Travon Langston (#5) and other members of the USU Eastern bench celebrate after a made 3-point shot in a win over Southern Idaho on Saturday.
USU Eastern's Jaleni Neely, center, drives through the middle of the Southern Idaho defense during play in the first half of Eastern's win on Saturday.
Teotonio Do (#44) leaps high to block a shot attempt from a Southern Idaho player during the second half. Do had three blocks in the game.
USU Eastern Men riding high at 13-1 after sweeping Idaho Colleges
In season's past the USU Eastern Golden Eagles wouldn't have won these types of games. They would come close but unfortunately they would fall to teams with more depth and better talent.
But not this time around.
USU Eastern showed their depth and talent across the roster in two big wins including a nail biting 85-83 win over North Idaho College on Fan Appreciation Night on Dec. 12 followed by a 95-85 win over College of Southern Idaho on Dec. 14.
In both games, the Golden Eagles used the talent in the backcourt and frontcourt to pull out two key wins to start Scenic West Athletic Conference play at 2-0 and move to 13-1 on the season.
With a break for the holidays, it was the perfect way for the team to finish before resuming play on Jan. 1 against Western Wyoming Community College.
There is no better way for us to go into the break than with these two big wins," said USU Eastern head coach Adjalma Becheli.
With the tough competition that the SWAC provides, Becheli said he and the team realize how vital it is to win every game at home.
"The level of competition in the SWAC has become equal and teams are showing that anyone can win," said Becheli. "It's very important for us to protect our home floor over the rest of the season."
Kendahl Amerson led USU Eastern with a team-high 28 points in the win over NIC. Amerson scored 17 points in the first half and added another 11 in the second to help pace the Golden Eagles. Travon Langston scored five points but his three free throws down the stretch helped secure the victory.
Against the College of Southern Idaho, USU Eastern jumped out to an early double digit lead that carried over into the second half. CSI was able to cut the lead down to four points on multiple occasions midway through the second half. But each time CSI made a run, USU Eastern responded. Trahmier Burrell scored 10 second half points, including a few baskets down the stretch that helped maintain the lead.
Jaleni Neely scored a team-high 24 points and was joined by four teammates in double digits scoring including Nafis Walker (18), Amerson (16), Burrell (15) and Alioune Tew (10).
Tew finished with a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds and his frontcourt teammate Teotonio Do added three keys blocking while altering numerous other CSI attempts near the basket.
"Ali and Teotonio really complement each other on the team," said Becheli. "They play their roles really well."
With the team off to a hot start in 2013-14, there are plenty of reasons as to why the team is playing so well. They are scoring from all over the court, grabbing rebounds, creating turnovers and defending well. But it may be something not listed in the box score that is an indicator of why the team is winning.
"We just stick together as a team and I think that has made all of the difference for us," said Langston, a sophomore.
At 13-1, the Golden Eagles are riding high. After suffering through three difficult seasons since the 3rd place finish at the NJCAA Tournament in 2010, the Golden Eagles are quickly showing that the team is back on a winning track.
"We want the target on us," said Becheli. "Teams need to be ready for us as well. But we have to realize that there are no easy games on the schedule from this point."