Eastern Washington to finally tip season against Washington State


Eastern Washington coach Shantay Legans knows how perilous this college basketball season is.

The Eagles, the reigning Big Sky Conference regular-season champions, were scheduled to open their season Wednesday at No. 20 Oregon.

However, that game was scrapped after two Eastern Washington players tested positive for COVID-19 and several others were sidelined due to contact tracing.

“You’re a test away, maybe two tests away from having to sit out 14 days,” Legans told KREM-TV in Spokane, Wash. “If you have to sit out 14 days, you might have to miss two, three, four games. We’re always willing to go play whoever we can whenever we can.”

The Eagles are now scheduled to open their season Saturday night against Washington State (1-0) in Pullman, Wash.

“We’ve talked to so many teams,” Legans said of trying to schedule some nonconference games. “Every team on the West Coast, we’ve tried everything, all California schools. Every school you could think of we reached out to.

“It just makes it easier if it’s close, like going to go play UW or Seattle. You can just go get on a bus and go play them. That’s something we’d do. We’d do anything to get to seven games, five games, however many we can play.”

The Cougars opened their season Wednesday with a 56-52 home victory against Texas Southern. Isaac Bonton scored 21 of his 28 points in the second half as Washington State rallied from a three-point halftime deficit.

Aljaz Kunc added 11 points for the Cougars, including two free throws with 28 seconds left that broke a 52-all tie.

“We’re young and this is a product of not playing for awhile,” Bonton said. “No excuses, we don’t want to have excuses, but we’ve been working really hard so just keep honing in on defense. … We’re just trying to find our identity right now and just keep working every day. Offense is going to come, so we just have to really keep focusing on defense.”

Just hours before tipoff, Cougars coach Kyle Smith was cleared to be on the bench following a 10-day isolation period following a positive COVID-19 test.

“Ten days in my bedroom is a tough bid, to say the least,” a masked Smith told reporters on a Zoom call. “It’s been 28 years, I don’t think I’ve been away from a team — any team — that long. You can really go back to, honestly, junior high. I said I’ve been on a team since I was 12 years old and I’ve never been away from a team. So actually there was a little depression on battling that stuff.”

–Field Level Media

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