Utah State Eastern men’s basketball defeated the Colorado Northwest Spartans 98-74 on Thursday to pick up its first conference win of the season.
Coming off a triple overtime loss to nationally-ranked Salt Lake at home on Saturday, USU Eastern head coach Vando Becheli said that he was happy with his team’s performance in Thursday’s game against CNCC.
“They are so focused and they didn’t let the loss against Salt Lake affect them. They had a great week of practice and it showed in the game,” said Becheli.
The Eagles shot 54.5% from the field and 51.5% from three point range on Thursday, led by the shooting of sophomore forward Kristupas Totoris.
On Thursday night, Totoris lit up the stat sheet with 35 points, six rebounds, two assists and one steal. Totoris started the game on fire with making seven three pointers in the first half.
Totoris would go on to break the school record for most three pointers made in a single game with 11 threes. That record was previously held by fellow teammate Neema Namdar, who broke that record in Saturday’s game against Salt Lake.
“I was very happy for him and I know he is such a hard worker. I knew that it was bound to be broken and if anyone was going to break it, it would be him,” said Namdar.
Coming off his 34-point night against Salt Lake on Saturday, Namdar only scored five points and grabbed five rebounds. Becheli said that Namdar did more to help the team than what the stats showed against the Spartans.
“Neema only shot three times in the first half and he knew Kris had the hot hand, so he sacrificed shots to let Kris shoot,” said Becheli.
The Eagles also got a boost on the boards from sophomore forward Sam Velez, who finished the night with 11 rebounds.
“I call him Dennis Rodman because he doesn’t care about scoring or shots and he is a rebounding machine,” said Becheli.Namdar, who is a close friend and former AAU teammate of Velez. He said that the impact that Velez has had on the boards have been critical to their team’s success.”It is huge because it gives us more second chances and possessions. The more possessions we have, the better chance we have at winning the game.”
In the second half, the Eagles let their 23-point lead slip a little after CNCC’s Robert Edwards made a couple big three pointers.
To build their lead back up, the Eagles got scoring from backup guard Matija Novikovic and forward Rafael Monteiro. Both combined for 26 points on Thursday with Novikovic shooting key free throws in the second half to stop the Spartans’ scoring runs.
With the win, the Eagles move to 11-8 and 1-1 in conference.
“It was good for us to get the win but it is on to the next one. It was one win in conference and we have ten more to play. This gives us confidence going into our games against Snow and CSI next week,” said Velez.
Up next is a road trip to Snow College next Thursday followed up with a game against the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls.
Thursday’s game against Snow College will tip off at 7:30 p.m. and the game against CSI is scheduled for 5 p.m.