Eagles Head to Montana State & Montana in Thick of Big Sky Race

After much-needed victory over previous Big Sky leaders, Eastern sets its sights on season sweeps over Bobcats and Grizzlies

Complete Release in .PDF Format

Upcoming Games

Thursday, Feb. 6 - Worthington Arena (7,250) - Bozeman, Mont.
6:05 p.m. Pacific - Eastern Washington (9-12/4-6) at Montana State (10-11/5-5)

Saturday, Feb. 8 - Dahlberg Arena (7,322) - Missoula, Mont.
6:05 p.m. Pacific - Eastern Washington at Montana (10-9/5-5)

 

Coaches Show

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 download app).

Coverage

TV: None.
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 & Montana State) or ewustats.com (mobile phones/EWU Home Games & Montana State); www.gogriz.com/ot/mont-gametracker.html (Montana) . . .

 


 

Hitting the road won’t be as intimidating now.

Back in the thick of the Big Sky Conference race after an overtime victory over the former Big Sky Conference leaders, the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team returns to the road to face Montana State (Feb. 6) and Montana (Feb. 8). Both games begin at 6:05 p.m. Pacific time and will be carried live on ESPN 700-AM and www.watchbigsky.com.

Eastern is now 4-6 in the Big Sky and 9-12 overall following its 94-90 home win over Northern Colorado last Saturday (Feb. 1), thanks to another record-breaking day for sophomore guard Tyler Harvey, who is this week’s College Sports Madness Big Sky Conference Player of the Week. The Bears, who shared the league lead with Weber State heading into the weekend, fell to 7-3 in the Big Sky after getting swept last weekend.

As a result, only four games separate first place (Weber State 8-2) and 10th (EWU, Sacramento State and Idaho State at 4-6). Montana beat Montana State 70-66 in Bozeman on Monday (Feb. 3), and both of those teams are just ahead of the Eagles at 5-5. The Bobcats are 10-11 overall and the Grizzlies enter their game Thursday versus Portland State with a 10-9 mark.

“Obviously, (Northern Colorado) was a really big win,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. “To be 4-6 at the turn of conference instead of 3-7 is the big plus. Northern Colorado is probably going to be one of the top three teams at the end of the season, and that could help us in the tiebreakers.”

Earlier this season, the Eagles beat Montana 69-62 and Montana State 77-72 at home. However, EWU is 0-5 in road league games thus far and is still looking for its first road win of the year. Overall, the Eagles are 0-10 on opponent home courts, 7-2 at home and 2-0 on neutral courts.

A year ago when it failed to qualify for the Big Sky Conference Tournament, EWU was 6-15 overall after 21 games and 3-7 at the mid-point of the league schedule. The top seven league teams advance to the postseason tourney, which takes place March 13-15 at the site of the regular season champion.

 “We are a little bit ahead of where we were last year,” said Hayford, whose team’s next home game is Feb. 13 versus Sacramento State. “We just have to keep hunting them out one at a time.”

Eastern’s Martin Seiferth and/or Venky Jois could both surpass the school record for career blocked shots on Saturday. Seiferth’s 98 blocks ranks second in school history, just one behind the school record of 99 (Paul Butorac 2004-07). Jois is right behind with 97.

Harvey continues to lead the Big Sky Conference in scoring both overall (21.1) and in league games only (23.2), and ranks in the top 15 nationally in three categories. He equaled the sixth-most points in school history with a career-high 38 versus UNC, just two days after scoring a season-low seven in a 73-61 loss to North Dakota. He made 10-of-15 3-pointers against the Bears, equaling the school record of 10 originally set by Kevin Winford against New Hope on Dec. 4, 2010. He already has 77 this season and is on pace to finish the regular season with 113 and break the school record of 103.

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) versus UNC. Eastern came just two away from the record of 18 set against New Hope.

Hayford has used three different starting lineups in the last five games, and had juniors Parker Kelly and Martin Seiferth coming off the bench last Saturday. They responded to combine for 27 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots versus UNC.

“We are very, very young,” said Hayford of his senior-less squad. “We started two sophomores, a freshman and a junior college point guard (against UNC). What we have been lacking is that determination and grit to get over the hump. Instead of looking for good things to happen to us, we have been in some games where we have accepted the bad things happening to us. I feel like we grew up, and we understand we make our own journey.”

 

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
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

 

Eagle Tip-Ins 

* 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.

* The Eagles are leading the Big Sky Conference thus far in 3-pointers made per game (8.2), blocked shots (4.4) and rebounds (36.4); are second in scoring offense (75.0) and defensive 3-point field goal percentage (.342); and are third in assists (13.4). Eastern is now sixth in rebounding margin with a minus 0.4 for the season thus far. A year ago, Eastern was 10th out of 11 teams with a minus margin of 4.2 per game.

* In league games only, EWU leads the Big Sky in 3-pointers made per game (7.9) and 3-point field goal percentage defense (.339). The Eagles are also second in scoring (74.2), assists (13.3) and blocked shots (4.8), but are last in points allowed (78.8).

* In NCAA Division I statistics through games of Feb. 2, Eastern is ranked 29th among 345 schools with an average of 8.2 3-pointers made per game, 97th in 3-point field goal percentage (36.3 percent) and 93rd in scoring offense (75.0). 

* 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 8-0 when it has a better shooting percentage than its opponents and 1-12 when it doesn’t. Also, the Eagles are 9-1 when making at least 45.0 percent of their shots, and 0-11 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 3-11 when opponents shoot better than that mark. Eastern is 8-3 when scoring 71 or more points, and 5-1 when allowing 70 or fewer.

* Finding consistency at home and on the road is 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 0-10, the Eagles are averaging 68.9 points on 39.4 percent shooting (31.3), while opponents are scoring at an 84.8 clip and making 48.0 percent from the field (36.8). “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. 3, Eastern is 269th with the 204th-toughest strength of schedule in the nation. December opponents Connecticut (25th), Saint Mary’s (61st), Seton Hall (81st) and UC Irvine (97th) are all ranked among the nation’s leaders. Northern Colorado the top Big Sky team at 181st, with Weber State right behind at 183rd. Among this week’s opponents, Montana is 212th and MSU is 281st.

* Through games of Feb. 2, the Eagles are sixth in the Big Sky Conference and 255th in NCAA Division I (345 schools) in RPI. Northern Colorado is currently the top Big Sky school in the RPI at 180th, followed by Weber State at 188th and Montana at 224th. Montana State is seventh in the league with a national ranking of 267.

 
 

Eagle Player Notes 

* For the second time in the past four weeks, sophomore guard Tyler Harvey has been selected as the College Sports Madness Big Sky Conference Player of the Week after yet another record-breaking effort. Breaking a school record and eclipsing 36 points for the second time in four games, Harvey made 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. 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. He tied the record of 10 by Kevin Winford against New Hope on Dec. 4, 2010 and his 38 points equaled current Detroit Piston Rodney Stuckey for the sixth-most in school history. Harvey finished 10-of-15 from the 3-point stripe after going just 1-of-8 from outside the arc and finishing with just seven points in his last outing against North Dakota. He scored 36 points versus Southern Utah on Jan. 23 when he made 20-of-20 free throws to break school and Big Sky records for accuracy and total makes. Harvey continues to lead the Big Sky Conference in scoring both overall (21.1) and in league games only (23.2). He was also honored by College Sports Madness on Jan. 13 after he scored 25 points in a 69-62 win over Montana and 19 in a 77-72 triumph against Montana State.

* Junior point guard Drew Brandon, a transfer from Sierra College in California, had a double double-double last week for the Eagles. He had 11 points and 13 rebounds versus North Dakota, 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 ranks among the league leaders in four categories, with averages of 10.7 points (25th), 6.8 rebounds (seventh), 5.5 assists (first) and 1.2 steals per game (11th) after his first 21 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.

* After missing six-straight games with an ankle injury, Ognjen Miljkovic has averaged 16.0 points in the four games since. 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-poninters. Last weekend, he scored 14 against North Dakota and five versus Northern Colorado. Miljkovic hadn’t played since scoring 15 points against Connecticut on Nov. 28. He is now averaging 9.9 points and 4.0 rebounds in an average of 19.8 minutes per game.

* Junior Parker Kelly a starter EWU’s first 20 games this season and 17 in his sophomore season, came off the bench in EWU’s 94-90 win over Northern Colorado on Feb. 1. 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. He also had six rebounds, two assists and a pair of blocked shots.

* Individually, Tyler Harvey continues to lead the Big Sky in scoring (21.1), ahead of North Dakota’s Troy Huff (19.7). Venky Jois is 15th (13.1), Drew Brandon is 25th (10.7) and Parker Kelly is 28th (10.3), with Ognjen Miljkovic (10.0) not playing enough games yet to qualify (he has 15 and would need 16). 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 (3.7), and is third in free throw percentage (.895) and fourth in 3-point field goal percentage (.450). Kelly is second in free throw percentage (.895). Brandon leads in assists (5.5), is second in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (+2.1) and ranks seventh in rebounding (6.8). Jois is third in blocked shots (1.5), third in rebounding (8.2) and 10th in field goal percentage (.525) and Martin Seiferth is fourth in blocked shots (1.4) and 18th in rebounding (4.3)

* In league only statistics, Tyler Harvey leads in scoring (23.2) and 3-pointers made per game (3.8), and ranks second in free throw percentage (.886). Drew Brandon is leading in assists (5.4) and is sixth in rebounding (6.8). Venky Jois is third in rebounds (8.5) and fourth in blocked shots (1.4), Martin Seiferth is third in blocked shots (1.6) and Parker Kelly is third in free throw percentage (.875).

 * In NCAA Division I statistics through games of Feb. 2, Tyler Harvey is seventh in 3-pointers made per game (3.67), 14th in 3-point percentage (45.0 percent), 14th in scoring (21.1) and 31st in free throw percentage (.875). Drew Brandon is 37th in assists (5.5) and Venky Jois is 53rd with seven double-doubles and 78th in rebounding (8.2).

* 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 27 of EWU’s last 29 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 ranks third in the Big Sky in games overall (.875) and second in league play (.886). He had made 53-of-58 in his last five 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 and 8-of-8 in a 38-point effort versus Northern Colorado on Feb. 1. “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.”

* Sophomore Tyler Harvey has now averaged 19.9 points per game in his last 29 games as an Eagle after averaging 1.3 points in his first 13 outings. 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.

* Venky Jois, the Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year in the 2012-13 season, is EWU’s second-leading scorer with a 13.1 average on 52.5 percent shooting from the field. He is also averaging a team-leading 8.2 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 49-game career (47 as a starter). He is averaging 12.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.0 blocked shots per game in his career.

 

Eagle Records Watch 

* 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 98 blocks ranks second in school history, only one behind the school record of 99 (Paul Butorac 2004-07). Jois has 97 blocked shots to rank third. Seiferth would rank first in career field goal percentage (.637, ranking just ahead of Ron Cox at .629 from 1974-77) but he doesn’t have enough attempts to qualify (he has 251 and would need 260). Tyler Harvey is currently third in 3-point field goal percentage (44.6 percent) and 12th in 3-pointers made (100), and Parker Kelly is 11th in 3-point percentage (38.8 percent) and seventh in 3-pointers made (125). Kelly’s 84.4 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 141 and needs 165).

* With 77 3-pointers in 20 games, Harvey already ranks third in school history, and needs only 11 to move into second (88, Collin Chiverton, 2011-12). His average of 3.67 per game is on pace to finish with 113 (31 games) and break the record of 103 set by Shannon Taylor in 1999.

* 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, 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.

 
 

Quoting Coach Hayford

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 Overcoming Opponent Scoring Runs: “There are different sides to coaching-- you have to coach the emotional and mental side. You have to have to keep the players believing in themselves. You have to keep challenging them so they don’t accept anything less than their best. You have to help them understand that good things only happen when you are thinking positive. On the other side are the basic X’s and O’s of coaching. You show them not to repeat mistakes, to keep doing good things and they learn.”

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

* 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.”

* 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 three.

* 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.

 

EWU vs. Montana State Notes

* Eastern has won four of the last five meetings against MSU, including a split last season and a 77-72 win earlier this season. Since Eastern became a member of NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season, the Eagles are 26-35 against Montana State (includes two MSU forfeits in the 1993-94 season). Since 1983-84, Eastern is 7-23 in Bozeman and 19-12 in Cheney against the Bobcats. EWU trails in the all-time series 33-43 (21-12 in Cheney, 9-28 in Bozeman, 3-3 neutral).

* Earlier this season, 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.

* A year ago, Eastern was edged by MSU in Bozeman 70-68 and then won in Cheney 72-68. A year earlier Eastern recorded a huge 82-66 road victory over the Bobcats in the first Big Sky Conference game in the head coaching career of Jim Hayford, then later in the year won in Cheney 69-52.

* Eastern has won 16 of the last 29 after winning just once in the previous 13 games (not counting two MSU forfeits). However, Eastern is just 8-10 against the Bobcats in the last 18 meetings, including losses in Bozeman in seven of the last nine meetings. Until a 75-73 triumph on Jan. 10, 2010, in Bozeman, the Eagles hadn’t won in Bozeman since Feb. 5, 2004, in a 64-61 triumph. Later in the season on Feb. 12, 2010, Eastern won at home against the Bobcats 74-69 to complete EWU’s first sweep over MSU since 2004.

 

EWU vs. Montana Series Notes

* Eastern is 18-46 against the Grizzlies since 1983-84, including a 7-25 record in Missoula, 11-19 in Cheney and 0-2 on neutral courts versus the Grizzlies. Eastern’s 69-62 win earlier this season snapped UM’s five-game winning streak against EWU, and leads the series overall 63-38.  A year ago the Eagles lost at home 65-46 and on the road 81-66.

* Earlier this season, 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.

* Eastern has lost 12 of the last 15 meetings and 18 of the last 22, including both games last year and all three meetings in the 2011-12 season. Eastern’s 2011 victory over Montana helped clinch a postseason berth for the Eagles and, in the process, kept the Grizzlies from clinching at least a share of the league title.

* In the 2005-06 season, Eastern lost 73-71 in overtime in the Big Sky Conference Tournament in Flagstaff, Ariz. Eastern trailed by 14 before a late 10-0 run put Eastern back into the game. But Eagle freshman Rodney Stuckey missed a potential game-winning shot at the buzzer to end regulation. Montana then went on a 6-0 run in overtime to end Eastern’s season.

* Prior to the six-game losing streak that Eastern ended on Dec. 30, 2006, Eastern had won 10 of the previous 14 meetings including regular season sweeps three-straight conference seasons from 2001-03. However, the Grizzlies snapped a four-game losing streak to the Eagles when the fifth-seeded Grizzlies upset second-seeded EWU 70-66 in the 2002 Big Sky Conference Tournament championship game in Bozeman, Mont.

* Included in the series history was an 81-75 victory in Missoula to end the 1998-99 season that clinched the sixth and final berth in the Big Sky Conference Tournament for the Eagles. That victory snapped Eastern's eight-game losing streak in Missoula, and a home win in 1998 snapped a 10-game losing streak overall in the series.

* A 77-75 Eagle home loss at the end of the 1999-2000 regular season gave Montana a share of the Big Sky Conference men's basketball title in front of 5,426 fans at Reese Court in Cheney. The Eagles had taken a 12-point lead with 8:06 to play in the second half, but went the next 6:21 without scoring. During Montana's 17-0 run, the Eagles missed 10-straight field goal attempts while the Grizzlies made 6-of-7 shots. The loss was Eastern's first in eight conference home games. Montana made 4-of-6 free throws in the last 23 seconds to clinch the win and hold off Eastern's comeback attempt that included a trio of three-pointers in the last 1:45.

 
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