Looking for First League Road Sweep Since 2004, Eastern Takes on Montana in Missoula

Eagles end difficult stretch of five of six games on the road after recording largest margin of victory in Bozeman in school history

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Upcoming Games

EWU at Montana
Friday, Dec. 30 - 12:05 p.m. Pacific
Dahlberg Arena (7,321) - Missoula, Mont.

Weber State at EWU
Thursday, Jan. 5 - 6:05 p.m. Pacific
Reese Court (6,000) - Cheney, Wash.

Coaches Show

Starting again on Jan. 2, Mondays 6 p.m. at the Q Sports Bar and Restaurant at Northern Quest Resort & Casino. . . 700-AM ESPN, www.espnnorthwest.com & via iphone app. (search for “Spokane Radio” and download app). Fans are invited to attend the show live and food service is available. Live shows take place at the Q on 1/2, 1/9, 1/23, 1/30, 2/6, 2/13, 2/20, 2/27, 3/5. There are no shows on 12/19, 12/26 and 1/16. Note: Shows on 1/2 and 1/9 will be aired on KXLY 920-AM (www.kxly920.com) due to programming conflicts with NFL playoff games and college bowl games.

Coverage

TV: None until Weber State game on Jan. 5 (SWX).
Radio: (all EWU games) 700 ESPN "The Ticket" and http://www.espnnorthwest.com
Radio via iPhone App: Search for “Spokane Radio” and download app
Webcasts: (All home games and all Big Sky Conference games) http://www.bigskytv.org
Live Stats: (UM) CLICK HERE; (All EWU Home Games) CLICK HERE


Finally, there is light at the end of the tunnel for the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team.

Coming off an impressive victory in its first Big Sky Conference game of the season, the Eagles end a difficult stretch of five of six games on the road when they play at Montana on Friday (Dec. 30). Tipoff at Dahlberg Arena in Missoula, Mont., is 12:05 p.m. Pacific time.

The radio broadcast of Friday’s game, featuring play-by-play announcer Dennis Patchin, may be heard on 700-AM ESPN, via the web at www.espnnorthwest.com and via iPhone application (search for “Spokane Radio” and download the free app).

In the Big Sky debut for first-year head coach Jim Hayford, the Eagles defeated Montana State 82-66 on Wednesday (Dec. 28) for the school’s most lopsided victory in Bozeman in school history. The Eagles are now 9-27 all-time in Bozeman, with the previous largest margin of victory versus MSU in Bozeman coming in a 75-61 Eastern victory on Dec. 29, 1953.

Eastern improved to 7-6 overall and the Bobcats are now 5-7 on the season. The Grizzlies opened league play with a 75-64 home victory over Portland State Wednesday and improved to 8-5 overall. Montana State was picked to finish seventh in the preseason Big Sky Conference media and coaches polls, and the Grizzlies were picked second. Eastern was selected third by the coaches and sixth by the media.

Eastern is 17-41 against the Grizzlies since becoming a member of NCAA Division I (1983-84), including a 7-22 record in Missoula. Although the Eagles have won two of the last three meetings, they haven’t won in Missoula in their last seven tries, dating back to a 71-52 EWU victory there on Feb. 7, 2004. Montana has won the last four meetings in Missoula by an average of 14.8 points per game.

Eastern has lost seven of the last nine meetings and 13 of the last 16, but has an opportunity for EWU’s first back-to-back victories in league play on the road since the 2003-04 season. That year, EWU swept the Montana schools on Feb. 5 (defeated MSU 64-61) and Feb. 7 (defeated Montana 71-52).

“These are the games that will make us better,” said first-year Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. “I have a lot of respect for Montana and how hard it is to play there. But we’ve played at Oregon, UCLA, Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s, Washington State, Hawaii and Idaho – now we’ll get a taste of Missoula and see what it’s like.”

Most of all, Hayford was pleased his team was rewarded for its hard work on the practice floor before and after Christmas. With a squad of players from throughout the country, they remained in Cheney between road trips on the schedule, as the Eagles played at Saint Mary’s on Dec. 20, followed by its trip to MSU and Montana.

“You have to make sacrifices to win,” he explained. “Our team stayed in Cheney through Christmas. We had two practices Christmas Eve and we practiced Christmas Day -- we had like a team Christmas retreat. It’s neat when those sacrifices can be rewarded with a road win. And I know there aren’t going to be a lot of road wins in this gym.”

Eastern entered league play 6-6, which is the first time since the 2006-07 season that Eastern has enjoyed a .500 or better record in the non-conference portion of EWU’s schedule. Hayford is looking forward to the new experience of Big Sky Conference play after going 4-0 at home and recording huge road wins at Hawaii and Idaho during the pre-conference portion of his debut season. Until those victories, Eastern hadn’t won consecutive road games since the 2007-08 season.

“Everything is a first-time experience for our program, but I’m loving the journey,” he said prior to the MSU game. “I want them to win and they want to win. They are hurting when they lose, and that shows me a lot.”

Prior to the MSU game, Hayford said he has been pleased by the results thus far in his first season at the helm.

“I think I owe it to our team to take a big-picture step back and say we have played some good basketball,” Hayford said. “But we need to keep doing that.

 “We’re 6-6 and we’ve played eight out of 12 on the road,” he explained. “Saint Mary’s is probably a top 25 team and Gonzaga spent some time there, and we have three losses to Pac-12 teams. Those are five losses to teams that would be picked to win the Big Sky if they were in our league. We’re 6-1 in the other seven games, and you can take away the non-Division I wins if you want. That’s 4-1 against similar teams and I think we’ll be alright during the league season.”

 

PDF Link to Fact Book

The complete version of the 2011 EWU football fact book may be found at:
http://goeags.com/trads/ewas-factbooks.html

 

More Eagle Football Links and Headlines
Eastern Basketball -- http://goeags.com/sports/m-baskbl/index
Big Sky Conference Basketball -- http://www.bigskyconf.com/index.aspx?tab=basketball&path=mbball
NCAA Basketball -- http://www.ncaa.com/sports/m-baskbl/ncaa-m-baskbl-body.html
ESPN College Scoreboard -- http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/scoreboard
Rodney Stuckey NBA Page -- http://www.nba.com/playerfile/rodney_stuckey/index.html
More Information and Links are Available at: HTTP://WWW.GOEAGS.COM

 

GAME NOTES

More About the Grizzlies

Before knocking off Portland State 75-64 to extend its winning streak to three games, Montana was coming off a 65-52 home victory against Utah Valley State on Dec. 22. Montana is now 8-5 overall, and both the Eagles and Grizzlies defeated Idaho. Montana won 57-52 at home on Nov. 17 and EWU was victorious by a 73-66 score on Nov. 30 in Moscow.

Returning first team All-Big Sky Conference guard Will Cherry leads the way for Montana with averages of 14.1 points, 3.5 assists, 2.2 steals and 4.2 rebounds per game. Guard/forward Kareem Jamar is averaging 13.8 points, 3.4 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game.

Jamar paced the Grizzlies in the win over PSU with 17 points and four assists, and Cherry and Art Stewart added 15 points apiece. Cherry added three assists, two steals and four rebounds.

 

Thanks to One of Best Non-Conference Records in School History, Winning Season in Reach for Eagles

It’s been five years since the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team has had a winning record, and its successful non-conference season has helped the Eagles make that an attainable feat. Now in its 25th season as a member of the Big Sky Conference, only seven of those years has Eastern had a non-losing non-conference record, although the Eagles must still play non-league games this season versus Seattle (Jan. 16) and an opponent to be determined in the ESPN Bracketbusters in February.

Eastern’s last winning season came in 2006-07 – with sophomore Rodney Stuckey leading the way – when EWU finished 15-14 and 8-8 in league play. One season earlier, the Eagles were 9-5 in the Big Sky in Stuckey’s freshman season – the last time the Eagles have had a winning record in league play.

The 2006-07 season was also the last time Eastern has enjoyed a .500 or better record in the non-conference portion of its schedule. Eastern was 6-5 in the 1989-90, 1990-91 and 1997-98 seasons; 5-5 in 2000-01; 8-6 in 2002-03 when Eastern advanced to the National Invitation Tournament; and 7-6 in 2006-07 when the Eagles tied for fifth in the league but did not advance to the league tournament because of tiebreakers.

 

Coaches Pick Eagles to Finish Third

Whether or not the respect is warranted will be determined in March. But for now, new Eastern men’s basketball coach Jim Hayford and his team received notable respect from Big Sky Conference head coaches by being picked to finish third, the league announced on Oct. 19.

With seven returning letterwinners currently on the roster and several talented newcomers, Eastern was picked by the coaches to finish behind predicted winner Weber State and runner-up Montana in the league race. The Eagles were just one point ahead of fourth-place Northern Colorado, the league’s defending regular season and tournament champion.

In the media poll, Eastern was picked to finish sixth, just three points away from No. 5 Portland State. Weber State, Montana, Northern Colorado and Northern Arizona held down the first four positions.

“The coaches who have been in the conference know about this much more than me,” said Hayford, “and they are saying it looks like a very competitive conference race with many close games in store for our team.”

The top six teams in the regular season standings advance to the league’s postseason tournament, which begins March 3, 2012. Last year, Eastern finished 10-20 overall and 7-9 in the Big Sky to advance to the tournament for the first time in five years.

“Both polls pick us to be in the post-season,” added Hayford, who was 217-57 the past five seasons at NCAA Division III Whitworth University. “I hope they are correct.”

 

Coaches Poll
1. Weber State (8) – 64 votes
2. Montana (1) – 56
3. Eastern Washington – 42
4. Northern Colorado – 41
5. Portland State – 38
6. Northern Arizona – 35
7. Montana State – 24
8. Sacramento State – 16
9. Idaho State – 9

Media Poll
1. Weber State (19) – 210
2. Montana (4) – 193
3. Northern Colorado (1) – 141
4. Northern Arizona – 125
5. Portland State – 112
6. Eastern Washington – 109
7. Montana State – 101
8. Sacramento State – 45
9.  Idaho State – 41

 

Lots of Highlights With a Few Lowlights

In its 12 non-conference games, Eastern’s highlights were NCAA Division I road victories over Hawaii (89-72) and Idaho (73-66). Until the wins over the Rainbow Warriors and the Vandals, Eastern hadn’t won consecutive road games since the 2007-08 season.

The lowlight in the preseason came in the form of a 75-49 road loss at Washington State – one of three setbacks to Pac-12 Conference opponents the Eagles suffered.

“With the exception of Washington State, I think we’ve played harder than our opponents in every game,” praised first-year Eastern head coach Jim Hayford earlier in December. “Our effort is something we can take tremendous pride in. I’ve often said that a lot of times the team that plays harder can negate talent differentials. Let’s be honest – there is a talent differential when you play teams like UCLA, Oregon, Gonzaga, Cal State Fullerton and Washington State. It’s great playing against them – it’s making us a better team and we’re playing hard. We are going to keep getting better and better.”

In its 60-47 loss to UCLA, Eastern was within two points with just 14:35 left to play, but the Eagles couldn’t overcome a 26 percent shooting night and the Bruins pulled away. Other than the shooting, Eastern’s performance was splendid with a 42-32 rebounding advantage over the towering Bruins, one less turnover than UCLA and a defensive performance that held the Bruins to 42 percent shooting from the field.

After a day of practice, Eastern jumped out to an 18-point lead over Pacific Lutheran before running out of gas. The Lutes got back into the game in the second half, but Eastern put them away with some late baskets and 7-of-8 free throws in the final 50 seconds. Collin Chiverton, who redshirted at Saint Mary’s in the 2008-09 season, and Cliff Colimon each scored 26 points, as EWU made a season-high 57 percent of its shots from the field. The Eagles were out-rebounded 29-26 by the much-smaller Lutes.

 “I’m really proud of our team for getting the win, but give a tremendous amount of credit to PLU,” said Hayford. “I was very impressed with PLU and thought they were really pesky on the boards. It reminded me of the way we played UCLA.”

 

With Turnover Advantage in Every Game Thus Far, Eastern 13th Nationally in Turnover Margin

Eastern has had fewer turnovers than its opponents in 12 of 13 games thus far, with 210 turnovers forced and 161 committed. The result is a Big Sky-leading turnover margin of plus 3.8 per game (Eastern’s margin of 4.9 ranked 13th in NCAA Division I through games of Dec. 18). Eastern also leads the league in turnovers forced at 16.2 per game.

“We’ve been forcing the most turnovers in the Big Sky and we’ve been doing it against quality competition,” said Hayford after EWU’s game on Dec. 8 against Linfield, in which the Eagles had just six miscues compared to 21 for the Wildcats.

In other Big Sky team statistics rankings, Eastern is second in the league in scoring margin (+3.4), offensive rebounds (12.1 per game), 3-pointers made (currently 9.6 per game, fifth nationally at 9.8 through Dec. 18), steals (7.2) and assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.0); and third in field goal percentage defense (.432), 3-point field goal percentage (.369), and blocked shots (3.7). The Eagles are second-to-last in field goal percentage (.414) and rebounds allowed per game (36.1).

Individually, Collin Chiverton is second in the league in 3-pointers made per game (3.2, with a 3.4 average to rank 11th in NCAA Division I through games of Dec. 18), second in scoring (17.5) and sixth in free throw percentage (.824). Cliff Colimon leads the Big Sky Conference in steals (2.2 per game) and is third in assists (5.4), fifth in assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.7), fourth in scoring (14.2), seventh in 3-pointers made per game (2.2) and eighth in free throw percentage (.805). Cliff Ederaine is second in rebounding (7.5), 16th in scoring (11.0), seventh in field goal percentage (.500), fourth in blocked shots (1.0), 10th in assists (2.8) and 14th in steals (1.2). Laron Griffin is third in the league in offensive rebounds (2.9) and is eighth overall in rebounding (6.2), and Jeffrey Forbes is second in minutes played (35.2) and 14th in steals (1.2), 10th in 3-pointers made per game (1.8) and 11th in 3-point percentage (.434).

 

Eagles Lead Big Sky and are Fifth in NCAA Division I in 3-Point Shooting

Ranking fifth in NCAA Division I through games played on Dec. 18 (then 9.8 per game), the Eagles are now averaging 9.6 3-pointers per game to rank second in the league. They have made 125-of-339 for 36.9 percent (third-best in the league), and only rank behind Florida (11.3), Samford (10.7), Troy (10.6) and Santa Clara (9.9) on the national leaders list. For Eastern to score the same amount of points from inside the arc with the same amount of shots, the Eagles would have to make 55.3 percent.

Eight different Eagles have made treys, led by the 42 of junior college transfer Collin Chiverton. He was 11th nationally with an average of 3.4 treys per game, and currently averages 3.2 per game.

“We’re confident with our system that we are going to get the 3-point shot no matter who we play,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford after Eastern made 13 treys in a 73-66 win over Idaho on Nov. 30. “We are not always going to shoot the percentage we like, but we got 28 looks from three against Idaho and that’s right around where we’ve been. There are times where we might have five 3-point shooters or four on the floor at the same time, and we start the game with only three. (Idaho’s Memorial Gym) was an easy gym to shoot in because it’s small, and I think our players bought into it. So we shot the ball well. And hitting 13 threes – eight in the first half – kind of takes them out of the defense they want to play.”

When an Eastern player takes what Hayford considers a poor shot, more often than not they take a seat on the bench next to the first-year Eagle head coach. Although Eastern sank 52 percent of its shots from the floor – including 15-of-36 3-point attempts in EWU’s 104-54 win over Linfield on Dec. 8 – it happened several times against the Wildcats, who had five blocked shots in the game.

“We have to get better in our shot selection,” he explained. “They know if it’s not a great shot we’re going to sub them out. We get them right back in, but it’s a teachable moment. We had to do that six or seven times against Linfield. In Big Sky games or against Cal State Fullerton on the road, you can’t afford to waste six or seven possessions with a bad shot.”

 

Chiverton Making Early Statement for Big Sky Newcomer of the Year Accolades

Junior college transfer Collin Chiverton is making an early-season case for Big Sky Conference Newcomer of the Year accolades, as he already has had six 20-point performances as an Eagle. He is second in the league in 3-pointers made per game (3.2), and was 11th in NCAA Division I based on his 3.4 average through games of Dec. 18. He is also second in scoring (17.5) and sixth in free throw percentage (.824).

Early in the season, as he recovered from an off-season foot injury, the 6-foot-6 Chiverton relied on his outside shot. Now, he’s able to drive to the basket and post up as well, making him a multi-faceted scoring threat. For the season, he is 42-of-103 from the 3-point stripe for 40.8 percent and 37-of-97 inside the arc for 38.1 percent. He made 6-of-9 2-point attempts and 4-of-10 treys en route to scoring 26 points versus Pacific Lutheran on Dec. 16.

“You can tell he is getting more and more comfortable with his foot,” said Hayford. “We want him to get under the basket, look for 2-point baskets and post up -- we think he will have a size advantage in Big Sky. I was really pleased to see how he performed against PLU.”

Chiverton opened his Eastern career in a big way, scoring 25 points in Eastern’s 77-69 loss at Gonzaga on Nov. 11. A former redshirt at GU rival Saint Mary’s in California, Chiverton made 6-of-12 shots from the 3-point arc and 8-of-24 shots from the field against Gonzaga. He scored 25 again in EWU’s 70-61 win over South Dakota, making 9-of-21 shots overall and 6-of-13 from the 3-point arc. He added a third 20-point performance with 20 points in EWU’s 89-72 upset of Hawai’i on Nov. 19, then had 25 in a 104-54 win over Linfield on Dec. 8. Chiverton scored 26 twice since -- a 91-76 loss at Cal State Fullerton on Dec. 11 and an 83-72 victory over Pacific Lutheran on Dec. 16.

Chiverton’s debut versus GU was the best for an Eagle since Eastern moved to NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season. The previous best came a year ago when Chiverton’s Eastern teammate Tremayne Johnson scored 21 in a 67-60 loss at San Jose State. Interestingly, current Detroit Piston Rodney Stuckey scored only 14 points in his debut against Pacific Lutheran in the 2005-06 season. Chiverton’s scoring output was also the second-best season-opening performance by an Eagle since David Peed scored 29 points on Nov. 25, 1989, in EWU’s 96-84 loss to BYU.

After leaving Saint Mary’s – a team he scored 18 against on Dec. 20 -- Chiverton played one season at Salt Lake Community College before leading City College of San Francisco to the 2010-11 California Community Colleges Athletic Association title. He averaged 19 points per game as a sophomore, including an average of 30 per game in the tournament, as San Francisco finished the season 32-1 with a 27-game winning streak.

 

Colimon Impressive in Eastern Victories

Senior point guard Cliff Colimon has been impressive in Eastern victories, including his 22-point effort on 8-of-16 shooting from the field in EWU’s Big Sky Conference-opening 82-66 victory over Montana State on Dec. 28. In Eastern’s victories this season, Colimon is averaging 16.6 points per game on 46.4 percent shooting from the field (18-of-41 from the 3-point arc for 43.9 percent). In EWU’s losses, he is averaging 11.5 points on 28.0 percent shooting (10-of-30 3-point shooting for 33.3 percent).

For the season, Colimon leads the Big Sky Conference in steals (2.2 per game) and is third in assists (5.4), fifth in assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.7), fourth in scoring (14.2), seventh in 3-pointers made per game (2.2) and eighth in free throw percentage (.805).

Colimon struggled with his shot in Eastern losses to Saint Mary’s (77-61 on Dec. 20), UCLA (60-47 on Dec. 14) and Washington State (75-49 on Dec. 3). He was just 4-of-33 (12.1 percent) from the field in those three games, including only 2-of-13 (15.4 percent) of his 3-point attempts.

But it’s hard to put up better numbers than what Colimon compiled in a victory over Linfield (104-54 on Dec. 8) and a loss to Cal State Fullerton (91-76 on Dec. 11). In 72 minutes of action, Colimon had 46 points, 15 assists, 10 rebounds, six steals and just one turnover. He combined to make 18-of-34 shots from the field and 7-of-16 from 3-point range en route to scoring 23 points in each outing.

Colimon followed that with five assists, two steals and two turnovers in 40 minutes versus UCLA, but scored just five points on 1-of-12 shooting. Two nights later versus PLU, he made 8-of-12 shots from the field, 4-of-6 3-pointers and 6-of-9 free throws to finish with a season-high 26 points – one from his career high. He also added seven assists and three steals, but also had an uncharacteristic seven turnovers.

In Eastern’s 104-54 win over Linfield on Dec. 8, Colimon scored 23 points and had three steals and a career-high 11 assists to equal the seventh-most in school history. It was Eastern’s top assist performance in more than 10 years since Jason Lewis had 12 versus Cal State Northridge on Jan. 20, 2001. Colimon also had no turnovers in 32 minutes of action.

Head coach Jim Hayford said it best after the Linfield game: “I loved Colimon’s line – 11 assists, 23 points and no turnovers.”

“We stopped calling him Little Cliff – his name is ‘Tough Cliff’ now,” Hayford said in reference to the nickname given to Colimon and the “Big Cliff” moniker given to forward Cliff Ederaine. “Colimon was hurt more than anybody by his performance at Washington State – he had a tough night down there. Hopefully the confidence he gained against Linfield will be fuel in his tank.”

He scored 17 points and had eight assists in his season-opener against Gonzaga on Nov. 11. The eight assists versus the Bulldogs was his career high until the output of 11 versus Linfield. His assists total against Gonzaga doubled his previous career high of four set last season against Idaho State (1/29/11) and Sacramento State (12/29/10).

Colimon’s career high of 27 points came in the final game of the 2010-11 season against Weber State (3/5/11) in the Big Sky Conference Tournament. In fact, in his last three games last season and first game this year, Colimon averaged 18.5 points per game, including victories over Montana (59-55) and Weber State (75-59), and near-misses versus Weber State (79-70) and Gonzaga (77-69).

 

Ederaine Wins Big Sky Player of the Week Award After November Victories

After leading Eastern to a pair of late November victories, senior forward Cliff Ederaine was selected as Big Sky Conference Player of the Week, the league announced Nov. 29. The 6-foot-7, 205-pound senior forward from Moreno Valley, Calif., averaged 20.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and two blocks per game as the Eagles notched a road win over Hawai’i (89-72) on Nov. 22, and topped UC Davis (79-59) on Nov. 27 in Cheney.

So far this season in Big Sky Conference statistics, Cliff Ederaine is second in rebounding (7.5), 16th in scoring (11.0), seventh in field goal percentage (.500), fourth in blocked shots (1.0), 10th in assists (2.8) and 14th in steals (1.2). Interestingly, in Eastern’s victories this season Ederaine is averaging 15.4 points (74.5 percent shooting), 8.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocked shots per game. In losses, he is averaging only 5.8 points (25.5 percent shooting), 6.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.7 blocks per game.

Ederaine made 8-of-9 shots from the field, including his first trey of the season and only the second of his career, versus UC Davis. A 45.6 percent free throw shooter a year ago, he made 6-of-9 for the line against the Aggies to improve to 20-of-26 – 76.9 percent (currently he is at 70.0 percent, 35-of-50).

To add to his night, Ederaine also added eight rebounds, three blocked shots and a steal. Ederaine scored 11 points in the first 6:24 of the game as Eastern held early leads of 13-4 and 17-9. He had 11 points, five boards and five assists in the second half alone. “We were running our offense through the high post and Big Cliff put the team on his shoulders,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford.

In another home game this season – a 70-61 win over South Dakota on Nov. 15 -- Ederaine had 15 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals. In the team’s third home game on Dec. 8 versus Linfield, he had his third career double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds, and also had six assists.

His performance against South Dakota was his second career double-double, with his first coming against New Hope last year when he had 12 points and 17 rebounds, as well as his previous career high for assists with four. He had 10 double figure scoring performance and seven with at least 10 rebounds in the 2010-11 season.

 

Tongue-Lashing Keeps Winford Out of UCLA and PLU Games

In a tongue-lashing of a rare kind, junior guard Kevin Winford had to sit out the UCLA game on Dec. 14 and the Pacific Lutheran game two days later because of a swollen tongue. Winford bit his tongue in EWU’s game at Cal State Fullerton on Dec. 11, then spent two days in a California hospital – some of it in intensive care -- because of an inordinate degree of swelling. He returning to play sparingly – just one minute -- against Saint Mary’s on Dec. 20.

Because he is Eastern’s backup point guard, starter Cliff Colimon was forced to play all 40 minutes against UCLA because of the absence of Winford. A 2008 graduate of Bartlett High School in Anchorage, Alaska, Winford is only averaging 12.4 minutes per game this season, and is averaging 2.6 points per game on 5-of-15 shooting from beyond the 3-point arc. But the 5-foot-11 academic All-America nominee provided the play of the game in Eastern’s 104-54 victory over Linfield on Dec. 8.

 “The best play of the night was Kevin’s drive and dunk down the lane – that was pretty emphatic,” Eastern head coach Jim Hayford said. “He’s a very athletic player and we want him to show it. That was an example of it. He’s just a great young man – a tremendous student and a great leader. He’s a business major, and some business will be really glad to hire him some day. I just think the world of him. I promise you he’ll be showing his grandkids that dunk someday.”

 

Winning Streak Ended with Learning Opportunity

Before its disappointing 75-49 setback to Washington State of the Pac-12 Conference on Dec. 3, Eastern had won three-straight games in convincing fashion. Eastern defeated Hawaii (89-72), UC Davis (79-59) and Idaho (73-66) by an average margin of 14.7 points per game, and had hoped to give WSU a tougher game.

But Eastern was out-shot 50 percent to 25 percent, and was pounded on the boards 45-29 by the Cougars.

“A lot of times it’s harder to handle success than failure,” explained Hayford. “When you do poorly, you are motivated to improve. Sometimes when you do well, you take it easy. We played three great ballgames in a row, and if somebody only watched the Washington State game and hadn’t seen us play the previous three games, they wouldn’t believe it. We were totally different.”

Prior to the WSU loss, Eastern made 44 percent of its shots versus Idaho, and one game earlier sank what was then a season-high 48.1 percent versus UC Davis. Eastern’s 15-of-59 effort against WSU included only 4-of-23 3-point attempts for 17 percent. The Eagles had entered the game leading the Big Sky Conference in 3-pointers per game (10.3) on an average of 27.5 attempts (37.6 percent). Hayford thinks shot selection is the major difference.

“We’ve been getting higher percentage shots than the shots that go with those kinds of percentages,” he said. “What were we not doing to get us the same kind of looks? We have our work cut out for us to get that figured out.”

With the Big Sky Conference schedule looming, Hayford knows the WSU loss – Eastern’s third game in a six-day span -- was yet another learning experience for his squad.

“I think Washington State did a really, really good job of game planning for us,” he said. “We are going to have three games in six days in the Big Sky, and you can’t lay an egg on the last one. We’re going to grow and learn from this. We’re going to work a lot harder.”

Eastern’s 4-2 start to the season was only the seventh time in 29 seasons since Eastern became a member of NCAA Division I in 1983-84 that the Eagles have won at least four of their first six games. That has happened only once in the last eight seasons, with EWU going 6-2 in 2008-09 before finishing just 12-18.

 

Eagles Continue to Climb Three-Point and Free Throw Career Lists

A pair of Eagles already rank in the top 10 on several Eastern season and career lists. Junior Jeffrey Forbes has 125 3-pointers made in his career to rank fourth, his 316 attempts are fourth and his .396 percentage ranks ninth. Fellow junior Kevin Winford has 105 makes to rank sixth and his 306 attempts are eighth, and the .382 percentage by Cliff Colimon ranks 11th.

Those players has also been impressive from the free throw line in their careers. Forbes, in fact, set a single season school record for free throw percentage (.900, 54-of-60) in the 2010-11 season, just ahead of the previous record of .899 set by Darren Cooper in 2001-02). In his career, Forbes has made what would be a school record at 87.0 percent (120-of-138), but he is eight attempts shy to meet the minimum of two free throw attempts per game. Winford’s 85.3 percent (58-of-68) also exceeds the school record, but he also does not meet the minimums (he has 68 and would need 138). Currently with the school record is the 84.9 percent performance of Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame member Dick Edwards (1953-55). Colimon has made 76.1 percent in his career (67-of-88).

 The Eagles finished the 2010-11 season with a pair of school records for 3-point shooting. Eastern finished with 242 makes and 656 attempts, breaking the single season makes record of 241 set in 1999, and the record for attempts of 649 set the same season. Winford made 66 3-pointers in the 2010-11 season to rank fifth in single season school history, and his 187 attempts are fourth.

Winford poured in 39 points -- including a record 10 3-pointers -- in Eastern’s overwhelming 112-41 non-conference victory over New Hope Christian College on Dec. 4. En route to the fifth-best scoring night in school history against New Hope, Winford broke the school record of nine treys he set just a week earlier against Idaho on Nov. 27. As a team, the Eagles broke the school record for made 3-pointers (18) and three pointers attempted (43), and tied the mark for field goals made in a game with 45. Previous records were 16 3-pointers versus Cascade on Dec. 14, 2007; 38 attempts versus Nevada on Feb. 14, 1991; and 45 field goals made against U.S. International on Feb. 2, 1991.

Winford’s 23 three-point attempts were also a Big Sky Conference record, breaking the previous mark of 17 set by Nevada’s Kevin Franklin against Oregon on Dec. 16, 1989. His makes were third-most, with Portland State’s Brian Towne owning the record with 12 in a 1998 game against Idaho State. As a team, Eastern was two made 3-pointers from the Big Sky record of 20, but its 43 attempts were a record.

 

Blocked Shots Totals High Too

With 120 blocked shots for the 2010-11 season, Eastern finished only 10 blocked shots away from the school record of 130 set in 2006. A trio of current Eastern players recorded three of the top 11 single season performances in school history including Tremayne Johnson (35, third), Cliff Ederaine (34, tied for fourth) and Laron Griffin (28, tied for 11th).

In their careers thus far, Griffin ranks fifth in school history with 56 and Ederaine (47) is seventh and Johnson (45) is 10th.

 

Wide Gap in Fouls and Free Throws Thus Far

In most statistical categories, the Eagles have held their own against three opponents thus far. But the glaring difference has been in fouls and free throws, yielding a deficit of 100 points at the charity stripe (7.7 points per game).

Eastern has been whistled for 306 fouls, compared to 223 for opponents. Eastern players have fouled out on 18 occasions already, compared to five for opponents. The result has been 264-of-386 free throw shooting by opponents, compared to a 162-of-222 mark for EWU.

Senior forward Laron Griffin, who set the school record with 114 personal fouls a year ago, has fouled out in five games so far and has 54 of a possible 65 fouls. Griffin is averaging only 19.8 minutes per game, but has scored 74 points (5.7 per game) and grabbed 81 rebounds (6.2) thus far.

“We have to figure out how to guard better without fouling,” Eastern head coach Jim Hayford said.

 

Football Player Alden Gibbs Returns to Hoop Squad After Departure of Three Players

Having already lettered at Eastern in both basketball and football, senior Alden Gibbs has re-joined the basketball squad, head coach Jim Hayford announced in late November. He also announced that Willie Hankins, Rocky Brown and Justin Omogun are no longer on the team. Hankins played in EWU’s first two games and Brown played in one, while Omogun hasn’t played at all.

After lettering in basketball for Eastern Washington in the 2009-10 season under former head coach Kirk Earlywine, Gibbs switched to football and lettered on special teams for the Eagles in 2010. A starting cornerback in 2011, Gibbs is the first Eagle to letter in both sports since Bob Picard in the early 1970’s.

A 6-foot-3 guard on the basketball court, Gibbs finished his 18-game football career with 36 total tackles, four passes broken up and a forced fumble. As a junior for the Eastern basketball team in the 2009-10 season, he started 14 of 23 games and averaged 2.6 points and 3.3 rebounds in an average of 16.4 minutes per game. He is from Brooklyn, N.Y., and played basketball for the College of the Siskiyous before becoming an Eagle.

Picard lettered in football in 1968, 1969, 1971 and 1972, and also lettered in basketball in the 1972-73 season. Picard held Eastern’s career receiving record for 21 years with 166 catches (now sixth) that were good for 2,373 yards and 19 touchdowns. His receiving record was broken by Tony Brooks in 1993. Picard had his No. 84 jersey retired, was inducted into the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame in 2003 and was selected  to the "100 for 100" All-Time Football Team in 2008 to help commemorate the 100th year of football at Eastern. In 27 career basketball games, Picard averaged 3.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.6 assists. He went on to play three seasons (54 career games) in the National Football League for the Philadelphia Eagles, and ended his career at the first training camp of the expansion Seattle Seahawks in 1976.

Several other Eagles have played both football and basketball since Picard, but none have lettered in both. Wide receiver Jerrold Jackson lettered in football from 1993-96, and played one minute for the hoop squad in the 1995-96 season. All-America quarterback Harry Leons lettered in football for three seasons from 1995-97, and was also on the basketball roster for a short time but did not play. Henry Bekkering lettered in basketball for Eastern in the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons, and was also on the football roster in 2003. He played in four football games that season as a non-lettering squad member, and averaged 56.5 yards on 27 kickoffs, while routinely kicking the ball into the end zone.

 

Hayford’s First Eastern Win Has South Dakota Connections

Coming full circle, Jim Hayford’s first win as Eastern Washington’s head coach came in a 70-61 win on Nov. 15 over South Dakota. South Dakota was directed by veteran head coach Dave Boots, who has won nearly 500 games in 23-plus seasons at the helm of the Coyotes. In fact, in the 1999-2000 season, Boots’ South Dakota squad knocked off Hayford’s University of Sioux Falls team 95-73. Hayford went on to finish 15-15 in his first season as a collegiate head coach, while the Coyotes finished 22-6.

“I’ll always remember my first win at Eastern was against South Dakota,” said Hayford. “It’s kind of poetic because my first head coaching job was in South Dakota.”

Hayford, who compiled a gaudy 217-57 (.792) record in 10 seasons at NCAA Division III Whitworth University in Spokane, inherited an EWU team that finished the 2010-11 season with a 10-20 record overall. The Eagles finished 7-9 and in a fifth-place tie with Montana State in the Big Sky Conference standings, advancing the Eagles to the Big Sky Conference Tournament for the first time in five years.

Hayford’s first Eastern team features seven returning letterwinners currently on the roster, including six who combined to start 125 games a year ago. Hayford hopes a challenging schedule, including three games versus members of the Pac-12 Conference, will help his team prepare for the rigors of league play.

 “I know in January and February we are going to be a good basketball team,” Hayford said earlier in November. “In November and December we play a really tough schedule that will make us a better basketball team. That familiarity process takes a step forward each day. We will be a really good basketball team during Big Sky Conference play.”

Hayford was announced as Eastern’s new head men’s basketball coach on March 29, 2011. He becomes Eastern’s 17th head coach in history and ninth at the NCAA Division I level (since 1983-84).

In his tenure at the helm of the Pirates, Hayford coached the Pirates to eight 20-win seasons, six appearances in the NCAA Division III Tournament (including the last five seasons in a row), five Northwest Conference titles, three NCAA DIII Sweet 16 appearances (2008, 2010, 2011) and one Elite Eight appearance (2011).

Hayford, 43, earned five NWC Coach of the Year awards and was honored by the National Association of Basketball Coaches as the West Region Coach of the Year in both the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons. In Hayford’s final two years at Whitworth, the Pirates were 54-5 overall and 31-1 in league play. Whitworth was ranked 21-consecutive times in the D3hoops.com NCAA Division III rankings over Hayford’s final three seasons at Whitworth.

During his 10 seasons leading the Pirates, Hayford coached six Northwest Conference Players of the Year – Bryan Depew (2003), Lance Pecht (2006), Bryan Williams (2007), Ryan Symes (2008), Nate Montgomery (2010) and Michael Taylor (2011). During the same period, 25 Whitworth players earned All-NWC honors, including 18 first-team selections.

Including his two seasons at Sioux Falls (1999-2001), Hayford’s win-loss record is 254-84 (.751) in 12 seasons as a head coach. His career winning percentage ranks among the top 10 among all active NCAA Division III coaches.

Whitworth spent three weeks in the 2010-11 season ranked No. 1 in the D3hoops.com NCAA Division III rankings, including the top ranking at the end of the regular season. The Pirates set a school record for victories  and winning percentage in finishing 28-2 (.933), and ended the season ranked fifth nationally after losing at Wooster 76-66 on March 12, 2011. Whitworth advanced to the NCAA Division III Sectional Final (Elite Eight) for the first time in school history, while making its fifth-straight NCAA DIII Tournament appearance. The Pirates also claimed their fifth-straight NWC Tournament title.

 

Debut Schedule for Hayford Features Games Versus 11 Participants in 2011 National Tournaments

His debut schedule as a NCAA Division I head coach is incredibly difficult, but that doesn’t bother Jim Hayford.

The schedule for the first-year Eastern men’s basketball coach is top-heavy with perennial NCAA Tournament teams, including the likes of Gonzaga, Oregon, UCLA and Saint Mary’s.

In all, the Eagles play 15 games versus 11 NCAA Division I schools which played in national postseason tournaments in 2011. The Eagles will play all 11 of those foes on the road, as well as four league home games.

“This will be a very difficult preseason schedule,” admitted Hayford. “It’s road-heavy and the opponents are very good. But it’s also the kind of schedule we need to play to prepare ourselves to become a perpetual postseason team.”

Headlining the list of opponents are 2011 NCAA Tournament participants Gonzaga from the West Coast Conference, UCLA from the Pac-12 and Northern Colorado from the Big Sky. Eastern officially opens its season at Gonzaga on Nov. 11, and plays at UCLA on Dec. 14. The Eagles and Bears play in Greeley, Colo., on Jan. 14 and in Cheney, Wash., on Feb. 15.

The Eagles play a pair of road games against teams which played in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) a year ago – Washington State from the Pac-12 (Dec. 3) and Saint Mary’s from the WCC (Dec. 20). The Cougars won three games before losing in the semifinals to Wichita State.

A third Pac-12 foe on Eastern’s road schedule is Oregon (Nov. 17), which won last year’s College Basketball Invitational Tournament (CBI). Other EWU opponents who played in the CBI are Big Sky rivals Montana and Weber State.

The Eagles also play three teams who participated in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT), including road games at Hawai’i (Nov. 22) and Idaho (Nov. 30). Northern Arizona from the Big Sky also played in the CIT in 2011.

Eastern’s other NCAA Division I non-conference games are against South Dakota (Nov. 15 at home), UC Davis (Nov. 27 at home), Cal State Fullerton (Dec. 11 on the road) and Seattle (Jan. 16 on the road). The Eagles will also play on the road in an ESPN BracketBusters game on Feb. 17 or 18.

Eastern’s Big Sky Conference slate begins Dec. 28 and Dec. 30 with road games at Montana State and Montana, respectively. The Eagles open their league home schedule on Jan. 5 versus Weber State, then host Northern Arizona two nights later. Eastern home games will begin at 6:05 p.m. Pacific time this season, except for a Sunday afternoon game versus UC Davis (1:35 p.m.).

The quarterfinals of the Big Sky Conference Tournament are scheduled for March 3 at campus sites. The regular season champion will host the semifinals on March 6 and the championship game on March 7.

 
 

SERIES HISTORY

EWU-UM Series History (Since 1983-84): Eastern is 17-41 against the Grizzlies since becoming a member of NCAA Division I (1983-84), including a 7-22 record in Missoula, 10-17 in Cheney and 0-2 on neutral courts versus the Grizzlies. Montana leads the series overall 58-38.

Although the Eagles have won two of the last three meetings, they haven’t won in Missoula in their last seven tries, dating back to a 71-52 EWU victory there on Feb. 7, 2004. Montana has won the last four meetings in Missoula by an average of 14.8 points per game.

Eastern has lost seven of the last nine meetings and 13 of the last 16. The lone victories in that stretch came on Dec. 30, 2006, in Cheney when the Eagles beat the Grizzlies 74-71; on Feb. 14, 2010, when the Eagles prevailed 69-68 at Reese Court; and on Feb. 26, 2011, when EWU upset the Grizzlies 59-55 in overtime in Cheney. Last year’s win over Montana helped secure a postseason berth for the Eagles and, in the process, kept the Grizzlies from clinching at least a share of the league title. Earlier in the season, Eastern lost at Montana 66-47.

Earlier in the 2009-10 season, the Eagles fell at Montana 79-66. Eastern lost in 2008-09 by scores of 63-50 at home and 60-52 on the road, and lost in the 2007-08 season 80-61 in Missoula and 59-57 in Cheney. The two teams split in the 2006-07 season.

In the 2005-06 season, Montana swept the Eagles in three games -- 78-72 in Missoula, 68-46 in Cheney and 73-71 in overtime in the Big Sky Conference Tournament in Flagstaff, Ariz. In both regular season meetings that season, Eastern had leads before succumbing to Montana second-half comebacks. In the overtime loss, Eastern trailed by 14 before a late 10-0 run put Eastern back into the game. But Eagle freshman Rodney Stuckey missed a potential game-winning shot at the buzzer to end regulation. Montana then went on a 6-0 run in overtime to end Eastern’s season.

Prior the six-game losing streak that Eastern ended on Dec. 30, 2006, Eastern had won 10 of the previous 14 meetings including regular season sweeps three-straight conference seasons from 2001-03. However, the Grizzlies snapped a four-game losing streak to the Eagles when the fifth-seeded Grizzlies upset second-seeded EWU 70-66 in the 2002 Big Sky Conference Tournament championship game in Bozeman, Mont.

Included in the series history was an 81-75 victory in Missoula to end the 1998-99 season that clinched the sixth and final berth in the Big Sky Conference Tournament for the Eagles. That victory snapped Eastern's eight-game losing streak in Missoula, and a home win in 1998 snapped a 10-game losing streak overall in the series.

A 77-75 Eagle home loss at the end of the 2000-2001 regular season gave Montana a share of the Big Sky Conference men's basketball title in front of 5,426 fans at Reese Court in Cheney. The Eagles had taken a 12-point lead with 8:06 to play in the second half, but went the next 6:21 without scoring. During Montana's 17-0 run, the Eagles missed 10-straight field goal attempts while the Grizzlies made 6-of-7 shots. The loss was Eastern's first in eight conference home games. Montana made 4-of-6 free throws in the last 23 seconds to clinch the win and hold off Eastern's comeback attempt that included a trio of three-pointers in the last 1:45.


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