Non-conference schedule includes games with Washington State and Gonzaga, to go along with EWU's earliest Big Sky start on Dec. 5
Highlighted by non-conference games against Washington State and Gonzaga, as well as the earliest Big Sky Conference start in school history, Eastern Washington University's 2009-10 schedule has been released by the Eagles and third-year head coach Kirk Earlywine.
Eastern opens its league schedule on the early date of Dec. 5, giving the Eagles two exhibition games and seven non-conference games to prepare for league play. Among those seven games, Eastern hosts Portland on Nov. 14 and Boise State on Nov. 24, and plays road games at Washington State on Nov. 16 and Idaho on Nov. 28.
"I like our non-conference schedule and the fact we're not stuck on the road very long," Earlywine said. "But November is very tough and we have to be ready right from the start."
Eastern plays at Portland State on Dec. 5 before resuming league play on Jan. 1 at home against Sacramento State. The other non-conference games for the Eagles include road games at Nevada (Dec.17), Brigham Young (Dec. 19) and Gonzaga (Dec. 28), as well as an appearance in the four-team Las Vegas Classic at the Orleans Arena on Dec. 22-23.
In addition, Eastern plays both at home (Dec. 12) and on the road (Feb. 1) against Seattle University, a newcomer in NCAA Division I in the 2008-09 season. Seattle defeated the Eagles in overtime last season, but the Eagles were able to edge both Portland (63-58) and Idaho (69-59) before both of those teams finished strong in the West Coast Conference and Western Athletic Conference, respectively.
"We have our hands full with our non-conference schedule, but that's always the case," Earlywine said. "Now that Portland and Idaho have elevated their programs in the last year, it makes our non-conference schedule that much tougher."
"I hope we get tremendous fan support for our home opener against Portland because that is going to be a heckuva game," he added. "We beat them in a close game at their place last year and I know they'll remember that. So we jump right into the fire with Portland."
"Everything we do from now until December 5th will be pointing toward conference play," Earlywine continued. "We want to be peaked and ready for every conference game we play."
The Dec. 5 start to league play represents the earliest Big Sky opener in school history. Last year, the Eagles opened league play on Dec. 6 with a 61-55 home win over Montana State, and the previous season opened on Dec. 22 with a 58-57 home victory over Portland State.
"I've made my feelings pretty well known about playing the first conference game in early December," explained Earlywine. "But we've actually been ready to play that game the last two seasons. I shouldn't be too critical because we've won our opener each of the past two years."
The Eagles return five letter winners -- all seniors -- from last year's team that finished 12-18 overall and 6-10 in the Big Sky Conference. Three of them are returning starters as the Eagles will be trying for their first Big Sky Conference Tournament berth in four seasons when that event takes place on March 6, 9 and 10.
However, Earlywine expects several other league teams to feature even more returning starters and experience.
"The league is going to be very, very good," he said. "Top to bottom, it may be as good as it's been in the last 10 years. I told our team after our last game last season that our challenge was to go catch the other teams in the league. Nobody is backing up, so we have to go catch them. Our focus has been on doing what we have to do to improve and not count on other teams to stub their toe."
Earlywine has been in the Big Sky Conference for nearly 10 years now, dating back to 1999 when he became an assistant at Weber State. He knows the January to March grind in the league is difficult, but it's made even more difficult this season with the cost-saving measure of playing most weekend doubleheaders on Friday/Saturday instead of Thursday/Saturday.
"The travel difficulties haven't changed -- we still have nine institutions spread over eight states," he said. "You go from sea level to altitude, and one time zone to another. It's tough."
Day - Date - Opponent - Site - Time
Sunday - Nov. 1 - #Saint Martin's - Cheney, Wash. - 1:05 p.m.
Sunday - Nov. 8 - #Montana State-Billings - Cheney, Wash. - 1:05 p.m.
Saturday - Nov. 14 - Portland - Cheney, Wash. - 1:05 p.m.
Monday - Nov. 16 - at Washington State - Pullman, Wash. - 7 p.m.
Tuesday - Nov. 17 - Whitman - Cheney, Wash. - 7:05 p.m.
Saturday - Nov. 21 - at UT Arlington - Arlington, Texas - 5 p.m.
Tuesday - Nov. 24 - Boise State - Cheney, Wash. - 7:05 p.m.
Saturday - Nov. 28 - at Idaho - Moscow, Idaho (Memorial Gym) - 7:05 p.m.
Tuesday - Dec. 1 - Walla Walla University - Cheney, Wash. - 7:05 p.m.
Saturday - Dec. 5 - at *Portland State - Portland, Ore. - 7:05 p.m.
Saturday - Dec. 12 - %Seattle University - Cheney, Wash. - 1:05 p.m.
Thursday - Dec. 17 - at Nevada - Reno, Nevada - TBA
Saturday - Dec. 19 - at Brigham Young - Provo, Utah - 6 p.m.
Tuesday - Dec. 22 - vs. Chicago State at Las Vegas Classic - Las Vegas, Nev. (Orleans Arena) - TBA
Wednesday - Dec. 23 - vs. Wagner or Jacksonville St. at Las Vegas Classic - Las Vegas, Nevada (Orleans Arena) - TBA
Monday - Dec. 28 - at Gonzaga - Spokane, Wash. - TBA
Friday - Jan. 1 - *Sacramento State - Cheney, Wash. - 7:05 p.m.
Friday - Jan. 8 - at *Montana - Missoula, Mont. - 6:05 p.m.
Sunday - Jan. 10 - at *^Montana State - Bozeman, Mont. - 1:05 p.m.
Friday - Jan. 15 - *Northern Arizona - Cheney, Wash. - 7:05 p.m.
Saturday - Jan. 16 - *Northern Colorado - Cheney, Wash. - 7:05 p.m.
Friday - Jan. 22 - at *Idaho State - Pocatello, Idaho - 6:05 p.m.
Saturday - Jan. 23 - at *Weber State - Ogden, Utah - 6:05 p.m.
Saturday - Jan. 30 - *Portland State - Cheney, Wash. - 7:05 p.m.
Monday - Feb. 1 - at Seattle University - Seattle, Wash. (Key Arena) - 7:10 p.m.
Saturday - Feb. 6 - at *Sacramento State - Sacramento, Calif. - 7:05 p.m.
Friday - Feb. 12 - *Montana State - Cheney, Wash. - 7:05 p.m.
Sunday - Feb. 14 - *^Montana - Cheney, Wash. - 1:05 p.m.
Thursday - Feb. 18 - at *Northern Colorado - Greeley, Colo. - 6:05 p.m.
Saturday - Feb. 20 - at *Northern Arizona - Flagstaff, Ariz. - 5:35 p.m.
Friday - Feb. 26 - *Weber State - Cheney, Wash. - 7:05 p.m.
Saturday - Feb. 27 - *Idaho State - Cheney, Wash. - 7:05 p.m.
Saturday - March 6 - Big Sky Tournament Quarterfinals - Higher Seeds
Tuesday - March 9 - Big Sky Tournament Semifinals - Reg. Season Champion
Wednesday - March 10 - Big Sky Tournament Championships - Reg. Season Champion
All Times Pacific. *Big Sky Conference Game. #Exhibition Game. ^Televised regionally on Altitude Sports and Entertainment. %Doubleheader with EWU women (versus Montana Tech at 3:30 p.m.),
DATES & TIMES SUBJECT TO CHANGE . . . CALL
NUMBERS BELOW FOR CHANGES
All Eastern Home Games Played at Reese Court on the Eastern Washington University campus.
Athletics Web Site: HTTP://WWW.GOEAGS.COM or HTTP://WWW.EWU.EDU
Schedule or Ticket Information: 509-359-6334 or 509-359-4339 or 509-359-2463 or 1-866-4GO-EAGS