This archived article was written by: Brooke Anderson
Utah Sate Eastern men’s basketball team finished with an overall record of 10-7 in the preseason and have gone 4-4 in their last eight. Their last two games at home marked the start of SWAC conference play, both of which featured record-breaking player performances.
In the last month of their preseason, the Eagles went to the Snow Tournament in Ephraim, Utah Dec 8-9. USUE played Treasure Valley Community College first on Friday afternoon to get things started. They lost by a thin margin of 75-78 with a halftime score of 37-34 that was just as close.
Kristupas Totoris led the team in points with 12 points and one assist, followed by Neema Namdar with 12 points and Petr Ropek with 11 points.
Totoris, Namdar and Rafael Montiero each led with six rebounds, trailed by Nico Rojas with five rebounds and an impressive three blocks.
Coming in fresh the next day, the Eagles faced Central Wyoming College for the fourth time. Previously they had beat Central twice and lost once. The team fell short and lost 76-85 but stayed neck in neck the whole game.
Namdar led the team again with 13 points and two assists, with Montiero and Totoris close behind with 12 and 11 points respectively.
Montiero also led the team in rebounds with 12, followed by Rojas with eight rebounds and two blocks.
Milan Surlic’ led the team in assists with five.
The Eagles headed home to prepare for their next games, and after a few weeks of practice they headed to Tucson, Arizona Dec. 27-30 for a jamboree hosted by Pima Community college.
“We reinforced some things that weren’t good. The team responded really well when we had some guys injured and we have a good team chemistry now” says head coach Adjalma Becheli.
Facing Just Hoops Prep, the team began the week with a 101-55 win. They started strong with a halftime score of 57-28.
Totoris led the team offensively with 23 points, with Namdar close behind with 15 points.
Ognjen Pantovic led the team defensively with 12 rebounds and three blocks, with Samuel Velez right behind with nine rebounds.
Surlic’ led in steals with five and added eight points for the win.
The next day the Eagles faced tournament host Pima Community College Dec. 28. The team lost 81-99 trying to come back from a deficit set early on.
Landon Swartz led the team offensively with 17 points and four assists, with Montiero and Namdar close behind with 12 points and 11 points.
Pantovic led in rebounds with eight , trailed by Montiero with seven.
Karbala Gueye led with two blocks and Surlic’ led in steals with two.
The Eagles came back on Dec. 29 to beat Bismarck State College 113-92.
Sophomore Totoris had a very impressive game with 31 points, five rebounds, shooting 100 percent behind the free-throw line and 85 percent from the three point line.
“I just kept working every day and waited for my chance to prove [what I can do]” says Totoris when asked about his successes.
Swartz followed offensively with 23 points and one assist.
Pantovic lead defensively with seven rebounds and one block and Surlic’ lead the team with five assists and two steals.
The team completed it’s week in Arizona with a win against Macomb Community College of 88-83. The game was close the entire time at 39-37 by halftime.
Totoris led the team with 14 points and two assists, Novikovic and Pantovic followed with 11 points each.
Pantovic led defensively with nine rebounds, trailed by Rojas with eight.
The Eagles returned home with a 3-1 record for the week.
Jan. 6 the Eagles played in their regular season home opener against no. 4-ranked Salt Lake Community College.
With 6 players fouled out, the Eagles barely lost 111-124 in triple overtime.
“The kids played really well against SLCC, and we shot really well from the three-point line” says Becheli. The team broke the school record with 19 three-point shots made in the game.
“Everyday we work hard in practice and out of practice” says Namdar, who broke a record personally with 10 three-point shots made in one game. He contributed 34 points, four assists and three rebounds.
Surlic’ followed with 22 points and a team-high of 12 assists.
Pantovic and Velez led the team defensively with nine rebounds and one block each.
“We put in work on defensive and scouting… unfortunately we lost after triple overtime, but that game was one to remember” says Novikovic who contributed two rebounds for the team.
Despite the loss, Becheli believes that this game was a step in the right direction to reaching their goals and that the team, “can compete against any team from [the] league.”
The next week on Jan. 11 the Eagles continued with a win against Colorado Northwestern Community College 98-74.
“We came out strong and it was over in the first ten minutes” says Totoris, who broke the record recently set with 11 threes made in one game.
“Right now, we have a group of guys that are playing well together, and have been working very hard every day” says Becheli.
The Eagles have a very promising future in the rest of their season. Next up, the team travels to play Snow College Jan. 18 in Ephraim. Then, on Jan. 20, they play visitors to the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls. Follow the Eagle’s progress at Utah State Eastern athletics online.