In four-way tie for sixth at 8-8, Eastern probably
needs at least two more victories to earn one of seven postseason
Thursday, Feb. 27 - Butler-Hancock
Sports Pavilion (2,992) - Greeley, Colo.
6:05 p.m. Pacific - Eastern Washington (13-14/8-8 Big Sky) at Northern Colorado (16-9/10-6 Big Sky)
Saturday, Feb. 29 - Betty
Engelstad Sioux Center (3,064) - Grand Forks, N.D.
12:05 p.m. Pacific - Eastern Washington at North Dakota (12-14/9-7 Big Sky - host PSU on 2/27)
Shows take place at the Swinging Doors in Spokane at 6 p.m.
Mondays Jan. 13 to March 10, 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).
TV: The EWU-UND Game is televised live
regionally by the MidCo Sports Network.
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). Live Stats at UNC; Live Stats at UND.
The race to seven Big Sky Conference Tournament berths is murky at best, and the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team has found itself in the middle of the fog.
Coming off a split with a road win and a home loss, the Eagles now must head back on the road for its most difficult -- if not the most important -- road trip of the league season. Eastern plays at Northern Colorado on Thursday (Feb. 27) at 6:05 p.m. Pacific time, then plays at North Dakota on March 1 in a game that begins at 12:05 p.m. Pacific time and is broadcast by the MidCo Sports Network.
Earlier this season at Reese Court, Eastern fell to UND 73-61 before knocking off UNC in overtime by a 94-90 score. Last week, the Eagles picked up an 85-74 win at Southern Utah on Feb. 22, but fell two nights later at home to Portland State by an 87-76 score on Feb. 24.
The home loss creates a four-way tie for sixth place in the league standings between EWU, PSU, Northern Arizona and Montana State at 8-8. Had EWU won, they would have moved into a tie for third.
Eastern head coach Jim Hayford hopes that 10 league victories would get his team to the postseason, but knows that in a year of balance and in the world of tiebreakers, a .500 team might just get left home this season.
“We have a large amount of teams at 8-8,” said Hayford, whose team closes out the season with home games against Idaho State (March 6) and Weber State (March 8). “We still get two home games, and if we defend our home court we will have 10 wins.”
The Big Sky is a jumble right now, with just three games separating second (Northern Colorado at 10-6) from 10th (Idaho State at 7-9) in the standings. Weber State leads at 12-4 and is in position to host the tourney, but has lost two of its last three. Such parity would be the overriding factor in Hayford’s pitch to advance more than seven of the 11 conference teams to the league tournament in the future.
“There is nothing I have ever seen like this,” he said. “I do know that if it was a 10-team tournament, there wouldn’t be a bad game out there. There is going to be a good team or two that gets left out of the tournament. That is tough.
“I hope it is not us,” he added. “We are going to play hard, and we are going to win so we are in that tournament.”
On the season, Northern Colorado is 16-9, has the best winning percentage in the league (.640) and is a perfect 13-0 at home this season. North Dakota, which hosts PSU on Thursday, is part of a three-way tie for third in the league standings at 9-7, is 12-14 overall and 8-3 at home.
Despite the setback to Portland State, the Eagles have still won five of its last seven games after a 3-6 start in the league. Prior to its three-game winning streak ended versus the Vikings, Eastern was ninth in the league standings.
Sophomore guard Tyler Harvey continues his scoring onslaught for the Eagles, scoring 26 at Southern Utah and 23 versus PSU to bump his season average to 21.8 and his point total to 589 – fifth-most in school history. He has had performances of 36, 37 and 38 since Jan. 23. Now with three of the top 17 scoring performances in school history, Harvey scored 36 in the first meeting with Southern Utah, had 38 versus Northern Colorado on Feb. 1 and then had 37 against Northern Arizona on Feb. 15. All three of those meetings came at home.
Harvey ranks in the top 11 nationally in three categories, and his 97 3-pointers this season are on pace to finish the regular season with 111 and break the school record of 103 set by Shannon Taylor in 1999. He’s already seventh in Big Sky history, with the record 124.
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
The Playoff Picture
In one of the most hotly-contested league races in recent memory, 10 of the 11 league teams are within five games of each other in the race to seven slots in the Big Sky Conference Tournament on March 13-15 at the site of the regular season champion. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head record among tied teams, therefore, sweeps are of paramount importance. The second criteria is record versus teams in ascending order of finish, so, at this point, victories over Weber State and Northern Colorado are critical. Here is a quick glimpse of the league race, remaining games, sweeps and the current cutoff line of the top seven (in the current four-way tie for sixth, MSU is 3-2 amongst tied teams with a victory over NAU, NAU is 3-2, EWU is 3-3 and PSU is 2-4).
^Weber State (12-4…Sac, NAU, @PSU, @EWU) – Sweep
over UND, MSU; Not Swept.
*Northern Colorado (10-6…EWU, PSU, @UND, @SUU) – Sweeps over UM, NAU; Not Swept.
*Montana (9-7… SUU, MSU, @Sac, @NAU) – Sweep over ISU; Swept by UNC.
North Dakota (9-7…PSU, EWU, UNC, @SUU) – Sweep over ISU, NAU; Swept by WSU.
*^Sacramento State (9-7… @WSU, @ISU, UM, MSU) – No Sweeps; Not Swept.
^Montana State (8-8… SUU, @UM, @NAU, @Sac) – Sweep over PSU; Swept by EWU, WSU
Northern Arizona (8-8… @ISU, @WSU, MSU, UM) – Sweep over PSU; Swept by UNC, UND.
^Eastern Washington (8-8…@UNC, @UND, ISU, WSU) – Sweep over MSU; Swept by PSU
^Portland State (8-8….@UND, @UNC, WSU, ISU) – Sweep over EWU; Swept by MSU, NAU.
*^Idaho State (7-9…NAU, Sac, @EWU, @PSU) – No Sweeps; Swept by WSU, MSU, UM
*Win over Weber State; ^Win over Northern Colorado.
* At 13-14 overall, Eastern is already three victories better than last season (10-21) and has one more league win as it had a year ago (7-13). In hopes of garnering one of seven berths in the Big Sky Conference Tournament in March, EWU is ahead of last year’s marks of 6-10 and 9-18 at the same juncture a year ago when EWU failed to qualify. “We keep looking at player improvement and team improvement, and we need to keep pushing that needle forward. If we continue to do that, our hope is that we’ll be a part of the league tournament.”
* Overall, the Eagles are now 9-3 at home, including a 6-2 mark during Big Sky play. The Eagles are 2-11 on opponent home courts, with the lone victories a 79-50 romp in Bozeman on Feb. 6 and an 85-74 win at Southern Utah on Feb. 22. Last season, EWU was 7-7 at home, including just 5-5 in league games.
* The Eagles are leading the Big Sky Conference in scoring offense (76.3), 3-pointers made per game (8.2), assists (13.7) and rebounds (36.6); are second in blocked shots (4.1) and defensive field goal percentage (.450); and are third in defensive 3-point field goal percentage (.352). The Eagles are last in scoring defense (75.7), but allowed just 50 to Montana State on Feb. 6.
* Two of the greatest strides the Eagles have made this season are in rebounding margin and free throw percentage. Eastern is now fifth in rebounding margin with a plus 1.4 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 were 11th and last in the Big Sky in free throw percentage last year at 65.5 percent, but this year have improved that to 69.0 percent to rank ninth in the Big Sky. The Eagles are shooting at a 71.9 percent clip in conference play (sixth).
* In league games only this season, EWU leads the Big Sky in scoring (76.8), 3-pointers made per game (8.0) and rebounds (35.5). The Eagles are also second in assists (13.8) and blocked shots (4.1), but are last in points allowed (76.1).
* In NCAA Division I statistics through games of Feb. 23, Eastern was ranked 21st among 345 schools with an average of 8.3 3-pointers made per game, 56th in 3-point field goal percentage (37.5 percent) and 55th in scoring offense (76.3).
* For the most part, 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 12-1 when it has a better shooting percentage than its opponents and 1-13 when it doesn’t. Also, the Eagles are 13-2 when making at least 45.0 percent of their shots, and 0-12 when they are under that mark. Eastern lost against Portland State on Feb. 24 despite out-shooting the Vikings 50.9 percent to 48.4 percent. In addition, EWU is 9-1 when it holds opponents to 44.4 percent or less from the field, and 4-13 when opponents shoot better than that mark. Eastern is 12-5 when scoring 71 or more points, and 7-1 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 11-3 and has averaged 80.7 points per game on 49.4 percent shooting from the field (42.3 percent from the 3-point line), while allowing 70.6 points per game on 43.2 percent shooting (33.6). But on opponent home courts where EWU is 2-11, the Eagles are averaging 71.5 points on 40.9 percent shooting (32.2), while opponents are scoring at an 81.1 clip and making 46.9 percent from the field (37.3). “It is a growing process to develop a team and get consistency of performance,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford earlier this season. “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. 24, Eastern is 235th to rank fourth among Big Sky teams. December opponents Connecticut (20th), Saint Mary’s (60th), Seton Hall (82nd) and UC Irvine (103rd) are all ranked among the nation’s leaders. Weber State is the top Big Sky team at 163rd, followed by Northern Colorado at 192nd and Montana at 199th. North Dakota is fifth in the Big Sky and 239 overall (out of 351 teams rated).
* Through games of Feb. 23, the Eagles are fourth in the Big Sky Conference and 220th in NCAA Division I (349 schools) in RPI. Northern Colorado was the top Big Sky school in the RPI at 166th, followed by Weber State at 167th and Montana at 182nd. North Dakota was fifth in the league and 234th nationally.
* With 221 3-pointers on the season, EWU is just 62 from the school record of 283 EWU had in Jim Hayford’s first season as EWU’s head coach in 2012. The Eagles are on pace to finish the regular season with 253. The Big Sky record is 317 set by Portland State in 2009. Eastern’s record for attempts is 793 in 2012, and the Eagles currently have 578 (on pace to finish with 689).
* Ron Cox, who earned All-America recognition all four seasons he played basketball for Eastern, will have his No. 30 jersey retired in ceremonies taking place March 8 at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash. The ceremony in his honor will take place at halftime of EWU’s home game versus Weber State, which starts at 2:05 p.m. Pacific time. Current Detroit Piston Rodney Stuckey is the only other Eastern player to have his jersey retired, and Cox’s No. 30 will now hang next to No. 3. Formerly from nearby Coulee City, Wash., Cox played four seasons for the Eagles from 1973-77. He had record totals of 1,741 points and 1,273 rebounds in leading Eastern to a 77-30 record and three Evergreen Conference titles. In his first two years playing for head coach Jerry Krause, the Eagles played in Memorial Fieldhouse along the East side of Washington Street. But the Special Events Center opened across the street in fall of 1975, and his final two seasons were played in the new facility (later additionally named Reese Court). In his senior season, in which the Eagles finished 25-4, Cox helped Eastern start a school-record 31-game home winning streak, which would continue until Dec. 8, 1978. Cox received his bachelor’s degree at Eastern in 1978 and his master’s degree in 1995. Drafted in the sixth round of the 1977 NBA draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers, a foot injury ended his professional career before it even started. Cox went on to a highly-successful high school coaching career which included 388 victories in 26 seasons. He was inducted into the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame in 1998, and in 2011 was admitted to the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association Hall of Fame.
Eagle Player Notes
* In NCAA Division I statistics through games of Feb. 22, Tyler Harvey was fifth in 3-pointers made per game (3.65), seventh in 3-point percentage (45.5 percent), 11th in scoring (21.8) and 26th in free throw percentage (.880). Drew Brandon was 33rd in assists (5.5) and Venky Jois was 62nd with eight double-doubles and 82nd in rebounding (8.1).
* Individually, Tyler Harvey continues to lead the Big Sky in scoring (21.8), ahead of Montana’s Kareem Jamar (19.5), North Dakota’s Troy Huff (19.5) and Weber State’s Davion Berry (18.9). Venky Jois is 12th (13.4), Drew Brandon is 23rd (11.1) and Parker Kelly is 30th (10.0). Harvey and Jois are both sophomores, and no other sophomores or freshmen rank in the top 21. Harvey also leads in 3-pointers made per game (3.6) and free throw percentage (.884), and is second in 3-point field goal percentage (.451). Kelly is second in free throw percentage (.871). Brandon leads in assists (5.4) and assist-to-turnover ratio (+2.1) and ranks sixth in rebounding (6.7). Jois is third in blocked shots (1.4), third in rebounding (8.1) and ninth in field goal percentage (.519) and Martin Seiferth is first in field goal percentage (.669), fourth in blocked shots (1.3) and 14th in rebounding (5.0).
* In league only statistics, Tyler Harvey leads in scoring (23.6), 3-pointers made per game (3.6) and free throw percentage (.894). Drew Brandon is leading in assists (5.3), is second in assist-to-turnover ratio (+2.0), sixth in rebounding (6.7), sixth in free throw percentage (.841) and 23rd in scoring (10.9). Venky Jois is 11th in scoring (14.2), second in rebounds (8.3) and third in blocked shots (1.4), and Martin Seiferth is first in field goal percentage (.720) and fourth in blocked shots (1.3).
* Venky Jois, the Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year in the 2012-13 season, had a career-high 29 points and 13 rebounds for his eighth double-double of the season – and first since Jan. 27 – in EWU’s 85-74 victory at Southern Utah on Feb. 22. He followed that with 18 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots against Portland State on Feb. 24. He 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 13.4 average (12th in the Big Sky) on 51.9 percent shooting from the field (ninth). He is also averaging a team-leading 8.1 rebounds (third), as well as 2.4 assists and 1.4 blocks per game (third). So far he has eight double-doubles this season. He had nine double-doubles as a freshman to rank among the leaders in NCAA Division I, and now has 17 in his 55-game career (53 as a starter). He is averaging 12.9 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.9 blocked shots per game in his career, and holds the school record with 105 career blocks.
* Now just six 3-pointers from the school record of 103, Tyler Harvey is climbing the Big Sky list as well. His 97 are seventh and one from ranking fifth (98 by David Bell from Montana in both 2002 and 2003). Former BSC record holder Shannon Taylor from Eastern is third on the list with 103 in 1999, and the league record is 124 set by Stephen Sir of NAU in 2007.
* The combined NCAA Division I 3-point shooting rankings (through games of Feb. 23) of Tyler Harvey add up to 12 (5th in average made at 3.65 and 7th in percentage at 45.4), ranking him in a tie for first nationally. The co-national leader is Ethan Wragge of Creighton with a total ranking of 12 (10th 3.37, 2nd 50.0). Karvel Anderson from Robert Morris has a total ranking of 17 (13th 3.28, 4th 46.8).
* Eastern is 5-2 in the seven games this season junior Martin Seiferth has scored in double figures, and 5-1 when he’s had at least nine rebounds. He has scored in double figures in five of EWU’s last seven outings, including a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds against Sacramento State on Feb. 13. In his last seven games, he is averaging 10.1 points and 7.3 rebounds while making 71.7 percent of his shots from the field (33-of-46). For the season, he is averaging 7.0 points and 5.0 rebounds on 66.9 percent shooting. As a result, he is currently the school record holder for career field goal percentage at 64.4 percent, just ahead of Ron Cox (1974-77) at 62.9 percent. In his 58-game EWU career (54 as a starter), the Oregon transfer is averaging 7.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocked shots per game.
* In a home sweep on Feb. 13 and 15, junior point guard Drew Brandon had 18 assists and just two turnovers in 75 minutes in EWU’s home sweep over Sacramento State and Northern Arizona – including performances of nine assists and one turnover in each game. He ranks among the league leaders in four categories. He has averages of 11.1 points (23rd), 6.7 rebounds (sixth), 5.4 assists (first) and an assist-to-turnover ratio of +2.1 (first) after his first 27 games in NCAA Division I (all as a starter). 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 had a double double-double during one homestand this season -- 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 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 in EWU’s first 20 games this season and 17 in his sophomore season, came off the bench in three-straight games before starting again on Feb. 13 in an 85-72 win versus Sacramento State. He responded with a game-high 18 points, including 15 in the first half on 6-of-10 shooting in helping EWU open a 21-point lead. He then had 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the 3-point stripe in EWU’s 84-65 win over Northern Arizona on Feb. 15. He is averaging 10.0 points and 35.0 minutes per game this season, and 8.0 points with 139 career 3-pointers (fifth in school history) in his 88-game career (42 as a starter).
* Sharp-shooting sophomore guard Tyler Harvey hit nine 3-pointers en route to a 37-point outing in EWU’s 84-65 win over Northern Arizona on Feb. 15, to go along with performances of 36 and 38 he’s had since Jan. 23. Now with three of the top 17 performances in school history, only Rodney Stuckey (45, 38, 36, 36) and David Peed (44, 37, 37) have accomplished that feat. Harvey’s nine 3-pointers against NAU were one from the school record he tied on Feb. 1 in his 38-point effort versus Northern Colorado.
* 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 in early February, 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 33 of EWU’s last 35 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 leading the Big Sky in games overall (.884) and leads in league play (.894). He has made 92-of-101 (.911) in his last 12 outings, including 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 31st-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 8.3 points and 3.6 rebounds in an average of 18.7 minutes per game.
* Sophomore Tyler Harvey has now averaged 20.6 points per game in his last 34 games as an Eagle after averaging 1.3 points in his first 13 outings. In fact, his one-year improvement by 13.7 points per game ranks third 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 15.4 career scoring average in 48 games (31 as a starter).
Eagle Records Watch
* Venky Jois has moved ahead of Martin Seiferth for the school record for career blocked shots. Jois has 105 and Seiferth has 102, as they both surpassed the former record of 99 set by Paul Butorac (2004-07).
* Martin Seiferth ranks first in school history in career field goal percentage (.644, ranking just ahead of Ron Cox at .629 from 1974-77). Tyler Harvey is currently second in 3-point field goal percentage (44.8 percent) and eighth in 3-pointers made (120), and Parker Kelly is 10th in 3-point percentage (39.5 percent) and fifth in 3-pointers made (139). Kelly’s 83.6 percent shooting from the free throw line in his career would rank third in school history (the record is 84.9) if he had enough attempts to qualify (he has 146 and needs 176).
* With 97 3-pointers in 27 games, Tyler Harvey already ranks second in school history, and needs only six to equal the school record. His average of 3.59 per game is on pace to finish with 111 (31 games) and break the record of 103 set by Shannon Taylor in 1999. Harvey has already scored 589 points to rank fifth in school history, and his 21.8 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 11th-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. He also scored 38 against Northern Colorado (Feb. 1) and 37 versus Northern Arizona (Feb. 15) to rank sixth and eighth, respectively, in school history. Previously, Harvey opened league play with a 30-point effort against Weber State (1/2/14) when he equaled what is now the 42nd-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 Eastern’s most recent game, Eastern couldn’t match the energy of Portland State and fell to the Vikings 87-76 Feb. 24 in a key Big Sky game at Reese Court. Portland State converted 11 3-pointers compared to just four for the Eagles, including eight in the second half to out-score the Eagles 56-46 after intermission. Sophomore Tyler Harvey led the Eagles with 23 points, three assists and four rebounds, and Venky Jois scored 18 points and had nine rebounds, three blocks and four assists. Martin Seiferth chipped in 13 points and seven rebounds as EWU had a 46-34 advantage in points in the paint. Junior point guard Drew Brandon had eight points, five assists and four rebounds, but also had six of EWU’s 13 turnovers, leading 14 PSU points. The Eagles made 50.9 percent of their shots from the field compared to 48 percent for the Vikings. It was the first time in 13 games this season Eastern has lost when it has out-shot an opponent, and EWU is now 13-2 when making at least 45 percent of its shots.
* In Eastern’s most recent victory, sophomore forward Venky Jois had a career-high 29 points and 13 rebounds for his eighth double-double of the season to lead the Eagles to an 85-74 victory at Southern Utah on Feb. 22. Sophomore Tyler Harvey added 26 points for the Eagles and junior point guard Drew Brandon chipped in 16 points, five rebounds and a pair of assists. Harvey made 13-of-16 free throws and Brandon sank 8-of-10, and the Eagles finished 33-of-46 (72 percent) as a team. Jois made 10-of-16 shots from the field and 9-of-16 free throws as he eclipsed his previous career high of 22 set on two previous occasions. The Eagles led for all but 32 seconds of the game, and used runs of 11-0 and 9-0 in the second half en route to the team’s second road win in the last three outings. Eastern closed out the victory by making 12 free throws in the final 2:32 of a game that included 60 fouls and 79 free throw attempts between the two teams. And the Eagles did it by attempting only 12 3-pointers – making four – after entering the game with averages of 8.5 makes and 22.6 attempts per game. The Eagles had a dominating 36-20 advantage in points in the paint.
Quoting Coach Hayford
On PSU Loss: “I credit our opponent for a well-played game, and make no excuses. We looked tired. I don’t know if that had to do with getting back from Utah after a Saturday night game with a Monday game turnaround. We are young and strong, and we need to be better for that. We didn’t handle that well. I credit them, and I wish we were a little bit fresher tonight. We went inside and our two starting bigs had a great night. We need to find ways to get them the ball more. We did get Venky 15 shots. In both games their athleticism bothered us. The turnover differential in both games speaks about their athleticism, and they had great guard play in both games. I give them credit.”
On Southern Utah Win: “We showed offensive patience and good execution. For us to shoot only six threes in each have shows we are maturing. We had great shots on our possessions and it resulted in a really good win. Venky obviously had an outstanding night. We thought we had an advantage at his position (four). And with Martin Seiferth being in foul trouble, Venky gave us a quickness advantage on some of their fives. He had a really good night.”
On Exceeding Win Totals of Last Season: “Our whole goal this year was to move this program forward. Our total wins are higher, our home wins are higher and our conference wins are higher. It just indicates that we are moving in the right direction. There is an asterisk next to all of this because we don’t have any seniors. We will keep growing as a team, and as each individual keeps committing to a consistency in their performance, I think we have the program headed in the right direction.”
On Honors Won Feb. 17 by Drew Brandon & Tyler Harvey: “Drew is playing complete games. He’s a defender, a rebounder, he runs our offense and he takes care of the ball. He is coming into his own. Tyler is being recognized for his great individual play that is leading to team success. I am very happy for him. He works hard and deserves the honor.”
On 3-Point Shooting: “We recruit to shoot. If players are three-point shooters, they want to come here. We let it fly and we are among the nation’s leaders in that. What we need to recognize is when they take away the three we need to balance that with attacking the rim. I think our guys are starting to find that balance. If they are going to let us shoot it, we’ll shoot it because we have some guys who are really good shooters.”
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 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.”
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. Northern Colorado Series Notes
* The Eagles are 7-9 all-time versus UNC (5-3 in Cheney, 2-6 in Greeley), with the first meeting taking place on Dec. 20, 1971, when Eastern beat the Bears 76-68 in Greeley, Colo. Since then, all of the meetings have been with EWU as a member of NCAA Division I (since 1983-84), starting in the 2006-07 season when the Bears became a Big Sky Conference member. Eastern has lost the last six meetings in Greeley, having not won there since Jan. 4, 2007 (88-87).
* Earlier this season, sophomore guard Tyler Harvey rebounded from his lowest scoring output of the year by making a school-record 10 3-pointers and totaling 38 points as the Eagles defeated Northern Colorado 94-90 in overtime Feb. 1 at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash. Harvey made a 3-pointer that helped send the game into overtime, then made his record-tying 10th trey to open the extra period and give EWU the lead for good. Harvey finished 10-of-15 from the 3-point stripe after going just 1-of-8 from the line and finishing just seven points in his last outing against North Dakota. The Eagles, who led by as many as 14 in the second half, made 55.2 percent of their 3-pointers in the game (16-of-29). Eastern came just two away from the record of 18 set against New Hope. Overall, Eastern made 54.4 percent of its shots – its best shooting performance since Nov. 22 and its first 50 percent night since Nov. 29. Four Eagles scored in double figures, including 15 points, a career-high 12 assists, seven rebounds and two steals by point guard Drew Brandon. The assists performance by the Big Sky leader was the fourth-most in school history, and his third of the season with at least 10. Junior Parker Kelly, who had scored just eight points in his last two games, came off the bench to score 17 points and grab six rebounds. Junior Martin Seiferth also came off the bench and had 10 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots. The Eagles finished with a season-high 30 bench points.
* Last season, Eastern lost 72-56 in Greeley and then fell later in the year in overtime in Cheney by an 88-80 score. In the 2011-12 season, Eastern split the season series with the Bears in a pair of games decided by a total of four points. Eastern lost 71-70 in Greeley in heart-breaking fashion as UNC won for the fifth-straight time in the series. Collin Chiverton hit the go-ahead basket with 18 seconds to play, then six ticks of the clock later was battling for a loose ball on the floor and called a timeout the Eagles didn’t have. Tate Unruh made two free throws on the technical foul, then EWU was unable to get a potential game-winning shot in the final seconds in a battle for third place in the Big Sky standings. Earlier in the season, Eastern lost at home 75-73.
* In the 2010-11 season, Eastern suffered a heart-breaking 75-73 home loss to the Bears on New Year’s Eve, as UNC’s Elliott Lloyd blocked a potential game-winning shot by Glen Dean with one second remaining.
EWU vs. North Dakota Series Notes
* Eastern is 1-4 all-time against North Dakota, including losses last year in Grand Forks (65-47 on 1/17/13) and in Cheney (78-74 on 3/2/13). Those games were the first meetings since EWU moved to NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season. Eastern hadn’t played North Dakota since Dec. 11, 1982, when EWU lost 75-71 in Grand Forks. A year earlier, the Eagles beat North Dakota 81-72 in Cheney in the only other meeting between the two schools.
* Earlier this season, the Eagles battled used a 9-0 run to take a 45-44 lead with 12:30 play, but North Dakota responded with a 19-4 run and pulled away for a 73-61 Big Sky victory on Jan. 30 at Reese Court. A nearly six minute scoreless stretch was the deciding factor in UND’s run, just after Eastern had rallied from a six-point halftime deficit by holding UND scoreless for 4:33. The Eagles had 16 turnovers and made only 37.7 percent of their shots from the field. Three players scored in double figures for Eastern, including a double-double by point guard Drew Brandon with 11 points, 13 rebounds and three assists. Sophomore Venky Jois added 16 points, five boards and a pair of blocked shots, and freshman Ognjen Miljkovic added 14 points and seven boards after scoring 32 three days earlier at Portland State. The game matched the top two individual scorers in the league, with North Dakota’s Troy Huff owning a 19.9 average entering the game to rank second behind the 20.0 average of EWU Tyler Harvey. Huff finished with 15 while Harvey had just seven on 3-of-12 shooting from the field. Harvey’s string of 23-straight games scoring in double figures came to an end.