January 13, 2014

Even at 2-2, Eagles Seek First Road Win This Week

After Big Sky Conference home sweep, Eastern plays Northern Arizona on Thursday and Sacramento State on Saturday

Complete Release in .PDF Format

Upcoming Games

Thursday, Jan. 16 - Walkup Skydome (10,000) - Flagstaff, Ariz.
5:35 p.m. Pacific - Eastern Washington (7-8, 2-2) at Northern Arizona (6-9, 2-1)

Saturday, Jan. 18 - Hornets Nest (1,200) - Sacramento, Calif.
7:05 p.m. Pacific - Eastern Washington at Sacramento State (5-8, 1-3 entering 1/16 home game versus Portland State)

 

Coaches Show

Remaining shows take place at the Swinging Doors in Spokane at 6 p.m. 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).

Coverage

TV: The NAU game is televised live via FOX Sports Arizona PLUS (DISH: 447 SD/9517 HD; DIRECTV: N/A SD/695-1 HD), and FOX Sports San Diego, and joined in progress at approximately 6 p.m. Pacific time via FOX College Sports Atlantic. There is no TV for the Sacramento State game.
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: ewulive.statb.us (web/NAU, Sac State & all EWU home Games) or ewustats.com (mobile phones/NAU, Sac State & all EWU Home Games)

 


The way to make Jim Hayford an even prouder head coach is for his Eagles to register a Big Sky Conference road breakthrough.

Fresh off a hard-earned home sweep, the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team gets its chance this week when EWU plays at Northern Arizona Thursday (Jan. 16) at 5:35 p.m. Pacific time, followed by a Saturday (Jan. 18) game at Sacramento State at 7:05 p.m. Pacific time.

The games will be carried live on ESPN 700-AM and www.watchbigsky.com, and the NAU game will be carried on Fox Sports Arizona PLUS. Eastern seeks its first victory on an opponent home court this season (0-7 thus far), and last year knocked off the Lumberjacks in Flagstaff 77-74 in overtime in the break-out game for EWU high-scoring guard Tyler Harvey.

The Eagles are 2-2 in the Big Sky and 7-8 overall after registering a home sweep of Montana (69-62) and Montana State (77-72) last weekend. Northern Arizona jumped out to a 24-2 lead at Southern Utah Monday (Jan. 13) en route to a 70-36 romp to improve its records to 3-1 in the league record and 6-9 overall. Sac State is 1-3 in the league and 5-8 overall heading into Thursday’s home game versus Portland State.

“It’s a full slate, but that’s how it’s going to be in the Big Sky every game,” said Hayford. “That’s the fun of it, and when you hunt out a road win, you gain double on the rest of the pack. That’s what we are after.”

The Eagles trailed by 13 with less than four minutes remaining in last year’s game at NAU, but Harvey scored 14 points in the last 8:31 of the game and rallied the Eagles to an improbable win. That victory was Eastern’s first in 13 tries on opponent home courts to that point.

“Necessity is the mother of invention, and we were at that place in last year’s game at NAU,” explained Hayford. “We had gone through injuries and losing a point guard – all sorts of adversity – up to that point of the season. We played really well the game before at Sacramento State and lost a close one there, but then things weren’t going right at NAU. And so it was Tyler’s turn.

“Tyler energized us and we had a miraculous comeback,” he continued. “Everything kind of went right for us and wrong for NAU, and we won in overtime. And a star was born.”

Now a sophomore, Harvey had 44 points with nine 3-pointers and six assists in last week’s sweep to earn College Sports Madness Big Sky Conference Player of the Week accolades. He ranks second in the Big Sky in scoring for all games (20.3) and is ranked first in league games only (23.3).

“For us as coaches and for Tyler, it will be fun to be in that locker room again because that was the springboard to where he is right now,” added Hayford. “The neat thing is he’s only a sophomore. That was a real pivotal turning point in our development as a program during a year we were playing five or even six freshmen. It’s great to go back to the scene of the crime.”

Big Sky Conference co-Player of the Week Venky Jois finished last weekend with 28 points, 17 rebounds, six assists, four blocked shots and three steals, while making 56.3 percent of his field goals (9-of-16) and 62.5 percent of his free throws (10-of-16). Against MSU he had his fifth double-double of the season and 14th of his career, and came three rebounds short of another double-double against UM.

The Eagles trailed only once against Montana, and rallied from 11 points down in the second half in the win over Montana State. That weekend performance helped regain confidence for a team which had lost six games in a row and hadn’t won since Nov. 29.

Hayford said even with things were darkest for his team versus the Bobcats – who out-scored EWU at one point 40-13 to overcome a 16-point Eagle advantage in the first half – the Eagles had a belief they could still win. And he hopes that carries over into this week’s action on the road.

“Each timeout we kept saying, ‘Hey guys, let’s make defensive stops and let’s stay together. There is a lot of time,’” Hayford explained. “It was the same thing we were telling them when we were up with a big lead, ‘let’s keep making stops and let’s keep believing.’”

“Again, I am very, very proud of my team and their heart,” he said after the game.

 

PDF Link to Fact Book

The complete version of the 2013-14 EWU men’s basketball fact book may be found at:
http://goeags.com/trads/ewas-factbooks.html

 

More Eagle Basketball Links

Eastern Basketball -- http://goeags.com/sports/m-baskbl/index
Link to Ticket Information: http://www.goeags.com/tickets
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
More Information and Links are Available at: HTTP://WWW.GOEAGS.COM

 

Eagle Tip-Ins 

* Last year’s 77-74 overtime victory at NAU was the coming-out party for Tyler Harvey, who came off the bench to score 14 points in the last 8:31 of the game and rally the Eagles to an improbable win. Harvey, who had entered the game having averaged just 4.8 minutes and scored 17 points in his first 13 games as an Eagle, made 5-of-6 shots overall and 4-of-5 from the 3-point line against the Lumberjacks. Eastern trailed by 13 when Harvey entered the game for the second time with 3:42 left. He never came out after that as he provided the short-handed Eagles a huge boost. Sophomore Parker Kelly led the Eagles with a career-high 19 points, and true freshman Venky Jois missed his third-straight game for the EWU with a sprained ankle. The win was Eastern’s first of the season in 12 tries on opponent home courts, and snapped a 13-game losing skid overall on the road.

* Early-season trends show the importance of field goal shooting and field goal shooting defense in EWU’s win-loss record. Eastern is 7-0 when it has a better shooting percentage than its opponents and 0-8 when it doesn’t. Also, the Eagles are 7-0 when making at least 45.0 percent of their shots, and 0-8 when they are under that mark. In addition, EWU is 6-1 when it holds opponents to 44.4 percent or less from the field, and 1-7 when opponents shoot better than that mark. Eastern is 6-2 when scoring 71 or more points, and 5-1 when allowing 70 or fewer.

* At home or on neutral courts this season, EWU is 6-1 and has averaged 80.4 points per game on 50.2 shooting from the field, while allowing 63.9 points per game on 41.0 percent shooting. But on opponent home courts where EWU is 0-7, the Eagles are averaging 68.1 points on 39.1 percent shooting, while opponents are scoring at an 85.3 clip and making 47.1 percent from the field.

* In NCAA Division I statistics through games of Jan. 12, Eastern is ranked 23rd among 345 schools with an average of 8.5 3-pointers made per game, 82nd in 3-point field goal percentage (36.9 percent) and 98th in fewest turnovers per game (11.8). Individually, Tyler Harvey is fifth in 3-pointers made per game (3.8), 20th in 3-point percentage (45.2 percent) and 27th in scoring (20.3), with Drew Brandon 39th in assists (5.5) and 77th in assist-to-turnover ratio (+2.3).

* The combined NCAA Division I 3-point shooting rankings of Tyler Harvey add up to 25 (20th in percentage at 45.2, 5th in average made at 3.80), ranking him third nationally. The only players ahead of him are Ethan Wragge of Creighton (5th 49.2, 4th 3.81) and Karvel Anderson of Robert Morris (9th 47.7, 8th 3.59). Gonzaga’s Kevin Pangos has a collective ranking of 33 (7th 48.1, 26th 3.00).

* The Eagles are leading the Big Sky Conference thus far in 3-pointers made per game (8.5), blocked shots (4.3) and rebounds (37.3), and are second in scoring offense (74.5), second in assists (13.5), third in defensive field goal percentage (.437), third in defensive 3-point field goal percentage (.333) and third in assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.1). Eastern is now sixth in rebounding margin with a minus 0.2 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 second in the Big Sky in scoring (20.3), Venky Jois is 16th (12.9), Drew Brandon is 26th (11.1) and Parker Kelly is 29th (10.5). Harvey and Jois are both sophomores, and no other sophomores or freshmen rank in the top 19. Harvey also leads in 3-pointers made per game (3.8) and is sixth in 3-point field goal percentage (.452). Kelly is leading in free throw percentage (.889) and Harvey is eighth (.826). Brandon leads in assists (5.5), is second in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (+2.3) and ranks eighth in rebounding (6.8). Martin Seiferth is second in field goal percentage (.636), third in blocked shots (1.4) and 14th in rebounding (4.9), and Jois is second in blocked shots (1.5), third in rebounding (8.1) and fifth in offensive rebounds (2.7).

* Sophomore Tyler Harvey is the second-leading scorer in the Big Sky with a 20.3 average and is leading in conference games only (23.3). He has scored 93 points in his last four games, including 25 versus Montana when he made seven of his last eight shots to finish 10-of-21 from the field. He also had a 30-point effort against Weber State on Jan. 2 when he equaled the 39th-best performance in school history. He scored 21 in the first half alone en route to equaling the career high of 30 he set in EWU’s last victory on Nov. 29 versus Seattle. He finished 10-of-17 from the field, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range and 6-of-6 from the free throw line.

* Martin Seiferth is nearing a school record with Venky Jois close behind, as four young Eagles are already ranked among Eastern’s career leaders. Seiferth’s 89 blocks ranks second in school history, only 10 behind the school record of 99 (Paul Butorac 2004-07). Jois has 88 blocked shots to rank third. Seiferth also currently ranks No. 2 in career field goal percentage (.628), ranking just behind Ron Cox (.629 from 1974-77). Tyler Harvey is currently third in 3-point field goal percentage (44.7 percent), with the school record of 50.3 percent held by Marco Quinto (1999-02). Parker Kelly is ninth in 3-point percentage (39.9 percent) and seventh in 3-pointers made with 117.

* If the schedule and travel wasn’t difficult enough in December and early January, Eastern has had to battle a recent rash of illness and injuries. Head coach Jim Hayford said all but three of his players fought through flu-like symptoms while they were in Utah and Idaho, including a missed game versus Weber State for backup point guard Daniel Hill. Also, key reserve Ognjen Miljkovic has now missed four-straight games with an ankle sprain and Thomas Reuter continues to battle the effects of Crohn’s Disease diagnosed during Eastern’s week-long trip to play Seton Hall and Connecticut. Reuter became ill after the team’s first day on the East Coast 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.”

* Until winning by five over Montana State on Jan. 11, none of EWU’s first 14 games this season were decided by less than seven points. Eastern was 10-21 overall and 7-13 in the Big Sky a year ago, and were 6-10 in games decided by 10 points or less. Nine of their losses were one-possession games with four minutes left. “We learned a lot of lessons last year by not having that fight in us, and I think the players have said it feels a lot better fighting,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. “Nobody is going to give us anything so we have to go take it. I think that is part of the team maturing, and I am just really, really proud of our team’s progress.”

* In the Sagarin computer ratings through games of Jan. 12, Eastern is 211th with the 70th-toughest strength of schedule in the nation. December opponents Connecticut (37th), Saint Mary’s (49th), UC Irvine (96th) and Seton Hall (103rd) are all ranked in the top 110. Northern Arizona is 264th and Sacramento State is 309th, and Northern Colorado is the top Big Sky team at 140th.

* Through games of Jan. 12, the Eagles are third in the Big Sky Conference and 227th in NCAA Division I (345 schools) in RPI. Northern Colorado is currently the top Big Sky school in the RPI at 166th, and North Dakota has the league’s toughest schedule ranking 67th in the nation. The Big Sky’s team RPI rating is 27th among 33 conferences. Among this week’s opponents, Northern Arizona is 249th overall and fifth in the Big Sky, and Sacramento State is 316th nationally and ninth in the league.

* Venky Jois, the Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year in the 2012-13 season, is EWU’s second-leading scorer with a 12.9 average. He is also averaging a team-leading 8.1 rebounds, as well as 2.4 assists and 1.5 blocks per game. So far he has five double-doubles this season. He had nine double-doubles as a freshman to rank among the leaders in NCAA Division I, and now has 14 in his 43-game career (41 as a starter).

* Point guard Drew Brandon, a transfer from Sierra College in California, is averaging 11.1 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.1 steals per game after his first 15 games in NCAA Division I. He already has a trio of double-doubles, including a near-miss of a triple-double with 15 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds versus Montana State in a 77-72 win. He equaled the 15th-most assists in school history with 10 assists against Walla Walla and MSU, becoming the 28th Eastern player to finish in double figures in assists in a game. He finished with 13 points, 14 rebounds and six assists versus Washington on Nov. 17 in just his second D-I game. He is the lone newcomer to EWU’s starting lineup.

* Sophomore guard Tyler Harvey has now averaged 19.0 points per game in his last 23 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 (by contrast, in the first 13 games this season he scored 261 with an average of 20.1 per game). In his freshman 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 36.4 minutes and 20.3 points per game this season.

* In Eastern’s most recent game, Drew Brandon had two key offensive rebounds down the stretch and made two free throws with eight seconds to play to lift Eastern to a 77-72 victory over Montana State and hand the Bobcats their first Big Sky loss of the season Jan. 11 at Reese Court. Sophomore Venky Jois also had two important blocked shots in the last 1:25 of the game to help Eastern record a weekend sweep, and sophomore Tyler Harvey and junior Parker Kelly combined for 37 points and nine 3-pointers in the win. And substitute Thomas Reuter scored three huge points in the final 18 seconds and finished with eight rebounds. Harvey, the second-leading scorer in the Big Sky, hit his season average with 19 points and five 3-pointers. Kelly scored 15 of his season-high 18 points in the first half, and finished with four 3-pointers, as EWU finished 12-of-23 as a team. Jois had the fifth double-double of the season and 14th of his career with 14 points and 10 rebounds. And Brandon finished with 15 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds in a near-miss of a triple-double. Eastern led 37-21 in the first half only to have MSU out-score EWU 40-13 and take an 11-point lead after halftime. But Eastern scored 27 of the final 38 points to finish with the victory.

* Also last week, six-foot-10 junior Martin Seiferth came to the party with 21 points and 12 rebounds as the Eagles opened their Big Sky home schedule Jan. 9 with a 69-62 victory over two-time defending champion Montana at Reese Court. The win was Eastern’s first victory since Nov. 29, as the Eagles snapped a six-game losing streak—including five games on the road. It also snapped EWU’s five-game losing skid against the Grizzlies, and was EWU’s first victory over UM since winning 59-55 in overtime on Feb. 26, 2011. Montana has played in four straight Big Sky Championship games and has posted four consecutive 20-win seasons. Seiferth had his most productive game against a NCAA Division I opponent this season by making 10-of-13 shots from the field with five dunks and four blocked shots. Tyler Harvey at one point in the game was just 3-of-13 from the field, but made seven of his last eight shots to finish with a game-high 25 points and four assists. Venky Jois had 14 points, seven rebounds, five assists and a blocked shot as he came three boards from his fifth double-double of the season and 14th of his career. Point guard Drew Brandon chipped in four points, eight rebounds and five assists for the Eagles. And Parker Kelly did a superb job guarding Montana’s Kareem Jamar, who entered the game ranked third in the Big Sky and 49th nationally at 19.3 points per game. Jamar, an honorable mention All-America selection a year ago after winning Big Sky Conference regular season and tournament MVP honors, finished with only 10 points on 3-of-9 shooting from the field, as Kelly finished with three steals and three points.

 
 

Other Season Notes

* Twice in school history, EWU has now defeated Montana and Montana State in football, then followed with a home sweep of the Grizzlies and Bobcats in men’s basketball. Besides this year, the other time it happened was in 1992-93. Eastern has never gone 6-of-6 or even 5-of-6 in combined football/men’s basketball meetings with the Bobcats and Grizzlies, with the closest four wins several times. The Eagles play at Montana State on Feb. 6 and Montana on Feb. 8.

* 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.

* 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.

* 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 and its All-Big Sky Conference Team during non-conference play. Jois helped lead EWU to a 5-2 record in November -- 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.”

* 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 Northern Arizona: “I have lots of respect for NAU coach Jack Murphy – he’s building a great program. He brought in some junior college players and teamed them with two frontcourt players, who are now in their third year. They are men -- they are not boys. They’ve had some immediate success in the Big Sky and they’ve played hard. When you look at the shooting improvements they’ve made in conference play, you see a much-improved team. I have a lot of respect for them.”

On Sacramento State: “One of my oldest friends in college basketball is Brian Katz from Sac State. His teams play really, really hard, and usually the team that plays the hardest wins. We can count on a great effort from Sac State and a very talented backcourt.”

On Home Sweep Over Montana Schools: “We’re building a program and we’re doing it with players who are doing it together. It’s interesting to think about where we were against Montana last year, and their roster and our roster this season only changed by a couple of players. To see how that played out just showed me that we are gaining ground. Montana State is a mature team – they have as many seniors and upperclassmen as anybody. For us to compete with them shows me that as a program we are moving in the right direction. The games themselves were both won on defense. We took care of the ball really well against Montana and not so much against Montana State. But in both games we found a way to win, and the result could have gone either way with four minutes to play. I think that shows maturity because there were a number of games last year in which we were right there with four minutes to go, but weren’t finding ways to win. Being a year older, our players are finding a way to win and that is what has me encouraged.”

On Venky Jois: “Venky has been consistent through four conference games. It’s neat when you feel like you have one of the premier frontcourt players in the Big Sky Conference and he’s playing that way. So my hat is off to Venky for starting his conference season that way. I only expect more and more from him each night out as he continues growing. He’s had lots of playing time, so he has the minutes of a junior with sophomore eligibility. He’s a leader and we count on him.”

On Parker Kelly’s Weekend: “I thought Parker had just a fantastic weekend. He shut down (Montana guards Kareem Jamar) and then came out and shot really, really well to give us a great start against Montana State.”

On Thomas Reuter and Performance Against MSU: “Again, I am very, very proud of my team and their heart. I think it is all epitomized in Thomas, who had an amazing half on the boards and made a big free throw at the end. Right now he is waking up every day and doesn’t know how he is going to feel. But he says I am here, and I am going to give it all I got. When you are coaching guys like that you can build a program. I am really proud of my team.”

On Daniel Hill and Minutes as Sub for Drew Brandon Versus MSU: “Drew had a bad 10 seconds with fouls No. 3 and 4. He had an offensive foul and then fouled on a 3-point shot. That is where Daniel Hill came in and gave us some great minutes on the court. We knew we were not going to win without bench production. I thought we would have to go to the bench at different spots, but it happened so fast. Daniel came in, had a few mistakes, but kept the ship running -- so give credit to Daniel.”

On Montana Win: “I am certainly very proud of our guys. This was a game that you had to have toughness, and you had to have grit. Our players showed that. To show that while not winning a game since Nov. 29 shows amazing character. They didn’t start doubting, and they kept confidence in themselves, their teammates and their coaching. They kept focusing on getting better. We played a very difficult schedule, and we played it away from home. These guys kept their chin up, and they believed. That is why we got this win over the defending champion in our gym.”

On Martin Seiferth and Tyler Harvey: “I am really proud of Martin. He has been struggling, but he kept bringing great effort. For him to have his signature game and have it be against Montana, I am just really happy for him. Tyler came up and had a great second half -- he wasn’t happy with his numbers at halftime. I knew he was going to put the ball in the basket. We had two threes for him on the inbounds play on the zone. I thought that made the basket a little bit bigger for him. Again, I want to go on the record saying I love the character of our players.”

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.”

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. Northern Arizona Series Notes

* Since Eastern became a member of NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season, the Eagles are 26-33 versus Northern Arizona, including a 8-20 record in Flagstaff, Ariz., 17-12 in Cheney and 1-1 on neutral courts. Eastern trails in the all-time series 26-34 (8-20 in Flagstaff, 17-12 in Cheney, 1-2 neutral). The only meeting before Eastern became a member of NCAA Division I was an 84-80 NAU victory on Dec. 20, 1969, in Fresno, Calif.

* A year ago, Eastern beat Northern Arizona 82-59 at home on Jan. 10, then picked up a 77-74 victory in Flagstaff on Feb. 9. In the home game, Venky Jois had a double-double with 14 points, 14 rebounds and four blocked shots.

* Despite sweeping NAU in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, the Eagles have lost 10 of the last 17 meetings. Eastern hasn’t lost to NAU since falling 83-74 on Feb. 16, 2011, in Flagstaff.  In winning two games versus NAU in the 2000-2001 season, Eastern swept the regular season meetings with the Lumberjacks for the first time in 10 years. Eastern duplicated that feat in 2003 and 2004, and again in 2012 and 2013.

* Eastern had won six-straight games against the Lumberjacks and nine of the last 11 until falling 77-64 in Flagstaff on Feb. 5, 2005. The Lumberjacks beat EWU 105-95 on Jan. 5, 2006, in a game in which Eastern’s Rodney Stuckey scored a school-record 45 points.

 

EWU vs. Sacramento State Series Notes

* Since Eastern became a member of NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season, the Eagles are 26-12 versus Sacramento State, and the two schools did not play against each other prior to that.

* A year ago, Eastern lost to Sacramento State 60-53 at home on Jan. 12, then fell in Sacramento 61-55 on Feb. 7.

* Despite losing the last three meetings, the Eagles have won 19 of their last 27 games against the Hornets, and have a 16-3 record versus Sacramento State in Cheney and a 10-9 record in Sacramento. Until losing 75-71 on Feb. 4, 2012, Eastern had won the last 15 meetings at home against Sac State, dating back to a 68-67 Hornet victory on Jan. 19, 1995.

* Until falling 74-67 at Sacramento State on Feb. 7, 2010, the Eagles had won the last eight meetings dating back to an 88-69 Hornet victory on Jan. 7, 2006, also in Sacramento.

 
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