League Play for EWU Begins at Preseason Favorite
With slates wiped clean, 5-6 Eagles open Big Sky season at 3-5 Weber State, then travel to 3-6 Idaho State
Thursday, Jan. 2 - Dee Events Center
(11,500) - Ogden, Utah
6:05 p.m. Pacific - Eastern Washington (5-6) at Weber State (3-5)
Saturday, Jan. 4 - Holt Arena (8,000) -
6:05 p.m. Pacific - Eastern Washington at Idaho State
Shows take place at the Swinging Doors in Spokane at 6 p.m.
Tuesdays from Nov. 26 to Jan. 7 (no shows Dec. 24 and Dec. 31) and
Mondays Jan. 13 to March 10 (no shows Jan. 27 and Feb. 24), and
feature head coach Jim Hayford and host
Larry Weir. The Swinging Doors is located at W.
1018 Francis in Spokane. Shows are broadcast on 700-AM ESPN,
www.700espn.com & via iphone app. (search for “Spokane
Radio” and download app).
Webcast: EWU home games and all Big Sky games are carried at http://www.watchbigsky.com
Radio: All Eastern games are on 700-AM ESPN in Spokane. Larry Weir returns for his 21st season calling the play-by-play, starting 20 minutes prior to tipoff.
Internet Radio: www.700espn.com or www.tunein.com
Radio iPhone App: Search for “Spokane Radio” and download app. An app is also available for tunein radio.
Live Stats: http://www.weberstatesports.com (WSU); ewulive.statb.us (web/ISU * other EWU Home Games) or ewustats.com (mobile phones/ISU & other EWU Home Games)
When league play begins, the season starts anew.
The Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team begins its 27th season as a member of the Big Sky Conference when league play begins on the road at Weber State Thursday (Jan. 2) and Idaho State Saturday (Jan. 4). Tipoff in both games is 6:05 p.m. Pacific time.
The Eagles enter Thursday’s game at the preseason league favorite with a 5-6 record, while the Wildcats are 3-5. Idaho State enters its Big Sky opener against Portland State with a 3-6 mark. Following this week’s games, the Eagles host Montana (Jan. 9) and Montana State (Jan. 11).
“We had a tough preseason schedule, but it’s not going to be easy when we get back in the Big Sky,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. “I have tremendous respect for our league and the coaches and players in the Big Sky. There is no relax in us – we’re just going to keep getting better.”
Although EWU has an eight-game winning streak versus Idaho State, Eastern has lost the last five meetings against Weber State. The last victory for the Eagles over the Wildcats came in Ogden, Utah, by a 75-59 score on March 2, 2011. However, Eastern is 20-43 all-time against Weber State, including a 4-28 record in Ogden.
“It’s never easy going in there,” said Hayford. “We have had teams that have gone in there and won, so it can be done. It’s what the schedule gives us, and we’ll make the best of it.”
After a 5-2 start in November, Eastern was winless in December and is looking for its first victory since beating Seattle 82-75 on Nov. 29. The Eagles have lost their last four games to talented teams all ranked in the top 108 in the Sagarin computer ratings (EWU is #210), including an 82-65 setback on Dec. 28 to 15th ranked Connecticut on Dec. 28, which is 28th in the Sagarin ratings.
But it doesn’t get much easier In Eastern’s first three league games. Besides playing pre-season favorite Weber State, Eastern plays a Montana team picked to finish second by the media and third by the coaches. Idaho State has been picked to finish 10th by the coaches and 11th by the media. Eastern’s fourth league foe, MSU, was picked fifth by the media and sixth by the coaches.
The Eagles were picked to finish fifth by the coaches and sixth by the media.
“As we enter Big Sky play it is going to be tough,” said Hayford. “We just need to keep getting better. It is a long season. This team has the potential, especially because we have no seniors, to be playing as good as anybody in the Big Sky in March. We need to make sure we get enough wins.”
Eastern will be trying for its third Big Sky Conference Tournament berth in the last four years in 2013-14, and its 13th in 27 years as a member of the league. The Big Sky Conference Tournament will take place March 13-15 at the site of the regular season champion. For the second-straight year, it will now include seven teams, with the regular season champion receiving a first-round bye. The tournament will include a quarterfinal round with six of the teams playing, followed by semifinals and the championship game.
“Last year we needed one more win to be a part of that tournament,” added Hayford. “That is where all of our focus has to be for coaches and players. We have to keep getting better every week.”
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Spokesman-Review EWU Basketball Page: http://www.spokesman.com/ewuhoops
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
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* Eastern has been picked to finish fifth by the coaches and sixth by the media in preseason polls announced by the Big Sky Conference on Oct. 17. EWU was picked to finish behind preseason pick Weber State, North Dakota, Montana and Northern Colorado in the coaches’ poll. The media picked Montana State to finish in fifth just ahead of the Eagles. Weber State was picked to win the league in both polls.
* Eastern will be trying for its third Big Sky Conference Tournament berth in the last four years in 2013-14, and its 13th in 27 years as a member of the league. Eastern has 12 previous appearances (1990, 98, 99, 2000, 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 11, 12).
* The Big Sky Conference Tournament will take place March 13-15 at the site of the regular season champion. For the second-straight year, it will now include seven teams, with the regular season champion receiving a first-round bye. The tournament will include a quarterfinal round with six of the teams playing, followed by semifinals and the championship game.
* Between playing Seton Hall on Dec. 22 and Connecticut on Dec. 28, the Eagles remained in New York for Christmas, and spent the week practicing and taking in the sights and sounds of the Big Apple. But the health of Thomas Reuter became a concern, as he became ill after the team’s first day. He was later diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, and missed both games. Said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford: “We came to New York and had a great practice; two hours later he was in the hospital and was in there for most of five days. The good thing is they found out what was wrong with him. It’s something he’s going to have to manage with medication and good medical help the rest of his life. It was a really, really hard week for Thomas, so my heart hurts for him. But Garrett Moon has stepped in there. He plays really hard and we’re pleased with that.”
* The Eagles are second in the Big Sky Conference and 147th in NCAA Division I (345 schools) in RPI, including a strength of schedule ranking of 49th (third-best in the league). Montana is currently the top Big Sky school in the RPI at 113th, and North Dakota has the 17th-toughest schedule in the nation (203rd overall). The Big Sky’s team RPI rating is 23rd among 33 conferences. Among EWU’s opponents this season, UConn is 25th. Among this week’s opponents, Weber State is 241st overall and sixth in the Big Sky, and Idaho State is 255th nationally and eighth in the league.
* In the Sagarin computer ratings, Eastern is 210th with the 39th-toughest strength of schedule. December opponents Connecticut (28th), Saint Mary’s (52nd), UC Irvine (105th) and Seton Hall (108th) are all ranked in the top 108. Weber State is 200th with the 29th-toughest schedule, and Idaho State is 276th.
* Eastern is tied with Maine and Nicholls State for the most foreign players in NCAA Division I with seven (3 from Australia, 3 from Germany, 1 from Serbia).
* A year ago, mainly because of injuries, Eastern used 14 different starting lineups. Thus far, Eastern has used one.
* The Eagles are leading the Big Sky Conference thus far in scoring offense (75.6), 3-pointers made per game (8.5) and rebounds (38.2), and are second in assists (13.5), offensive rebounds (11.8) and blocked shots (4.1). Eastern is also fourth in rebounding margin with a plus 1.3 for the season thus far. A year ago, Eastern was 10th out of 11 teams with a minus margin of 4.2 per game.
* Individually, Tyler Harvey is third in the Big Sky in scoring (19.3), Venky Jois is 15th (12.4), Drew Brandon is 25th (11.5) and Parker Kelly is 29th (10.4). Brandon leads the league in assists (5.6), is third in assist-to-turnover ratio (+2.3) and ranks seventh in rebounding (6.8). Martin Seiferth is second in field goal percentage (.600) and fourth in blocked shots (1.5), and Jois is second in blocked shots (1.5), third in rebounding (8.0) and third in offensive rebounds (2.9). Harvey also leads in 3-pointers made per game (3.5) and is fourth in 3-point field goal percentage (.448). Kelly is second in free throw percentage (.920) and Harvey is eighth (.853).
* Venky Jois, the Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year in the 2012-13 season, is EWU’s second-leading scorer with a 12.4 average. He is also averaging a team-leading 8.0 rebounds, as well as 2.7 assists and 1.5 blocks per game. So far he has three double-doubles this season (22 points and 11 rebounds against Pacific; 19 points and 10 rebounds versus Seattle; and 11 points and 11 rebounds at Seton Hall). He had nine double-doubles as a freshman to rank among the leaders in NCAA Division I, and now has 12 in his 39-game career.
* Point guard Drew Brandon, a transfer from Sierra College in California, is averaging 11.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, a league-leading 5.6 assists and 1.2 steals per game after his first 11 games in NCAA Division I. He already has a pair of double-doubles, including 15 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists against Boston University. He equaled the 15th-most assists in school history with 10 assists against Walla Walla, becoming the 28th Eastern player to finish in double figures in assists in a game. He also had nine rebounds, four steals and three points, just two nights after finishing with 13 points, 14 rebounds and six assists versus Washington. He is the lone newcomer to EWU’s starting lineup.
* Sophomore guard Tyler Harvey has now averaged 18.1 points per game in his last 19 games as an Eagle after averaging 1.3 points in his first 13 outings. A year ago, he scored 132 points (16.5 average) on 55 percent shooting from the field (52-of-94, including 20-of-44 3-point attempts) in EWU’s last eight games. In the first 13 games he played in the 2012-13 season, Harvey scored just 17 points. For the season, he played in 21 of EWU’s 31 games and averaged 14.0 minutes and 7.1 points per game, compared to averages of 35.6 minutes and 19.3 points per game this season.
* In NCAA Division I statistics through games of Dec. 22, Eastern was ranked 33rd among 345 schools with an average of 8.4 3-pointers made per game and 92nd in scoring with an average of 76.7 points. Eastern was also 73rd in 3-point field goal percentage (37.5 percent), 113th in field goal percentage (46.0 percent) and 112th in fewest turnovers per game (11.9). Individually, Tyler Harvey was seventh in 3-pointers made per game (3.7), 17th in 3-point percentage (47.4 percent) and 55th in scoring (19.3), with Drew Brandon 31st in assists (5.8).
* Four Eagles are already ranked among Eastern’s career leaders, including shot-blockers Martin Seiferth and Venky Jois. Jois’ 83 blocks ranks third in school history, four behind Brandon Moore (2007-10) with 87 and 16 behind the school record of 99 (Paul Butorac 2004-07). Seiferth has 82 to rank fourth. Seiferth also currently ranks No. 2 in career field goal percentage (.618), ranking just behind Ron Cox (.629 from 1974-77). Tyler Harvey is currently third in 3-point field goal percentage (44.3 percent), ranking only behind the school-record of 50.3 percent held by Marco Quinto (1999-02). Kelly is ninth in 3-point percentage (40.2 percent) and ninth in 3-pointers made with 109.
* In EWU’s most recent outing, the Eagles led twice in the first half, then kept the game close after halftime before falling to 15th-ranked Connecticut Dec. 28 in front of 9,274 fans at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn. True freshman Ognjen Miljkovic came off the bench to score a career high 15 points for the Eagles, and starting sophomore guard Tyler Harvey hit his season average with 19 points. Junior point guard Drew Brandon chipped in 13 points, four rebounds and four assists. Junior Parker Kelly had eight points in the second half and 10 in the game. The Huskies had five players in double figures, including Shabazz Napier who had 15 points and nine assists. Connecticut held Eastern to 37 percent shooting from the field, and in one stretch of 9:51 spanning halftime, limited the Eagles to only six points. The Huskies improved to 11-1.
* One game earlier, Seton Hall out-scored EWU 54-34 in the second half to break open a 38-36 game at halftime for a 92-70 victory on Dec. 22. Seton Hall made 61 percent of its shots in the second half while the Eagles struggled to 34 percent after a 45 percent first half. Sophomore Venky Jois had the 12th double-double of his career and third this season with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Junior Parker Kelly scored 17 points to lead the Eagles, and sophomore Tyler Harvey scored 16. Junior point guard Drew Brandon chipped in eight points, five rebounds and five assists. Eastern also received career-high scoring performances from freshman Felix Von Hofe (8) and junior Garrett Moon (5). The Eagles out-rebounded the Pirates 38-29, but EWU was guilty of 16 turnovers which led to 22 points for Seton Hall, which improved to 8-4. The Pirates made 57 percent of their shots in the game.
* In Eastern’s most recent victory, sophomore Tyler Harvey scored a career-high 30 points to lead Eastern past Seattle of the Western Athletic Conference 82-75 on Nov. 29 at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash. Sophomore Venky Jois had a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds, and also added three blocked shots, a pair of assists and two steals. Junior point guard Drew Brandon chipped in 12 points and seven assists, and Ognjen Miljkovic came off the bench to score 10. The Eagles led by as many as 11 in the first half, but fell behind by six in the second half. There were eight ties and six lead changes in the second half alone, and 10 and nine in the game, respectively. Eastern eventually took the lead for good on a 3-pointer by Harvey with 5:25 left to play, then he gave Eastern a 3-point advantage with another trey at the 4:56 mark. He closed his scoring with free throws – two at the 3:00 mark that gave EWU a 72-69 lead, and two more with 14 seconds to play to give EWU a five-point bulge. Jois closed out the scoring with a pair of free throws with three seconds left, and Brandon and Miljkovic also made big baskets down the stretch.
Other Season Notes
* Eastern sophomore forward Venky Jois from Boronia, Australia, was named to ESPN’s "All-Aussie" team selected by analyst Fran Fraschilla. The squad was revealed by Fraschilla during the New Mexico/Kansas game on Dec. 14. In addition, Jois was selected by College Hoops Daily to its All-Big Sky Conference Team for the month of November. Jois helped lead EWU to a 5-2 record in the month -- the school's best start to a season in five years.
* Eastern guard Tyler Harvey was selected as the Big Sky Conference Player of the Week on Dec. 3 after his 30-point performance against Seattle in an 82-75 victory on Nov. 29. In recording the 49th performance of 30 points or more in school history (currently tied with nine others for 39th), Harvey sank four crucial free throws in the final three minutes to help Eastern improve to 5-2 on the season -- the best start in five seasons for EWU, which was 6-2 to start the 2008-09 season. Harvey made 9-of-15 shots from the field, including 6-of-9 3-point attempts, and also sank all six of his free throws. “Tyler obviously had a tremendous game,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. “He is an extremely talented offensive player, and he has improved in every level of his game. For him to come and get 30 points tonight shows that he is a great guy to coach, and he is a great person.”
* In defeating Seattle 82-75 on Nov. 29, Eastern improved to 5-2 on the season for the first time since 2008-09 when EWU started 6-2. At the time, the Eagles were 3-0 at home, 0-2 on the road and 2-0 on neutral courts, and nearly two full months ahead of last year’s win total. The Eagles, who were 10-21 a year ago, picked up their fifth victory on Jan. 28, 2013, with a 76-65 victory over Portland State and their sixth victory three nights later.
* The Eagles played three games in three nights on Nov. 22-24 in Irvine, Calif., as part of the of the 2K Sports Classic benefitting the Wounded Warrior Project. They came away with a 2-1 record, beating Boston University 80-68 and LIU Brooklyn 102-70 before bowing to host UC Irvine 81-58 in the finale. In Eastern’s 80-68 win over Boston University, four players scored in double figures on a hot-shooting night against the team picked to win the Patriot League title. Eastern made 54 percent of its shots while holding the Terriers to 38 percent. Six players scored in double figures the next night in a 102-100 victory over LIU Brooklyn, as Eastern had five 3-pointers in the first seven minutes to open a 28-1 lead. The 102 points Eastern scored was its most against a NCAA Division I opponent since beating Cal State Fullerton 110-70 on Nov. 27, 2006. Eastern finished the game making 11-of-17 3-pointers for 65 percent, and sank 64 percent of its shots overall. Eastern held the Blackbirds to 35 percent shooting and dominated rebounding by a 40-29 margin. The Eagles led 54-29 at halftime and led by as many as 37 in the second half. The third night, in an 81-58 loss to UC Irvine, Eastern fell behind by 21 points at halftime. UC Irvine made 11-of-19 3-point shots (58 percent) and 40 percent overall in the game, while Eastern made only 26 percent and was 4-of-21 from 3-point range.
* Sophomore Tyler Harvey was named to the All-Tournament team at the 2K Sports Classic in Irvine, Calif., where EWU went 2-1. Harvey led the Eagles in scoring against Boston University and UC Irvine with 21 points in each game, and also led EWU in rebounding with eight versus LIU Brooklyn. He followed that performance with a career-high nine boards against the Anteaters. He averaged 18.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.3 steals per game in the tourney while making 52.8 percent of his shots from the field including 7-of-15 from the 3-point stripe, as well as 11-of-13 free throws for 84.6 percent.
* Sophomore Venky Jois, the Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year a year ago, joined Harvey on the All-Tournament team at the 2K Sports Classic. He averaged 15.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game while making 56.3 percent of his shots from the field.
* Six-foot-10 junior Martin Seiferth finished with 24 points and 18 rebounds against Walla Walla, as he equaled the fifth-best rebounding performance in school history. He came close to his career highs of 27 points and 21 rebounds set in separate games last season. The last time EWU had a 20-20 performance was Paul Butorac against Lewis-Clark State College on Nov. 18, 2006.
* Eastern returns four starters and seven total letterwinners from last year’s team, which finished 10-21 overall and 7-13 in the 11-team Big Sky under head coach Jim Hayford, who is in his third year at the helm of a squad with no seniors. A year ago, Eastern finished with four wins in its last eight outings, but came up short in qualifying for the seven-team Big Sky Conference Tournament. However, three of those late losses included an overtime loss to UNC, a four-point setback to North Dakota and an eight-point loss at Weber State.
* In all, Eastern’s 2013-14 schedule includes 10 games versus six schools who participated in national postseason tournaments a year ago. Eastern will play six games against those opponents on the road, and four games at home. Three appeared in the NCAA Tournament – LIU Brooklyn (Nov. 23 in Irvine), Saint Mary’s (Dec. 8 on the road) and Montana (Jan. 9 at home and Feb. 8 on the road). UC Irvine (Dec. 15 at home and Nov. 24 in Irvine) played in the College Basketball Invitational Tournament, and won a game before falling in the quarterfinals. The other three postseason opponents on EWU’s schedule were also in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT). Weber State (Jan. 2 on the road and March 8 at home) won four games to advance to the championship, where it lost to East Carolina 77-74. North Dakota (Jan. 30 at home and March 1 on the road) played in the first round, as did Boston University (Nov. 22 at UC Irvine Tournament).
* The schedule also featured a trip to the East Coast to play Connecticut and Seton Hall. Connecticut finished 20-10 overall and 10-8 in the Big East Conference last season, while Seton Hall was 15-18 overall and 3-15 in the league. However, Seton Hall and six other teams in the so-called “Catholic 7” broke off from the league, but have retained the Big East tag. The remaining Big East teams, plus others in the expanded conference, are now named the American Athletic Conference.
* The Eagles hope a more experienced team will translate to winning more of the close games they lost in the 2012-13 season. Nine of EWU’s losses were one-possession games with less than four minutes remaining, and the Eagles finished 6-10 in games decided by 10 points or less.
* Hayford won for the 279th time in his 400th game as a collegiate coach on March 7 when the Eagles beat Idaho State 87-73. He entered the 2013-14 season with a 279-122 (69.6 percent) record in 14 seasons as a head coach, including a 25-38 mark at Eastern. He was 217-57 (79.2 percent) in 10 seasons at Whitworth (2001-2011), and before that was 37-27 in two seasons at the University of Sioux Falls (S.D.).
Quoting Coach Hayford
On Preseason Heading Into League Play: “There are plenty of positives for us to build on. We just need to keep developing the team, trust the process and keep getting better. Big Sky play is not going to be a slouch. Idaho State is playing really well and Weber State is hard to beat at home. Then, when we get back at home, we play a Montana team that has lots of pride and has won a lot of Big Sky games the last two years. And take nothing away from Montana State, they went and got a big road win at Portland. You want your team to represent themselves, the players who have worn Eastern uniforms before you and your community with pride. Toward the end of the Seton Hall when the game kind of got away from us, our players didn’t fight through it. I was most proud that our team played 40 minutes against UConn playing with pride, with heart and competing.”
On UConn Loss: “It was a good day for us even though we didn’t get the win. I’m really pleased with how our team played and the game made us a better team. They couldn’t have fit another person in the building here and we played a great game and represented Eastern Washington well. We knew this was going to be the final test of our non-conference season, and knew what we did well against them we would be able to do well in the Big Sky. And if we had deficiencies they were going to show us.”
On Shooting Versus UConn: “To beat a team like UConn we are going to have to shoot the ball better than we did. We got some really good looks that we missed, and hopefully our guys are going to make those in the Big Sky. We didn’t shoot well enough, but we rebounded and played pretty good defense. We’re counting on a freshman for offense, and O.G. (Miljkovic) came here and scored 15 very solid points. I think this gives him some confidence going into conference play.”
On Seton Hall Loss: “It’s a 40-minute game, but we had a really good first half. We had a little lack of offensive success to start the second half, and I thought that carried over to us losing a little bit of our defensive edge that we had. That’s a bad combination if you are gauging your toughness and your energy off of scoring baskets. If you make it easy for them on the other end, that’s how you get separation, and that’s exactly what happened. We’ll keep building on things. I don’t think they were 20 points better than us. I think the final score should have looked a lot like the first half. But we didn’t dig in and rely on toughness when we needed to. That is something we need to keep developing in our team. I want everybody to see the team we saw the first half, and see that team play for all 40 minutes. That’s our challenge as coaches.”
On Defense: “When we are not making shots, we can’t let that affect our confidence and our energy. If you want to be a tough team you have to hang your hat on defense, so that even when you are not making shots you can stay in the game. We’ll teach them and we’ll grow from that. There were definitely some positives.”
On 5-2 Start: “We’re pleased with where we are with this team, but there is a long, long way to go. We wanted to get through November based on the carryover of returners from last year, and put the emphasis on blending a new point guard into that mix of players. The bonus of that is to incorporate O.G. (Miljkovic) into the mix. In December, with a week of preparation for each game, we need to develop a little bit more of the bench. It is my intention to play seven or eight guys a game and give some more minutes to them. When you look at the development of our team, we have players who fill roles, but you want them to never be content with the role and you want them to want more.”
On Seattle Victory: “It is a very satisfying win. I remembered at the end of my last year at Whitworth being told your team is 50-2 in your last 52 games. I told myself it is just as satisfying to get our team to 5-2 against Seattle because these guys have been through so much. They have matured, and they had a great offseason. I am just a very proud coach.”
On Drew Brandon and Rebounding: “He’s a really good player. He went to the same junior college that Craig Fortier played at, so that’s how Craig knew about him. What I like about him is he is really unaffected – he’s going to play at his own speed and he plays hard. He’s one of the best rebounding guards I’ve ever coached. Drew is obviously a great addition to our program. We had all these pieces coming back, but we needed to go find a point guard. He certainly is meeting our expectations. Rebounding is something we better improve on from last year, or we will have the same results. Drew really helps us. He really helps us on the boards, and he knows how to run the offense. As he gets more comfortable, we are going to get better and better.”
On Team Identity: “Our identity is that as we are going to play smart and hard basketball, and we are going to do it together. You are going to see an unselfish team that lays it out on the court every night and plays like the band of brothers they are. The biggest difference (from last season) is our players are all a little bit older. We were Eagles that were barely out of the nest last year, and now we can fly a little bit.”
On This Year’s Eagle Team: “We have a great chemistry – they really like each other. A year ago they didn’t know one another. They have been living life together and they do a lot of things as a group. They enjoy spending time with one another, and I think that will spill over into on-court success.”
On Big Sky Conference Race: “I think the Big Sky Conference is going to be more difficult -- there are many teams returning solid rosters. We have a very challenging preseason that will prepare us for a great conference season.”
On Competitiveness of Big Sky: “There were a number of close games. That is part of being in a competitive conference. The hard part about experience is getting it. Hopefully we got it, and we will win more than our fair share of those close games this year. I do like that our guys found ways to win some of those last year.”
On Playing Difficult Schedule: “You cannot be afraid of a tough schedule playing these bigger schools regardless of the outcome. You just focus on it making you better and better. I think we have a non-conference schedule that will put us in the fire. It will refine us, make us stronger and prepare us for Big Sky play. That is what this year’s schedule is, so we embrace it.”
EWU vs. Weber State Series Notes
* Since Eastern became a member of NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season, the Eagles are 20-42 against Weber State (20-43 all-time). The Eagles are 14-15 in Cheney, 4-27 in Ogden and 2-0 on neutral courts versus the Wildcats since 1983-84. The only other game in the series was an 83-65 loss in Ogden on Dec. 14, 1978, making EWU 4-28 in Ogden all-time.
* Weber State has won the last five meetings and 10 of the last 11. Until winning 75-59 in Ogden on March 2, 2011, the Eagles had lost the previous five meetings. The Eagles have won 14 of the last 38 meetings after losing nine-straight from 1992-1996.
* Eastern has defeated the Wildcats three times in the semifinals of the Big Sky Conference Tournament (72-53 in 2004, 62-57 in 2002 and 83-67 in 1990). Besides the 2011 victory, Eastern’s lone victories in Ogden came in 2006 (76-73), 2001 (81-70) and 2000 (90-78). In 2000, Eastern snapped the Wildcats' 30-game home winning streak, which at the time was the fourth longest in NCAA Division I.
EWU vs. Idaho State Series Notes
* Since Eastern became a member of NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season, the Eagles are 37-26 against the Bengals, including a 25-7 record in Cheney and an 11-18 mark in Pocatello (1-1 on neutral courts). Eastern has won the last 11 meetings in Cheney, dating back to a 65-63 Bengal win at EWU on March 1, 2003, and the last three meetings in Pocatello.
* The Eagles have won eight consecutive games in the series, dating back to the last win for ISU on Jan. 22, 2010 (79-71 in Pocatello). Eastern has won 26 of the past 35 meetings against the Bengals, including a sweeps the last three years. In the 2010-11 season, both meetings took place within eight days of each other and the Eagles won 83-70 in Cheney on Jan. 29, 2011, and then were victorious 69-67 in Pocatello on Feb. 5, 2011. The same thing happened in EWU’s sweep in the 2011-12 season when the Eagles won twice in a six-day span, including an 85-78 win in Pocatello on Feb. 23 followed by a 77-64 victory in Cheney on Feb. 28. The teams met again just four days later on March 3 in the quarterfinals of the Big Sky Conference Championships, with EWU winning in Cheney 81-75 – meaning all three games were played in a nine-day span -- Eastern also recorded season sweeps in the 2001-02, 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons, and again in 2012-13 (57-54 in Cheney on Dec. 22 and 87-73 in Pocatello on March 7).
* Idaho State swept the Eagles in the regular season in 2002-03, but Eastern won the third meeting by a 76-67 score in the semifinals of the Big Sky Conference Tournament. In the 2009-10 season, Eastern lost at Idaho State 80-74 but won 79-71 in Cheney where the season ended for both teams.
* Eastern, which lost eight-straight games to ISU from 1993 to 1997, leads in the all-time series 40-27 (27-6 in Cheney, 12-20 in Pocatello, 1-1 neutral).