to the team total while handing out nine assists and bringing in seven rebounds. The Golden Eagles were out rebounded 39-32 and gave up 16 offensive rebounds to NIC.
USU Eastern will play their last home game of the season against the Colorado Northwestern Community College Spartans on Feb. 15. Following the final home game of the season the Golden Eagles will have two more regular season games against SLCC and Snow both on the road before heading to the conference tournament that will take place in Ephraim, Utah from Feb. 27 through March 1.