BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Jacob Groves had 15 points, Tanner Groves added 14 points and 14 rebounds, and Eastern Washington earned its third NCAA Tournament bid in program history and first since 2015 with a 65-55 win over Montana State on Saturday night in the Big Sky Conference Tournament championship game.
The No. 2 seed Eagles (16-7) opened the game with a 20-3 lead, making eight of their first 12 shots while the No. 5 seed Bobcats (13-10) made one of their first nine shots.
Eastern Washington had its largest lead at 29-9 and led 35-17 before Montana State closed the deficit to 14 by halftime.
Montana State missed its first 12 3-point attempts. Nick Gazelas broke the ice with a 3 that cut the deficit to 51-41 with 9:19 remaining and, at 60-51 with 4:41 left, Montana State got within single digits for the first time since the first five minutes of the game.
But the Eagles immediately pushed the lead back into double digits and effectively stretched out their possessions while getting the stops they needed to hold on.
Michael Meadows scored 12 and Kim Aiken Jr. added nine points and 10 rebounds for Eastern Washington.
Abdul Mohamed had 15 points and eight rebounds, and Jubrile Belo had 12 points and 10 rebounds for Montana State.
Eagles coach Shantay Legans earned his first trip to the NCAA Tournament in his fourth season. Eastern Washington lost to Montana in the Big Sky championship game in 2018 and 2019.
It has been 25 years since Montana State’s last trip to the NCAA Tournament when Bobcats coach Danny Sprinkle was a freshman for Montana State and scored 30 points in the 1996 Big Sky championship game.
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