CHENEY — Bogdan Bliznyuk is excited about becoming the leading career scorer in Eastern Washington history.
He just doesn’t want to talk about it.
On Tuesday he had no choice: Bliznyuk is one bucket away from passing ex-teammate Venky Jois.
“It does mean a lot,” Bliznyuk said after practice. “I never thought I’d get to this point. … But seeing how happy Venky was when he got (the record), it’ll be special.”
He hopes the moment comes early in today’s home game against North Dakota — with a dunk, preferably, but you get the impression that a layup would be just as good.
With 1,802 career points, Bliznyuk recently passed Ron Cox, who had 1,741 points from 1974-77 and held the record for 39 years until Jois broke it in March 2016.
The immigrant from Ukraine also figures to make some history in the Big Sky Conference, in which he’s only 39 points from moving into the top 10 for career scoring.
That’s nice, but Bliznyuk just hopes the Eagles can move up the standings.
“We’re in a position where we have to do well in these next two home games,” Bliznyuk said.
“Really, I think for me right now, the focus is on wins,” Bliznyuk said.
At 9-11 overall and 4-3 in the Big Sky, the Eagles are in a four-way tie for fourth place, three games behind Montana and one behind Idaho and Weber State.
“We have to defend our home court,” said coach Shantay Legans, whose club hosts Northern Colorado on Saturday. “If we want to win the Big Sky Championship, I think five losses is where it’s going to be.”
If that’s the case, there isn’t much margin for error at Eastern, which is coming off an overtime loss at Southern Utah in which Bliznyuk was plagued by foul trouble and the Eagles’ offense struggled at times.
Up first is North Dakota (7-12, 2-5), which is coming off an overtime loss to Northern Colorado and only last month took Gonzaga to OT.
Eastern took a 77-64 win at UND on New Year’s Eve, but Legans said overconfidence won’t be a problem on Thursday.
“North Dakota is a good team and they have things going in the right direction,” said Legans of a team that has five players averaging double-figure scoring.
Eastern is missing two key players – point guard Luka Vulikic, who is day-to-day with plantar fasciitis, and forward Jesse Hunt, who’s out for at least another week with a foot injury.
On Saturday, the Eagles face Northern Colorado, which handed Eastern an 88-75 loss in the conference opener on Dec. 29.