Eagles Face Familiar Foe in ESPN BracketBusters Game

Sam Houston State’s hoop team will visit Cheney on Feb. 23, with game tentatively scheduled for 1:05 p.m. Pacific time

ESPN BracketBusters Web Site

Eastern Washington University knows a lot about the Bearkats from the football field, just not much yet about their men’s basketball team.

The Eagles will host Sam Houston State on Saturday, Feb. 23 as pairings were announced Monday (Feb. 4) for the ESPN Ramada Worldwide BracketBusters series of college basketball games.

The game has been tentatively scheduled for 1:05 p.m. Pacific time at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash. As part of the final year of BracketBusters, Eastern will play a return game against SHSU in Huntsville, Texas -- probably in the 2014-15 season.

A total of 122 schools are involved, but the Eagles-Bearkats match-up is not one of the nine games picked to be broadcast on the ESPN family of stations. Tickets to the game may be purchased via the tickets link at www.goeags.com.

Eastern hosted and played the Bearkats last Dec. 15 in the semifinals of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs, won by SHSU 45-42. The two football teams will play each other again in regular season meetings this fall on Sept. 28 in Huntsville and in 2014 in Cheney.

“It continues our rivalry between Cheney, Wash., and the suburbs of Houston,” smiled Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. “We’re looking forward to hosting them, in part because it’s the last BracketBuster match-up. They are one of the better defensive teams in the country and have a really-balanced scoring team. It will be a good opponent for us and it will mean we will go back down to Texas and play them there too.”

Eastern enters action this week 6-16 overall and 4-8 in the Big Sky Conference, and Sam Houston State is 12-9 overall and 5-4 in the Southland Conference.

With his young team in the midst of battling for a berth in the Big Sky Conference Tournament in March, Hayford is looking forward to the game. Three true freshmen and two sophomores saw regular action in January, including in multiple games as starters.

“Especially for our team, it gives us a chance to take a breath and play a different kind of game,” he explained. “We are not playing for our postseason life (in that game), and we can use it to make us better. It’s another home game and a chance to win on our home floor. I see a lot of positives in playing this game.”

The Bearkats feature a balanced scoring attack with no player averaging more than 8.9 points per game, and nine players with averages of between 4.5 and 8.9. The Bearkats have limited opponents to an average of 61.2 points per game (59th in NCAA Division I), and are 29th nationally in 3-point defense (29.7 percent) and 77th in rebounding margin (+4.0). Eastern is 19th in the nation in 3-pointers made per game (8.4) and is 308th out of 345 NCAA Division I teams in rebounding margin (-4.7).

The Eagles and Bearkats have one common opponent this season – Northern Arizona. The Eagles beat the Lumberjacks 82-59 on Jan. 10 in Cheney, with the rematch coming this Saturday in Flagstaff, Ariz. The Bearkats lost at NAU on Dec. 1 by a 77-60 score as part of a four-game road stretch.

The two schools haven’t played each other since Nov. 16, 1997, when the Eagles won 80-77 at Reese Court. Eastern won 69-66 in Huntsville, Texas, the year prior in the only other men’s basketball game between EWU and SHSU.



12/14/96 - W - 69-66 - A

11/16/97 - W - 80-77 - H

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