Eastern Washington’s Bliznyuk named Big Sky MVP

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Eastern Washington senior forward Bogdan Bliznyuk was named Big Sky Conference Most Valuable Player on Monday, as voted on by the league’s coaches.

Idaho senior Brayon (B.J.) Blake was named to the first team, and senior Victor Sanders was named to the second team.

In addition, EWU sophomore Mason Peatling earned honorable mention All-BSC accolades.

This season, Bliznyuk has made 51.3 percent of his field goals (13th in the Big Sky) and 91.4 percent of his free throws (first in the Big Sky, sixth in NCAA Division I) to average 20.4 points (third, 41st nationally) through 31 games. He is also averaging 6.9 rebounds (sixth) and 4.1 assists (second) to rank as the only player in the league to be in the top 10 in scoring, rebounding and assists.

In league games only, Bliznyuk averaged 22.2 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.8 assists. Legans also watched in awe as Bliznyuk broke the NCAA Division I single-season record for consecutive free throws by making 74 straight during conference play. Bliznyuk owns a dozen school records, and has already helped lead the Eagles to a trio of national postseason tournaments – with EWU’s quest for a fourth starting this week.

Bliznyuk is the second straight Eastern player to win the honor, with Jacob Wiley earning it a year ago after a record-breaking senior season. Rodney Stuckey won in 2006 and Alvin Snow was the initial Eagle honored in 2004. Eastern has been a member of the league for 31 years now.

Blake, who played as a sophomore at North Idaho College in 2015-16, averaged 16.6 points and a league-best 9.5 rebounds per game on the year. In conference play, he averaged 18.3 points and 9.6 boards per contest. Blake recorded 11 double-doubles on the season, including seven in Big Sky play.

Sanders earns his third consecutive All-Big Sky recognition, after earning second team honors in 2015-16 and first team honors in 2016-17. Sanders led the Vandals with 19.0 points per game, the fourth best average in the conference. His 570 points are the seventh most in a single season in team history.

Sanders also continued to climb the career rankings at Idaho. He moved into second in program history in scoring, and now has 1785 career points, while his 270 career 3-pointers are also second best. In 18 conference games, he scored in double-figures 16 times, including nine 20-plus point games.

The Vandals have had their best season in recent history, winning 22 regular seasons games for the first time since the 1992-93 season. Idaho finished second in the Big Sky Conference, head coach Don Verlin’s best finish with the team. The Vandals open up Big Sky Tournament play on Thursday in Reno, Nev., at 5:35 p.m, against the winner of Tuesday’s Idaho State-Southern Utah matchup.

Eastern is the No. 3 seed to the Big Sky tourney, and will play at 8:05 p.m. Thursday against the winner of tonight’s game between sixth-seeded Portland State and No. 11 seed Sacramento State.

ALL-BIG SKY MEN

INDIVIDUAL AWARD WINNERS

Most Valuable Player: Bogdan Bliznyuk, Sr., G/F, Eastern Washington

Newcomer of the Year: Andre Spight, Sr., G, Northern Colorado

Freshman of the Year: Holland Woods, Fr., G, Portland State

Defensive Player of the Year: Michael Oguine, Jr., G, Montana

Top Reserve: Brandon Boyd, So., G, Idaho State

FIRST TEAM -- Bogdan Bliznyuk, sr., G/F, Eastern Washington; Andre Spight, sr., G, Northern Colorado; Jerrick Harding, so., G, Weber State; Ahmaad Rorie, jr., G, Montana; Brayon (B.J.) Blake, sr., F, Idaho.

SECOND TEAM -- Victor Sanders, sr., G, Idaho; Michael Oguine, jr., G, Montana; Tyler Hall, jr., G, Montana State; Justin Strings, sr., F, Sacramento State; Geno Crandall, jr. G, North Dakota.

THIRD TEAM -- Jamar Akoh, jr., F, Montana; Jared Stutzman, so., G/F, Idaho State; Zach Braxton, jr., F/C, Weber State, Ryan Richardson, sr., G, Weber State; Jordan Davis, jr., G, Northern Colorado.

HONORABLE MENTION -- Mason Peatling, so., F, Eastern Washington; Brandon Boyd, so., G, Idaho State; Harold Frey, so., G, Montana State; Brandon Hollins, sr., F, Portland State; Bryce Canda, sr., G, Portland State.

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