USUE Men’s Basketball’s Season Ends in Tournament Semis

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USUE Press Release

The Utah State Eastern men’s basketball team lost to the College of Southern Idaho Golden Eagles 81-74 in the Region XVIII Tournament semifinals Friday in Ephraim.

Both teams battled back and forth throughout the game with the Golden Eagles pulling ahead in the final minutes of the game to end USU Eastern’s season.

“They played real hard and followed our game plan really well and it worked well for 38 minutes. In the last two minutes, we had two bad turnovers and they scored two threes then things went south and they won the game,” said USU Eastern head coach Vando Becheli.

In the first half, the Eagles were carried by the offensive output of sophomores Rafael Monteiro and Neema Namdar. They combined to score 24 of the Eagles’ 37 first half points.

The Eagles shot 50% from the field and 38.5% from three in the first half and held a three-point lead at halftime.

“We executed our game plan better than we used to and the guys were super excited to get a chance against them,” said USU Eastern point guard Milan Surlic’.

Becheli said that it was great to see his team play solid and not be behind by double-digits before halftime like they have done in the past three contests against CSI.

“It was totally different to not be in the hole and spend all your energy to get out of the hole,” said Becheli.

After halftime, both teams continued to go back and forth until the Eagles got up on CSI by six with less than eight minutes to play.

CSI would come back and hit back to back threes to tie the game up a 62 with 6:35 left to play. Turnovers and missed opportunities would end up costing the Eagles in the final five minutes of the game.

“Small things like that add up and, at the end, that is what was the difference. We also gave CSI a lot of trouble but in crucial points they were lucky,” said Surlic’.

CSI would maintain the lead in the final minute despite the Eagles not going away easily.

Monteiro finished the game as the leading scorer by putting a double-double with 26 points and 11 rebounds.

“He has done a great job all year and this was a product of all his hard work everyday and I am super proud of him,” said Surlic’

Sophomore Kristupas Totoris had 15 points including multiple threes.

The loss gives the Eagles a final record of 17-13 overall and 6-7 in conference.

After the loss, Becheli said that he is sad to see the season end and believes his team was something special this season.

“I saw a team that started in one way and ended in a total different way. We improved a lot and the kids grew a lot,” said Becheli. “They enjoyed playing with each other; that is the kind of team you don’t have every year. I wish I could have this team one more year but this is junior college and each year you have to reconstruct your team.”

The Eagles will lose nine sophomores from this year’s team but will return a handful of young players and signees that will be significant in next year’s run at the conference title.

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