Fortunate Eastern Takes on Angry Bears on Saturday in Greeley

Eagles try to hold onto third place in the league standings when EWU visits Northern Colorado

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It’s happy birds against angry Bears Saturday afternoon in Greeley, Colo.

Featuring a pair of teams with opposite degrees of results in their last outings, Eastern Washington University plays at Northern Colorado Saturday (Jan. 14) at 3:05 p.m. Pacific time in a battle for third place in the Big Sky Conference men’s basketball standings. Following that game, Eastern concludes a stretch of three road games in five nights when it plays at Seattle University in a non-conference game on Monday (Jan. 16).

The radio broadcast of the games 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). Saturday’s game against Northern Colorado, which was moved from 4:05 p.m. to 3:05 p.m. Pacific time to avoid a conflict with the Denver Broncos in the NFL Playoffs, is televised regionally by Altitude Sports and Entertainment.

The Eagles are coming off a 65-60 win in a physical contest at Sacramento State Thursday (Jan. 12), in which the Eagles made only 35 percent of their shots and still found a way to win. Earlier that night, Northern Colorado lost at home to Portland State 86-75, opening the door for Eastern to move into sole possession of third place in the league standings and set-up a possible road sweep.

Eastern hasn’t had 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).

“Everything feels a little better when you go to bed with a win,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. “Those bumps and bruises feel a little better, and now we have to figure out a way to play well at Northern Colorado. Greedy in Greeley, there’s our theme.”

After having not won this season when it trailed at halftime, the victory over Sac State was EWU’s second-straight comeback victory after trailing 29-25 at intermission. It also was the first time this season that any Eastern game has been decided by six points or less, and the first time in seven games this season that Eastern won when scoring 69 points or less.

“It was simple – in the first half we couldn’t make shots,” Hayford explained. “We had great, great looks, but we were just missing them. In the second half we made a few more. The players were working hard and getting good looks, we just needed to make a few shots, and eventually we did.”

The Eagles improved to 3-2 in the league with its second road breakthrough of the season, and moved into sole possession of third-place in the Big Sky standings behind Montana (4-0) and Weber State (5-0), who square off Saturday (Jan. 14) in Ogden, Utah. Now 9-8 overall, the Eagles are just ahead of 2-2 Montana State and Northern Colorado.

Most importantly, the win over Sac State kept the Hornets buried at the bottom of the league standings with an 0-4 record. Only the top six teams in the nine-team league advance to the Big Sky’s postseason tournament, something EWU did last year for the first time in five seasons.

Senior point guard Cliff Colimon scored 11 of EWU’s last 15 points, all in the last 5:02 of the game. In the first 35 minutes of the contest he scored only six points. He was the epitome of the entire night for the Eagles.

“We kept grinding and I think that shows growth in our team,” Hayford added. “We would get a lead and Sac State would get it back, we would get a lead and Sac State would get it back. We didn’t emotionally check-out when that happened – we stayed with it and we were able to win.”

Northern Colorado fell to 2-2 in the league standings and 5-10 overall when it lost at home to PSU. Besides a 61-53 win over Sac State, the Bears have defeated NAU 80-64 and lost to Idaho State 57-55 in its other three Big Sky games.

Northern Colorado is the top 3-point shooting team in the Big Sky percentage-wise at 44.5 percent (currently third in NCAA Division), and its average of 7.3 treys per game is right behind the Eagles at 9.6 (sixth nationally). Eastern has made 36.3 percent of its 3-pointers to rank third in the league. The Bears are also the league’s top rebounding team with a plus 4.5 margin per game – EWU is second-to-last at minus 2.1 per outing.

“We are going to have to play a lot better at Northern Colorado,” said Hayford. “They are a dangerous 3-point shooting team.”

Eastern has won its last two games, rallying from halftime deficits in each. In EWU’s 76-59 home victory over Northern Arizona on Jan. 7, the Eagles scored 49 points after trailing at halftime 31-27. Colimon led the Eagles with 22 points and Jeffrey Forbes scored all 15 of his points in the second half.

“We played more like the aggressor in the second half, and our guys made good plays,” said Hayford. “I thought in the first half after Cliff (Colimon) scored the first nine points, everyone thought that he could just do it alone. But in the second half everybody decided that they should do their part. I look at the second half and we had six more possessions, and we made shots and actually got to the free throw line. Another unsung hero was whoever was up there on the rim defending their free throw shooting (NAU made only 13-of-21 free throws in the game, including only 8-of-15 in the second half).”

 

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GAME NOTES

Eagles 144th in RPI

In the Ratings Percentage Index lists released by the NCAA on Jan. 9, Eastern was ranked 144th out of 344 NCAA Division I schools. The only Big Sky team ahead of the Eagles was Weber State (88th). After Eastern, which was a season-high 129th on Jan. 2, the next-best league schools were Montana (147th) and Northern Colorado (200th).

In the Sagarin Computer Ratings (through games of Jan. 12), the Eagles were 150th with the 75th-highest strength of schedule rating. Weber State was 95th, Montana was 119th, Portland State was 205th and Northern Colorado was 230th.

 

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.

Eastern entered league play 6-6, and Hayford looked 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 team’s league opener. “I want them to win and they want to win. They are hurting when they lose, and that shows me a lot. I think I owe it to our team to take a big-picture step back and say we have played some good basketball. 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.”

 

With Turnover Advantage in All But One Game Thus Far, Eastern 14th Nationally in Turnover Margin

Eastern has had fewer turnovers than its opponents in 16 of 17 games thus far, with 272 turnovers forced and 199 committed. The result is a Big Sky-leading turnover margin of plus 4.3 per game to rank 14th in NCAA Division I through games of Jan. 12. Eastern also leads the league in turnovers forced at 16.0 per game and is also No. 2 in fewest committed (currently at 11.7 to rank 29th in NCAA Division I through games of Jan. 12).

“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 offensive rebounds (12.2 per game); second in the league in 3-pointers made (currently 9.6 per game; its 9.6 mark ranked rank fourth nationally through Jan. 8), steals (7.1) and assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.1); and third in scoring margin (+3.0), scoring offense (72.2), 3-point field goal percentage (.363), and blocked shots (3.5). The Eagles are last in rebounds allowed per game (35.8); and second-to-last in rebounding margin (-2.1).

Individually, Collin Chiverton is second in the league in 3-pointers made per game (currently 3.1to rank ninth in NCAA Division I through games of Jan. 12) and third in scoring (16.2). Cliff Colimon is second in the Big Sky Conference in steals (2.0 per game), second in assists (5.3), fifth in assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.8), fifth in scoring (15.8), fourth in 3-pointers made per game (2.4), fourth in free throw percentage (.839) and fourth in minutes played (34.4). Cliff Ederaine is second in rebounding (7.2), 16th in scoring (11.1), 10th in field goal percentage (.489), second in blocked shots (1.1), eighth in assists (3.0), sixth in steals (1.3) and sixth in offensive rebounds (2.2). Laron Griffin leads the league in offensive rebounds (3.0) and is eighth overall in rebounding (6.1), and Jeffrey Forbes is second in minutes played (34.7), 10th in 3-pointers made per game (1.7).

 

Eagles Second in the Big Sky and Sixth in NCAA Division I in 3-Point Shooting

The Eagles are currently averaging 9.6 3-pointers per game to rank second in the league and sixth in NCAA Division I through games played on Jan 12. Nationally, Eastern only ranks behind Florida at 10.8, Coppin State at 9.8, and Weber State, Troy and Lafayette at 9.7. Eastern has made 163-of-449 for 36.3 percent (third-best in the league). 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 54.4 percent.

Eight different Eagles have made treys, led by the 53 of junior college transfer Collin Chiverton and 41 by point guard Cliff Colimon. Chiverton is ninth nationally with an average of 3.1 treys per game (through Jan. 12) and currently is second in the league with a 3.1 mark. Colimon is 91st nationally and fourth in the Big Sky (2.4).

Based on the 30-game regular season, Eastern is on pace to shatter school records for 3-point makes and attempts, and finish 287-of- 792. Colin Chiverton is just three makes and 14 attempts from earning spots on EWU’s top 10 single season lists.

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. Kevin Winford made 66 3-pointers in the 2010-11 season to rank fifth in single season school history, and his 187 attempts were fourth. Jeffrey Forbes made 55 treys to rank 11th.

“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.”

 

After “Christmas Retreat,” Eagles Win League Opener

In the Big Sky Conference debut for first-year Eastern head coach Jim Hayford, the Eagles defeated Montana State 82-66 on 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.

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 after EWU’s rare win at Worthington Arena in Bozeman. “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.”

 

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

 

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 has had seven 20-point performances as an Eagle. He is second in the league in 3-pointers made per game (currently 3.1 to rank ninth in NCAA Division I through games of Jan. 12) and third in scoring (16.2).

However, an off-season stress fracture in his foot was reinjured over the Christmas break, and the 6-foot-6 Chiverton has been hampered ever since. He didn’t play in the first half against NAU on Jan. 7, but scored 12 points in the second half – including EWU’s first 10 of the half to give the Eagles the lead for good in the 76-59 win. He followed that with 21 points in just 25 minutes of action versus Sacramento State on Jan. 12.

“It’s an injury that the doctor says he can play through, but with a tremendous amount of pain,” he explained. “So you have to respect him as a teammate in that he’ll do whatever he can to play. We’re trying to get him as much rest as we can. He had 10 points in his first four minutes, but he also did a great job guarding (NAU guard Stallon) Saldivar.”

For the season, Chiverton is 53-of-128 from the 3-point stripe for 41.4 percent and 43-of-116 inside the arc for 37.1 percent. He made 6-of-8 treys and 1-of-2 2-point attempts en route to scoring 21 points versus Sac State on Jan. 12 in his latest 20-point outing. Just prior to reinjuring his foot, his previous 20-point outing came versus Pacific Lutheran on Dec. 16 when he made 6-of-9 2-point attempts and 4-of-10 treys en route to scoring 26 points.

“You can tell he is getting more and more comfortable with his foot,” said Hayford after the PLU game. “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. For the season, he has scored at least 20 points on six occasions – all coming in EWU’s last 10 games.

In Eastern’s victories this season, Colimon is averaging 17.2 points per game on 45.5 percent shooting from the field (23-of-53 from the 3-point arc for 43.4 percent). In EWU’s losses, he is averaging 14.1 points on 33.6 percent shooting (18-of-46 3-point shooting for 38.1 percent).

For the season, Colimon is second in the Big Sky Conference in steals (2.0 per game), second in assists (5.3), fifth in assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.8), fifth in scoring (15.8), fourth in 3-pointers made per game (2.4), fourth in free throw percentage (.839) and fourth in minutes played (34.4).

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, Ederaine is second in rebounding (7.2), 16th in scoring (11.1), 10th in field goal percentage (.489), second in blocked shots (1.1), eighth in assists (3.0), sixth in steals (1.3) and sixth in offensive rebounds (2.2). He had a splendid outing in a 76-69 loss to Weber State on Jan. 5, finishing with 20 points, nine rebounds, five assists, a career-high five steals and a pair of blocked shots. He had no turnovers in 34 minutes after having five in 23 minutes in EWU’s previous game, a 79-71 loss at Montana.

“Big Cliff played a great game -- he was the best big man on the court,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford after the Weber State game. “We were able to run the offense through him. He felt bad about the turnovers in Missoula so I asked him what he was going to do about that the next game. He really worked hard tonight.”

 Interestingly, in Eastern’s victories this season Ederaine is averaging 14.0 points (66.7 percent shooting), 7.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.2 blocked shots per game. In losses, he is averaging only 7.9 points (32.4 percent shooting), 6.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.5 steals and 0.8 blocks per game. Prior to the Weber State game, in losses he was averaging only 6.1 points (27.3 percent shooting), 6.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.7 blocks per game.

En route to a career-high 23 points versus UC Davis, Ederaine made 8-of-9 shots from the field, including his first trey of the season and only the second of his career. 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 68.8 percent, 53-of-77).

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.

 

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 131 3-pointers made in his career to rank fourth, his 329 attempts are fourth and his .389 percentage ranks 11th. Fellow junior Kevin Winford has 105 makes to rank sixth and his 308 attempts are eighth, and the .392 percentage by Cliff Colimon ranks ninth.

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 87.1 percent (122-of-140), but he is 14 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 146). 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 78.6 percent in his career (81-of-103) and is inching toward the No. 10 position (79.0 percent).

 

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 58, just one from equaling the fourth position. Ederaine (52) is seventh and Johnson (47) is now eighth.

 

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 11.1 minutes per game this season, and is averaging 2.2 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.”

Kevin Winford poured in 39 points -- including a school-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.

 

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 132 points at the charity stripe (7.8 points per game).

Eastern has been whistled for 394 fouls, compared to 291 for opponents. Eastern players have fouled out on 20 occasions already, compared to six for opponents. The result has been 345-of-499 free throw shooting by opponents, compared to a 213-of-296 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 69 of a possible 85 fouls. Griffin is averaging only 21.2 minutes per game, but has scored 110 points (6.5 per game) and grabbed 104 rebounds (6.1) 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.”

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-Northern Colorado Series History

The Eagles are 5-6 all-time versus UNC (3-2 in Cheney, 2-4 in Greeley), with the first meeting taking place on Dec. 20, 1971, when Eastern beat the Bears 76-68 in Greeley, Colo. Since then, all of the meetings have been with EWU as a member of NCAA Division I (since 1983-84), starting in the 2006-07 season when the Bears became a Big Sky Conference member.

In the 2010-11 season, Eastern suffered a heart-breaking 75-73 home loss to the Bears on New Year’s Eve, as UNC’s Elliott Lloyd blocked a potential game-winning shot by Glen Dean with one second remaining. The Bears won in Greeley 63-53 on Feb. 3 to win for the fourth-straight time, with EWU’s last victory coming in Cheney by a 60-59 score on Feb. 21, 2009. That is the only EWU victory in the last seven meetings.

The Eagles won the first four games in the series until the Bears picked up a 79-66 home win over the Eagles on Feb. 23, 2008, and a 75-68 home triumph early in the 2008-09 season on Jan. 15 in Greeley. In the 2009-10 season, Eastern suffered its first home defeat in the series versus UNC with a 74-71 loss on Jan. 16 and later fell in Greeley 58-54 on Feb. 18.

 

EWU-Seattle Series History

Eastern leads the all-time series 10-6 (3-3 since EWU moved to NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season) after a split in a home-and-home series in the 2010-11 season. Eastern won 95-91 in Cheney on Dec. 15 and lost later in the year in Seattle, 60-51 on Jan. 6.

The Eagles split a pair of games with the Redhawks in 2009-10 as well -- a 100-97 overtime win in Cheney on Dec. 12, 2009, and a 68-62 loss in Seattle on Feb. 1, 2010. Eastern also suffered a 63-59 overtime loss to the Redhawks on Feb. 24, 2009.

Before those games, the last meeting came on Nov. 22, 1985, when Eastern won 83-64 at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash. That was the lone game played between the two schools since EWU moved to NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season. The first four meetings came in the 1945-46 season, and Eastern won all four as well as a pair the following season. A split followed in 1948-49, and Seattle swept a pair in the 1951-52 season.

Seattle was in NCAA Division I from 1944-1980, with such star players as Elgin Baylor, John O’Brien, Clint Richardson and Frank Oleynick on its rosters. Baylor, in fact, led Seattle to the championship game of the NCAA Tournament where it lost 84-72 to Kentucky. Formerly known as the Chieftains, from 1980-2002 they were affiliated with NAIA and from 2002-2007 were a member of NCAA Division II.

Here is a list of the recent meetings:
11/22/85 - W - 83-64 – H
2/24/09 - L - 59-63 (ot) – H
12/12/09 - W - 100-97 (ot) – H
2/1/10 - L - 62-68 – A
12/15/10 - W - 95-91 – H
1/6/11 - L - 51-60 - A

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