Home Games Are Key for Eagles and Their Hopes in Big Sky Dust Storm
With just two games separating second from 10th in Big
Sky standings, Eastern hosts Sacramento State Thursday and Northern
Arizona Saturday looking to avenge earlier road losses
Thursday, Feb. 13 - Reese Court (5,000)
- Cheney, Wash.
6:05 p.m. Pacific - Eastern Washington (10-13/5-7 Big Sky) vs. Sacramento State (10-11/6-6 Big Sky)
Saturday, Feb. 15 - Reese Court (5,000)
- Cheney, Wash.
2:05 p.m. Pacific - Eastern Washington vs. Northern Arizona (10-13/7-5 Big Sky entering 2/13 game at Portland State)
Shows take place at the Swinging Doors in Spokane at 6 p.m.
Mondays Jan. 13 to March 10 (no show 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
Webcast: EWU home games and all Big Sky games are carried at http://www.watchbigsky.com and via the new iphone/android app "Watch Big Sky"
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/all EWU Home Games) or ewustats.com (mobile phones/EWU Home Games).
The visibility from the dust storm called the Big Sky Conference men’s basketball race is very hazy right now.
Eastern Washington University hosts Sacramento State Thursday (Feb. 13) and Northern Arizona Saturday (Feb. 15) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash., seeking to stay in position for a Big Sky Conference postseason playoff berth. Thursday’s game begins at 6:05 p.m. Pacific time, and Saturday’s starts at 2:05 p.m., and both will be carried live on ESPN 700-AM and www.watchbigsky.com.
The Eagles are 5-7 in the league and 10-13 overall, and are tied with Idaho State for ninth in the league standings. Just ahead of them are a trio of teams at 6-6 (Sacramento State, Montana State, Portland State) and only two games ahead of EWU are four teams tied for second at 7-5 (Northern Arizona, North Dakota, Montana and Northern Colorado).
“We need to go defend our home court and get our record to 7-7,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford, whose team is still ahead of last year’s marks of 4-8 and 6-17 at the same junctures. “We’ll see where the dust lays after that – this league is crazy right now.”
Earlier this season, the Eagles lost on the road to NAU (84-65) and Sac State (75-64). Thursday’s game will be is 90’s Night at Reese Court and all fans are encouraged to wear their best 90’s outfit. Prizes to the best dressed fans will be awarded, and The “Eagle Vision” videoboard and music will be themed to the 1990’s.
The Hornets, who are 10-11 overall following a 68-56 home win over Southern Utah on Monday, have won their last four games and are 8-1 this season at home and 2-10 on the road. Included was a recent 78-75 overtime victory over league-leading Weber State and an 87-70 win over NAU. The Lumberjacks, who play at Portland State on Thursday before taking on EWU, are 10-13 overall.
Overall, the Eagles are 1-11 on opponent home courts, with the lone victory a 79-50 romp in Bozeman last Thursday (Feb. 6). The Eagles hadn’t won on the road since beating Idaho State in Pocatello 87-73 on March 7, 2013. Eastern is 7-2 at home (4-1 in Big Sky games) and 2-0 on neutral courts this season. Last season, EWU was 7-7 at home, including just 5-5 in league games.
“One of our big goals as a program is to do a better job defending our home court than we did last year,” said Hayford. “If we want to advance our season, we have to do that. Sacramento State is playing really well – they beat Weber and they played well last Thursday night (against NAU). We are playing well, so it’s going to be a great game. We just have to go defend our home court now.”
Eastern’s Martin Seiferth and Venky Jois enter action this week tied for the school record for career blocked shots. Both have 99 to share the record for the time being with Paul Butorac (2004-07).
The Eagles are coming off an 82-77 loss to Montana, which led wire-to-wire but had to withstand a final EWU comeback attempt. Eastern rallied from a 61-48 deficit with 8:31 to play, but Montana made just enough free throws in the final two minutes to knock off EWU. The Grizzlies missed five, but made 11 – including a pair with three seconds left after the Eagles had whittled the lead down to a single possession game.
Tyler Harvey continues to lead the Big Sky Conference in scoring both overall (21.2) and in league games only (22.9), and ranks in the top 13 nationally in three categories. He already has 82 3-pointers this season and is on pace to finish the regular season with 110 and break the school record of 103.
PDF Link to Fact Book
The complete version of the 2013-14 EWU men’s basketball
fact book may be found at:
More Eagle Basketball Links
Eastern Basketball -- http://goeags.com/sports/m-baskbl/index
Story on EWU Basketball Program at Collegeinsider.com -- http://vimeo.com/85124429
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
* Eastern’s 79-50 rout of Montana State made Eastern a perfect 5-for-5 in football and men’s basketball games against the Bobcats and Grizzlies during the 2013-14 school year. Eastern has never won more than four of the six meetings in any previous season, and the only time EWU has gone 4-0 against UM and MSU on the court came in 1990. A win over Montana would have made EWU a perfect 6-of-6, plus would have enabled EWU to join the 1990 team as the only Eastern squads to finish 4-0 against the Montana schools in men’s basketball. “We wanted to bring something special back to Eastern,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. “We had some guys with tears in their eyes because they really wanted to do that. We were in a position to do something where we could add to the good work of the football team. That’s who we want to be as a program, and we didn’t want a split.”
* Eastern’s 29-point win over MSU was EWU’s most lopsided victory ever in Bozeman, and the second-best overall. Eastern had won nine previous times there (seven since EWU moved to NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season), and the best margin of victory was 16 on Dec. 28, 2011, in Hayford’s first Big Sky Conference game as EWU’s head coach. The most lopsided Eastern victory all-time was 34 on Feb. 25, 2006, in an 87-53 win in Cheney. The 50 points allowed also equaled EWU’s best defensive performance against the Bobcats since allowing 49 in a 49-45 loss to MSU on Dec. 13, 1946, in Bozeman. Eastern had entered the game allowing the most points in the Big Sky Conference at 76.8 overall and 78.8 in league play.
* In EWU’s 79-50 win at Montana State on Feb. 6, all nine Eagles who played scored in the game and eight had at least one rebound. The only defensive performance this season that was better was holding Walla Walla to 44 points, and the previous best versus a DI opponent was 62 versus Montana in January. Eastern entered the game allowing a league-worst 76.8 points per game. Eastern had a 38-22 rebounding advantage, its best against a NCAA Division I opponent this season. The previous best was 12 against Boston back on Nov. 22. The Eagles had a rebounding advantage in only four of their last 16 games entering that game. Eastern, the second-best team in the Big Sky in 3-point shooting defense (.342 entering the game), held MSU to 24 percent (4-of-17) from beyond the arc while the Eagles made 11-of-21 for 52 percent.
* The Eagles are leading the Big Sky Conference in scoring offense (75.2), 3-pointers made per game (8.2) and rebounds (36.6); are second in blocked shots (4.2) and defensive 3-point field goal percentage (.342); and are third in offensive rebounds (10.9) and assists (13.2). Eastern is now fifth in rebounding margin with a plus 0.3 for the season thus far. A year ago, Eastern was 10th out of 11 teams with a minus margin of 4.2 per game. The Eagles are last in scoring defense (75.9), but allowed just 50 to Montana State on Feb. 6.
* In league games only, EWU leads the Big Sky in 3-pointers made per game (7.9) The Eagles are also second in scoring (74.8), 3-point field goal percentage defense (.340) and blocked shots (4.3), but are last in points allowed (76.7).
* In NCAA Division I statistics through games of Feb. 9, Eastern is ranked 27th among 345 schools with an average of 8.2 3-pointers made per game, 95th in 3-point field goal percentage (36.4 percent) and 77th in scoring offense (75.2).
* Win-loss trends continue to show the importance of field goal shooting and field goal shooting defense in EWU’s win-loss record. Eastern is 9-0 when it has a better shooting percentage than its opponents and 1-13 when it doesn’t. Also, the Eagles are 10-1 when making at least 45.0 percent of their shots, and 0-12 when they are under that mark. In addition, EWU is 7-1 when it holds opponents to 44.4 percent or less from the field, and 3-12 when opponents shoot better than that mark. Eastern is 9-4 when scoring 71 or more points, and 6-1 when allowing 70 or fewer.
* Finding consistency at home and on the road continues to be of prime importance for the Eagles at this juncture of the season. At home or on neutral courts this season, EWU is 9-2 and has averaged 80.5 points per game on 49.1 percent shooting from the field (41.5 percent from the 3-point line), while allowing 69.5 points per game on 43.3 percent shooting (32.3). But on opponent home courts where EWU is 1-11, the Eagles are averaging 70.4 points on 40.3 percent shooting (32.2), while opponents are scoring at an 81.7 clip and making 47.1 percent from the field (36.3). “It is a growing process to develop a team and get consistency of performance,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. “We will be working on execution and a strong mindset, so that home or away, our shot selection and execution does not vary. The answer is very clear -- we need to put the ball in the basket with consistency. At the same time, we cannot have our mindset be that we will outscore teams. We need to first take a mindset of defensively stopping our opponent. We need to be better on defense.”
* In the Sagarin computer ratings through games of Feb. 9, Eastern is 246th with the 206th-toughest strength of schedule in the nation. December opponents Connecticut (27th), Saint Mary’s (57th), Seton Hall (86th) and UC Irvine (105th) are all ranked among the nation’s leaders. Weber State is the top Big Sky team at 168th, with Northern Colorado right behind at 194th. Sacramento State is 284th and NAU is 258th.
* Through games of Feb. 9, the Eagles are fifth in the Big Sky Conference and 237th in NCAA Division I (345 schools) in RPI. Weber State is currently the top Big Sky school in the RPI at 157th, followed by Northern Colorado at 189th and Montana at 193rd. Sacramento State is eighth in the league with a national ranking of 276, and NAU is sixth at 267th..
Eagle Player Notes
* The combined NCAA Division I 3-point shooting rankings (through games of Feb. 9) of Tyler Harvey add up to 19 (6th in average made at 3.57 and 13th in percentage at 44.2), ranking him third nationally. The national leader is Ethan Wragge of Creighton with a total ranking of eighth (2nd 49.4, 6th 3.57).
* Venky Jois, the Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year in the 2012-13 season, was recently selected by collegehoopsdaily.com to its All-Big Sky team for the first three months of the season. He is EWU’s second-leading scorer with a 12.8 average on 50.9 percent shooting from the field. He is also averaging a team-leading 7.9 rebounds, as well as 2.3 assists and 1.4 blocks per game. So far he has seven double-doubles this season. He had nine double-doubles as a freshman to rank among the leaders in NCAA Division I, and now has 16 in his 51-game career (49 as a starter). He is averaging 12.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.9 blocked shots per game in his career.
* Junior point guard Drew Brandon, a transfer from Sierra College in California, had a double double-double in EWU’s last homestand. He had 11 points and 13 rebounds versus North Dakota on Jan. 30, then had 15 points and 12 assists in a 94-90 overtime victory over Northern Colorado on Feb. 1. His 12 assists were a career high, and rank as the fourth-most in school history (the record is 18). He followed that with his fifth double figure rebounding game with 10 at Montana State on Feb. 6, then had a career-high 19 points at Montana two nights later. He ranks among the league leaders in four categories, with averages of 10.9 points (25th), 7.0 rebounds (sixth), 5.3 assists (first) and 1.1 steals per game (15th) after his first 23 games in NCAA Division I. He already has five 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 what is now the 16th-most assists in school history with 10 assists against Walla Walla and MSU. He finished with 13 points, 14 rebounds and six assists versus Washington on Nov. 17 in just his second D-I game. He was the lone newcomer to EWU’s opening night starting lineup.
* Junior Parker Kelly a starter EWU’s first 20 games this season and 17 in his sophomore season, has come off the bench in EWU’s last three games. After scoring just a combined total of eight points in his previous two games, he scored 17 on 6-of-9 shooting from the field with a trio of 3-pointers in a 94-90 overtime win over Northern Colorado. He also had six rebounds, two assists and a pair of blocked shots. He followed that with 11 points, three 3-pointers, five rebounds and a pair of steals in a 79-50 romp at Montana State, then scored only three with a career-high seven rebounds at Montana. He is averaging 10.0 points and 35.3 minutes per game this season.
* In NCAA Division I statistics through games of Feb. 9, Tyler Harvey is sixth in 3-pointers made per game (3.57), 13th in 3-point percentage (44.3 percent), 13th in scoring (21.2) and 23rd in free throw percentage (.884). Drew Brandon is 44th in assists (5.2) and Venky Jois is 61st with seven double-doubles and 97th in rebounding (7.9).
* Individually, Tyler Harvey continues to lead the Big Sky in scoring (21.2), ahead of North Dakota’s Troy Huff (19.8) and Montana’s Kareem Jamar (19.6). Venky Jois is 16th (12.8), Drew Brandon is 25th (10.7) and Parker Kelly is 28th (10.0). Harvey and Jois are both sophomores, and no other sophomores or freshmen rank in the top 22. Harvey also leads in 3-pointers made per game (3.7), and is second in free throw percentage (.884) and sixth in 3-point field goal percentage (.443). Kelly leads in free throw percentage (.898). Brandon leads in assists (5.3), is third in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (+2.0) and ranks sixth in rebounding (7.0). Jois is third in blocked shots (1.4), third in rebounding (7.9) and 11th in field goal percentage (.509) and Martin Seiferth is fourth in blocked shots (1.3) and 15th in rebounding (4.7).
* In league only statistics, Tyler Harvey leads in scoring (22.9), 3-pointers made per game (3.6) and free throw percentage (.897). Drew Brandon is leading in assists (5.0) and is sixth in rebounding (7.1). Venky Jois is fifth in rebounds (7.8) and fourth in blocked shots (1.3), Martin Seiferth is third in blocked shots (1.4) and Parker Kelly is second in free throw percentage (.882).
* Not only is he the Big Sky’s leading scorer, but Eastern’s Tyler Harvey has become a dead-eye free throw shooter for the Eagles. A year ago at this time, Harvey was barely seeing the court for the Eagles. But he earned playing time at the end of the season, and has scored in double figures in 29 of EWU’s last 31 games, with a streak of 23 snapped versus North Dakota on Jan. 30. The sophomore made only 43.5 percent of his free throws as a freshman, but this season is second in the Big Sky in games overall (.884) and leads in league play (.897). He has made 69-of-75 (.920) in his last seven outings, a 13-of-13 effort at Northern Arizona on Jan. 16, a Big Sky and EWU record 20-of-20 versus Southern Utah on Jan. 23, an 8-of-8 in a 38-point effort versus Northern Colorado on Feb. 1 and an 11-of-11 effort at Montana on Feb. 8. “He had all the individual workout records for making free throws (last year), so we couldn’t figure out what it was,” recalled Hayford. “He really disciplined himself all year through the offseason to work on his foul shooting.”
* After missing six-straight games with an ankle injury, Ognjen Miljkovic averaged 19.7 points in his first three games back. He had 13 points and seven rebounds against Southern Utah (1/23/14) in his first career start, then had 32 points four days later against Portland State (1/27/14) to equal what is now the 30th-best performance in EWU history. He scored 10 of his points after halftime against SUU, including a go-ahead 3-pointer to start the second half that gave the Eagles the lead for good. He scored 17 in the first half versus PSU and made 11-of-13 shots from the field with four 3-pointers. He then scored 14 against North Dakota on Jan. 30. Miljkovic hadn’t played since scoring 15 points against Connecticut on Nov. 28. He is now averaging 9.4 points and 3.6 rebounds in an average of 19.1 minutes per game.
* Sophomore Tyler Harvey has now averaged 20.0 points per game in his last 31 games as an Eagle after averaging 1.3 points in his first 13 outings. In fact, his improvement by roughly 14 points per game ranks among the top 10 in the nation. A year ago in EWU’s last eight games, 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 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. He currently has a 14.2 career scoring average in 44 games (27 as a starter).
Eagle Records Watch
* Martin Seiferth and Venky Jois enter action this week tied for the school record for career blocked shots. Both have 99 to share the record for the time being with Paul Butorac (2004-07).
* Martin Seiferth would rank first in career field goal percentage (.640, ranking just ahead of Ron Cox at .629 from 1974-77) but he doesn’t have enough attempts to qualify (he has 267 and would need 270). Tyler Harvey is currently third in 3-point field goal percentage (44.1 percent) and 10th in 3-pointers made (105), and Parker Kelly is 11th in 3-point percentage (38.7 percent) and seventh in 3-pointers made (129). Kelly’s 84.6 percent shooting from the free throw line in his career would rank second in school history (the record is 84.9) if he had enough attempts to qualify (he has 143 and needs 168).
* With 82 3-pointers in 23 games, Tyler Harvey already ranks third in school history, and needs only six to move into second (88, Collin Chiverton, 2011-12). His average of 3.57 per game is on pace to finish with 110 (31 games) and break the record of 103 set by Shannon Taylor in 1999. Harvey has already scored 487 points to rank 11th in school history, and his 21.2 average currently is third behind only the averages of 24.6 and 24.2 that Rodney Stuckey had in the 2007 and 2006 seasons, respectively.
* En route to what is now the 10th-best scoring night in school history with 36 points, sophomore Tyler Harvey finished a perfect 20-of-20 from the free throw line in EWU’s 90-83 win over Southern Utah (1/23/14). He broke the previous school and conference record of 16-of-16 by set by Jason Lewis against Weber State on Jan. 27, 2001. The NCAA record is 24-of-24. In addition, Harvey’s 20 charity shots tied the Big Sky record and broke the school mark of 17 set by Matt Piper against Humboldt State on Dec. 28, 1982. His free throw attempts were one shy of Piper’s 21 in that game. Previously, Harvey opened league play with a 30-point effort against Weber State (1/2/14) when he equaled what is now the 41st-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 victory on Nov. 29 versus Seattle.
* Eastern set a pair of school records for free throws by finishing 38-of-49 in a 90-83 win over Southern Utah (1/23/14). The previous team record for made free throws was 34 set against Sacramento State (1/19/95) and Whitman (11/17/09), and the old mark for attempts was 48 versus Sacramento State (1/19/95).
Recent Game Recap
* In EWU’s most recent game, Montana led from start to finish and had 10 3-pointers to Eastern’s five, and went on to hold off the Eagles 82-77 Feb. 8 in Missoula. Eastern rallied from a 61-48 deficit with 8:31 to play, but Montana made just enough free throws in the final two minutes to knock off EWU. The Grizzlies missed five, but made 11 – including a pair with three seconds left after the Eagles had whittled the lead down to a single possession game. Eastern made only 39 percent of its shots in the game, including just 33 percent in the first half. Montana made 45 percent and was 10-of-24 from beyond the arc. The Grizzlies opened a 16-point lead early in the second half and held on for the win. At one point in the second half, the Grizzlies had made 9-of-19 treys while EWU was just 1-of-12. Sophomore Tyler Harvey led the Eagles with 24 points, however, the Big Sky leader in 3-pointers per game was just 1-of-8 from beyond the 3-point arc. He finished 11-of-11 from the free throw line and 5-of-10 from inside the 3-point arc. Junior point guard Drew Brandon had a career-high 19 points to go along with seven rebounds and three assists. But like Harvey, he struggled from the 3-point line (0-of-4) and was perfect from the free throw line (5-of-5). Junior Martin Seiferth scored nine of his points in the first half and finished with 12 points and nine rebounds. He had a blocked shot and Venky Jois had two as both players equaled the school record for career blocked shots. Both have 99 to share the record for the time being with Paul Butorac (2004-07).
* In EWU’s most recent victory, the Eagles opened up an early double-digit lead and dominated in all facets of the game to win for the first time in 11 tries on an opponent home court with a 79-50 romp past Montana State Thursday (Feb. 6) at Worthington Arena in Bozeman, Mont. Eastern had its best defensive performance – by 12 points -- against a NCAA Division I opponent this season. Big Sky scoring leader Tyler Harvey had 19 points, and career highs of eight assists and four steals to lead Eastern’s all-around team effort. Venky Jois had 15 points, six rebounds, four assists and a pair of steals, and Martin Seiferth finished with 12 points and nine boards. Parker Kelly came off the bench and chipped in 11 points and five rebounds. All nine Eagles who played scored in the game and eight had at least one rebound. The only defensive performance this season that was better was holding Walla Walla to 44 points, and the previous best versus a DI opponent was 62 versus Montana in January. Eastern entered the game allowing a league-worst 76.8 points per game. Eastern had a 38-22 rebounding advantage, its best against a NCAA Division I opponent this season. The previous best was 12 against Boston back on Nov. 22. The Eagles had a rebounding advantage in only four of their last 16 games entering Thursday. The Eagles also made 53 percent of their shots from the field, compared to only 39 percent for the Bobcats. Eastern, the second-best team in the Big Sky in 3-point shooting defense (.342), held MSU to 24 percent (4-of-17) from beyond the arc.
Quoting Coach Hayford
On Montana Loss: “We battled from 16 down to three points. For us to shoot 5-of-22 from the 3-point line -- and at the end be in a one-possession game at Montana -- means we’re growing as a team. When we didn’t shoot the ball well from three earlier this season, we didn’t have any chance to win. We gave it all we had, but we didn’t have enough.”
On Parker Kelly’s New Role Off the Bench: “Parker brings us scoring, intensity and great defense. When he’s doing those things consistently it makes us a lot better. He’s finding more rebounds off the bench, so we like it. Parker is the ultimate team player – he doesn’t care if he starts, he just wants to win. I think that helps a lot.”
On Montana State Win: “We played a really complete game, especially on defense and on the boards. We shared the ball very well on offense. They were really keying on Tyler and he was able to run offense that got other guys baskets off the pressure they were putting on him. And he had only one turnover. He did a really good job of not forcing things. He did what he needed to do. We wanted to exert our will, and make it a game of our size over their speed. We established Martin early in the first half with 10 points, and he played really big. We followed a game plan for 40 minutes.”
On Northern Colorado Win After Losing 14-Point Lead: “Our guys stepped up and took victory out of the jaws of defeat instead of snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory. That is something we need to keep learning, so it was an important step for our program. We made it harder on ourselves than we had to, but maybe that is going to be good for us in the long run. The other thing is that we haven’t been in the situation enough where we have been up ten. The other team is going to throw everything at you. They are going to grab, fight, pull and kick. They are like a desperate person, and that is a big wave of energy coming at you. We have not had that many opportunities to understand that. Honestly, we failed it, but we regrouped in the last two minutes and got it done.”
On Tyler Harvey’s Performance Versus UNC: “To go 10-of-15 after going 1-of-8 on Thursday night shows that Tyler doesn’t lack any confidence. He believes in his game, and he believes in his teammates. He understands when he has a great shot it is his role to take it. There are a lot of players that would have come off of Thursday night and said, ‘Oh, I am not going to shoot it.’ He understands what his role is.”
On Tyler Harvey’s 36 Points Against Southern Utah: “Our game plan was to put the ball in his hands because he is making plays. The defense kept fouling him, and Tyler kept making the free throws. It is where we need to be in every part of our program. He made a commitment to developing that area of his game. He went from a really poor free throw percentage last year to setting the Big Sky and school record. I couldn’t be more pleased. He is a good player, he’s a great young man and he is only a sophomore.”
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: “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. 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 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.”
Other Season Notes
* 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 four.
* 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.
EWU vs. Sacramento State Series Notes
* Since Eastern became a member of NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season, the Eagles are 26-13 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 four meetings, the Eagles have won 19 of their last 28 games against the Hornets, and have a 16-3 record versus Sacramento State in Cheney and a 10-10 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.
* Earlier this season, some timely shooting helped the Eagles rally from a 21-point deficit, but Sacramento State’s own hot shooting propelled the Hornets to a 75-64 victory on Jan. 18 in Sacramento. Sac State made 50 percent of its field goal attempts for the game, but at one point made 11-of-17 shots from the field to propel the Hornets to a 56-35 lead. Eastern rallied to pull within six, but the Hornets made nine free throws in the final 1:43 to secure the victory. Four Eagles scored in double figures, led by the 17 points and seven rebounds of sophomore Venky Jois. Point guard Drew Brandon finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and five assists, with most of those stats keeping the Eagles in the game in the first half. Eastern scoring leader Tyler Harvey and junior Parker Kelly had 15 and 11 points, respectively, but combined for just 5-of-21 shooting from the field and 2-of-8 from the 3-point stripe.
EWU vs. Northern Arizona Series Notes
* Since Eastern became a member of NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season, the Eagles are 26-34 versus Northern Arizona, including a 8-21 record in Flagstaff, Ariz., 17-12 in Cheney and 1-1 on neutral courts. Eastern trails in the all-time series 26-35 (8-21 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 11 of the last 17 meetings. 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.
* Earlier this season, Northern Arizona took advantage of cold Eagle shooting from the outside for an 84-65 win on Jan. 16 in Flagstaff, Ariz. A 12-3 run to end the first half and a 17-4 run after intermission were the fatal blows for the Eagles, as NAU broke open a close game that had featured EWU season highs of seven ties and eight lead changes to that point. Eastern, which entered the NAU game ranked 23rd in NCAA Division I in 3-pointers made per game (8.5) and 82nd in percentage (36.9 percent), equaled its season low at 17 percent (4-of-23) against the Lumberjacks. Eastern made only 30.4 percent of their shots overall from the field – its second-worst performance of the year. Sophomore Tyler Harvey led the Eagles with 25 points, and sophomore Venky Jois had his sixth double-double of the season and 15th of his career with 14 points and a career-high 15 rebounds.