First Half of Lengthy League Season Comes to Close at Reese Court
Seeking to maintain its perfect league record at home, Eastern hosts North Dakota on Thursday and Northern Colorado on Saturday as two of league favorites visit Cheney
Thursday, Jan. 30 - Reese Court (5,000)
- Cheney, Wash.
6:05 p.m. Pacific - Eastern Washington (8-11/3-5) versus North Dakota (8-10/5-3)
Saturday, Feb. 1 - Reese Court (5,000)
- Cheney, Wash.
2:05 p.m. Pacific - Eastern Washington versus Northern Colorado (13-4/7-1 entering 1/30)
Shows take place at the Swinging Doors in Spokane at 6 p.m.
Mondays Jan. 13 to March 10 (no shows Jan. 27 and Feb. 24), and
feature head coach Jim Hayford and host
Larry Weir. The Swinging Doors is located at W.
1018 Francis in Spokane. Shows are broadcast on 700-AM ESPN,
www.700espn.com & via iphone app. (search for “Spokane
Radio” and download app).
TV: None for UND game; UNC game is televised
live regionally by SWX digital 6.2 in
Spokane/Cheney/Sandpoint/Lewiston, 23.3 in Yakima and 25.3 in the
Tri-Cities; also via Comcast 306 (Spokane); Davis Cable 514/81.2/12
(Cheney); Time Warner 306 (Coeur d’Alene &
Pullman/Moscow); Charter 287 (Tri-Cities/Yakima), Cable One 466
(Lewiston) and Northland Cable 115 (Moses Lake &
Webcast: EWU home games and all Big Sky games are carried at http://www.watchbigsky.com
Radio: All Eastern games are on 700-AM ESPN in Spokane. Larry Weir returns for his 21st season calling the play-by-play, starting 20 minutes prior to tipoff.
Internet Radio: www.700espn.com or www.tunein.com
Radio iPhone App: Search for “Spokane Radio” and download app. An app is also available for tunein radio.
Live Stats: ewulive.statb.us (web/all EWU Home Games) or ewustats.com (mobile phones/EWU Home Games)
With a 20-game league season, there is still a lot of basketball left to be played. But the importance of this week’s home action for the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team is amplified by the lack of a road breakthrough thus far.
The Eagles reach the halfway point of the league season when they host North Dakota on Thursday (Jan. 30) and Northern Colorado on Saturday (Feb. 1) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash. Tipoff Thursday is 6:05 p.m. and Saturday’s game starts at 2:05 p.m. in a game televised live regionally on SWX. Both games will be carried live on ESPN 700-AM and www.watchbigsky.com.
The Eagles are coming off a 92-83 loss at Portland State that continued EWU’s woes on the road and dropped the Eagles to 3-5 in the Big Sky and 8-11 overall. Thus far, the Eagles are unbeaten at home and winless on the road in Big Sky Conference play. Overall, the Eagles are 0-10 on opponent home courts, 6-1 at home and 2-0 on neutral courts.
“What we still have in our pocket is our ability to defend our home court,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford, whose team allowed 62 second-half points to the Vikings after leading by 10 at intermission. “We can’t let the residue and emotions of the Portland State game affect us Thursday. We play an even better team.
“You need experience to gut through games like this,” he said of his senior-less squad. “You know they are going to come out in the second half on fire because they don’t like being down by 10 in their gym. We need to turn that corner and withstand the charge like we’ve done at home a few times.”
North Dakota comes to town riding a three-game winning streak that has seen it improve to 5-3 in league play and 8-10 on the season. Picked to finished second by the coaches and third by the media in the preseasons polls, UND beat Sacramento State (82-71) and Northern Arizona (84-68) last week at home.
Also owning a three-game winning streak, Northern Colorado enters its game Thursday at Portland State tied for the league lead with Weber State at 7-1. The Bears are 13-4 on the season and rank 13th in this week’s Mid-Major top 25 poll. They were picked to finish fourth in the Big Sky by both the coaches and media, and are also coming off home victories over Northern Arizona (87-72) and Sacramento State (72-62).
A year ago in EWU’s final homestand of the season, Eastern was swept by UND and UNC, falling 88-80 in overtime to Northern Colorado on Feb. 28 and 78-74 to North Dakota two days later. A long 3-pointer by the Bears helped send that game into overtime, and a deflected shot that went in was the big basket down the stretch for North Dakota.
Also last week, EWU used an 8-2 run to open the second half and take the lead for good in EWU’s record-setting 90-83 win over Southern Utah. Eastern set school records for free throw attempts (49) and makes (38), with Tyler Harvey’s perfect 20-of-20 performance setting school and Big Sky records. His 20 made free throws also equaled the all-time league mark and broke EWU’s record.
In all, Harvey finished with 36 points versus the Thunderbirds – ninth-most in school history – to move into the Big Sky lead in scoring average. He added 18 versus Portland State and is now averaging 21.0 overall and 23.4 in league play.
Freshman Ognjen Miljkovic produced his own high-scoring game with 32 points at PSU, and has now averaged 18.7 points in the last three games he has played. His 32 points eclipsed his previous career high of 15 set at Connecticut on Dec. 28, his last game before missing the next six because of an ankle sprain.
“I don’t think our inability to win on the road is because of talent – I like our talented players,” said Hayford. “On the other end of the court we have to play defense too. We need to make a better commitment to defending and that didn’t happen against Portland State.”
This week’s games will feature the top three scoring teams in the league this season. Northern Colorado leads the way with a 75.4 average, with EWU at 74.7 and North Dakota at 74.0. Also, the UND game will match the top two individual scorers in the league, with North Dakota’s Troy Huff owning a 19.9 average to rank second behind the 20.0 average of Harvey.
“We need to guard them a whole lot better,” said Hayford. “I was really pleased with how we played defense for 20 minutes (against Portland State), but we need to do it for 40. It’s a 40-minute game, not a 20-minute game.”
Eastern’s Martin Seiferth and/or Venky Jois could both establish a new record for career blocked shots this week. Seiferth’s 94 blocks ranks second in school history, only five behind the school record of 99 (Paul Butorac 2004-07). Jois is right behind with 92.
PDF Link to Fact Book
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Story on EWU Basketball Program at Collegeinsider.com -- http://vimeo.com/85124429
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Spokesman-Review EWU Basketball Page: http://www.spokesman.com/ewuhoops
Big Sky Conference Basketball -- http://www.bigskyconf.com/index.aspx?tab=basketball&path=mbball
NCAA Basketball -- http://www.ncaa.com/sports/m-baskbl/ncaa-m-baskbl-body.html
ESPN College Scoreboard -- http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/scoreboard
Rodney Stuckey NBA Page -- http://www.nba.com/playerfile/rodney_stuckey/index.html
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* 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 7-0 when it has a better shooting percentage than its opponents and 1-11 when it doesn’t. Also, the Eagles are 8-1 when making at least 45.0 percent of their shots, and 0-10 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 2-10 when opponents shoot better than that mark. Eastern is 7-3 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 8-1 and has averaged 81.1 points per game on 49.8 shooting from the field (41.0 percent from the 3-point line), while allowing 66.9 points per game on 42.1 percent shooting (32.8). 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.”
* The Eagles are leading the Big Sky Conference thus far in 3-pointers made per game (7.9), blocked shots (4.1) and rebounds (36.4); are second in scoring offense (74.7); and are third in assists (12.9) and defensive 3-point field goal percentage (.347). Eastern is now sixth in rebounding margin with a minus 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.
* In NCAA Division I statistics through games of Jan. 26, Eastern was ranked 48th among 345 schools with an average of 7.8 3-pointers made per game, 128th in 3-point field goal percentage (35.3 percent) and 110th in scoring offense (74.2).
* Through games of Jan. 26, the Eagles were fourth in the Big Sky Conference and 235th in NCAA Division I (345 schools) in RPI. Northern Colorado is currently the top Big Sky school in the RPI at 143rd, Weber State is 183rd and Montana is 224th. North Dakota is 248th nationally and sixth in the league.
* In the Sagarin computer ratings through games of Jan. 27, Eastern is 269th with the 181st-toughest strength of schedule in the nation. December opponents Connecticut (34th), Saint Mary’s (45th), Seton Hall (84th) and UC Irvine (102nd) are all ranked among the nation’s leaders. Northern Colorado the top Big Sky team at 143rd, and North Dakota is 261st.
Eagle Player Notes
* After missing six-straight games with an ankle injury, Ognjen Miljkovic 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 the 29th-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. 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 18.6 minutes per game.
* 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 26 of EWU’s last 27 games, with a current streak of 23. The sophomore made only 43.5 percent of his free throws as a freshman, but this season ranks fifth in the Big Sky in games overall (.865) and fourth in league play (.871). He enters the UND game having made 45-of-50 in his last four outings, including a 13-of-13 effort at Northern Arizona on Jan. 16 and a Big Sky and EWU record 20-of-20 versus Southern Utah on Jan. 23. “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.”
* Individually, Tyler Harvey has moved into the lead in the Big Sky in scoring (21.0), just ahead of North Dakota’s Troy Huff (19.9). Venky Jois is 14th (13.4), Drew Brandon is 27th (10.5) and Parker Kelly is 30th (10.1). 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 (3.5), and is fifth in free throw percentage (.865) and fourth in 3-point field goal percentage (.446). Kelly is second in free throw percentage (.887). Brandon leads in assists (5.3), is fourth in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (+2.1) and ranks eighth in rebounding (6.5). Martin Seiferth is third in blocked shots (1.4) and 18th in rebounding (4.2), and Jois is third in blocked shots (1.4), third in rebounding (8.6) and eighth in field goal percentage (.530).
* In league only statistics, Tyler Harvey leads in scoring (23.4) and 3-pointers made per game (3.4), and is fourth in free throw percentage (.871). Venky Jois is second in rebounds (9.4), Martin Seiferth is third in blocked shots (1.5) and Drew Brandon leads in assists (4.9).
* In NCAA Division I statistics through games of Jan. 26, Tyler Harvey was ninth in 3-pointers made per game (3.4), 17th in 3-point percentage (44.6 percent), 17th in scoring (21.2) and 17th in free throw percentage (.888). Drew Brandon was 48th in assists (5.2), Venky Jois 56th with six double-doubles this season and Parker Kelly 18th in free throw percentage (.887).
* The combined NCAA Division I 3-point shooting rankings (through games of Jan. 26) of Tyler Harvey add up to 26 (17th in percentage at 44.6, 9th in average made at 3.44), ranking him fourth nationally. The national leader is Ethan Wragge of Creighton with a total ranking of six (1st 50.0, 5th 3.85).
* Sophomore Tyler Harvey has now averaged 19.7 points per game in his last 27 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, compared to averages of 36.4 minutes and 20.3 points per game this season.
* Venky Jois, the Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year in the 2012-13 season, is EWU’s second-leading scorer with a 13.4 average on 53.0 percent shooting from the field. He is also averaging a team-leading 8.6 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 47-game career (45 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.
* Point guard Drew Brandon, a transfer from Sierra College in California, is averaging 10.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.1 steals per game after his first 19 games in NCAA Division I. He already has a trio of double-doubles, including a near-miss of a triple-double with 15 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds versus Montana State in a 77-72 win. He equaled the 15th-most assists in school history with 10 assists against Walla Walla and MSU, becoming the 28th Eastern player to finish in double figures in assists in a game. He finished with 13 points, 14 rebounds and six assists versus Washington on Nov. 17 in just his second D-I game. He is the lone newcomer to EWU’s starting lineup.
Eagle Records Watch
* With 66 3-pointers in 19 games, Harvey’s average of 3.47 per game is on pace to give him a school-record 107 for the season (31 games). The record is 103 set by Shannon Taylor in 1999. Currently tied for sixth on EWU’s leaders list, Harvey is seven treys from moving into fifth (Marc Axton with 73 in 2005).
* 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 94 blocks ranks second in school history, only five behind the school record of 99 (Paul Butorac 2004-07). Jois has 92 blocked shots to rank third. Seiferth also currently ranks No. 2 in career field goal percentage (.628), ranking just behind Ron Cox (.629 from 1974-77). Tyler Harvey is currently third in 3-point field goal percentage (44.3 percent), and Parker Kelly is 11th in 3-point percentage (38.7 percent) and seventh in 3-pointers made with 120. Kelly’s 83.9 percent shooting from the free throw line in his career would rank second in school history if he had enough attempts to qualify (he has 137 and needs 158).
* En route to the ninth-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 Recaps
* Despite 70 percent shooting and a double-digit lead in the first 20 minutes, Portland State rallied to score 62 points in the second half and knocked off Eastern 92-83 on Jan. 27 in Portland, Ore. Freshman Ognjen Miljkovic had 17 of his career-high 32 points in the first half to help EWU to a 10-point halftime lead, but the Eagles went nearly five minutes without a field goal to open the second half and let the Vikings back in the game. Thanks to 66 percent shooting in the second half by PSU and another more than four-minute stretch without a field goal by the Eagles, the Vikings pulled away for their seventh-straight victory in Portland over EWU. The Vikings closed out the win by making 14-of-16 free throws in the last 2:22 of the game, and EWU finished with a season-high 19 turnovers leading to a 35-11 PSU advantage in points off turnovers. Eastern finished at 49 percent for the game and lost for the first time in nine games when making at least 45 percent of its shots. Sophomore Tyler Harvey, the leading scorer in the Big Sky Conference with an average of 21.2 points per game entering the game, scored 18 for the Eagles. He made 4-of-9 3-point attempts, but was just 1-of-7 from inside the arc. Sophomore Venky Jois chipped in 11 points and 10 rebounds, giving him his seventh double-double of the season and 16th in his career. Junior point guard Drew Brandon finished with eight assists, eight points and seven rebounds.
* In Eastern’s most recent victory, sophomore guard Tyler Harvey made a school and Big Sky Conference record 20-of-20 free throws and finished with a career-high 36 points as Eastern held off the Thunderbirds 90-83 on Jan. 23 at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash. The Eagles finished with school records of 38 free throws made and 49 attempts. An 8-2 run to open the second half gave Eastern the lead for good. Sophomore Venky Jois added 19 points and nine rebounds, freshman Ognjen Miljkovic had 13 points and seven boards in his first career start and junior Parker Kelly chipped in 12 points in the win. Point guard Drew Brandon, who was one of five Eagle starters to log at least 31 minutes, had five assists, six points and five rebounds.
Other Season Notes
* Portland State and Eastern are in the fourth year of a five-sport rivalry cup called “The Dam Cup.” With a 92-83 victory over the Eagles, the Vikings wrapped up the title with a current 11-4 lead. The so-named rivalry refers to the four dams linking Oregon and Washington that one passes on the 339-mile drive from the Portland State campus to the Eastern Washington campus. Located along the Columbia River, they are Bonneville Dam, The Dalles Dam, The John Day Dam and the McNary Dam. The winner of the Dam Cup will possess The Dam Trophy acknowledging the achievement for the following year. Eastern Washington captured the cup last year, but PSU won the inaugural Dam Cup in 2010-11 and again in 2011-12. The annual football game is worth four points, the women's soccer match is worth one point, each women's volleyball match is worth two points for a total of four points possible, and each men's and women's basketball game is worth two points for a total of four points possible in each of those sports. The total points possible are 21, which means even if EWU wins the final two games games (men’s BB on 2/24, and women’s BB on 2/24), plus win the two-point fan challenge at www.damcup.com to defend its title, EWU would fall short 11-10.
* 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.”
* Twice in school history, EWU has now defeated Montana and Montana State in football, then followed with a home sweep of the Grizzlies and Bobcats in men’s basketball. Besides this year, the other time it happened was in 1992-93. Eastern has never gone 6-of-6 or even 5-of-6 in combined football/men’s basketball meetings with the Bobcats and Grizzlies, with the closest four wins several times. The Eagles play at Montana State on Feb. 6 and Montana on Feb. 8.
* Eastern is tied with Maine and Nicholls State for the most foreign players in NCAA Division I with seven (3 from Australia, 3 from Germany, 1 from Serbia).
* If the schedule and travel wasn’t difficult enough in December and early January, Eastern has had to battle a rash of illness and injuries in January. Head coach Jim Hayford said all but three of his players fought through flu-like symptoms while they were in Utah and Idaho, including a missed game versus Weber State for backup point guard Daniel Hill. Also, key reserve Ognjen Miljkovic missed six-straight games with an ankle sprain and Thomas Reuter battled the effects of Crohn’s Disease diagnosed during Eastern’s week-long trip to play Seton Hall and Connecticut. Reuter became ill after the team’s first day on the East Coast and missed both games. Said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford: “We came to New York and had a great practice; two hours later he was in the hospital and was in there for most of five days. The good thing is they found out what was wrong with him. It’s something he’s going to have to manage with medication and good medical help the rest of his life. It was a really, really hard week for Thomas, so my heart hurts for him.”
* A year ago, mainly because of injuries, Eastern used 14 different starting lineups. Thus far, Eastern has used two.
* Eastern has been picked to finish fifth by the coaches and sixth by the media in preseason polls announced by the Big Sky Conference on Oct. 17. EWU was picked to finish behind preseason pick Weber State, North Dakota, Montana and Northern Colorado in the coaches’ poll. The media picked Montana State to finish in fifth just ahead of the Eagles. Weber State was picked to win the league in both polls.
* Eastern will be trying for its third Big Sky Conference Tournament berth in the last four years in 2013-14, and its 13th in 27 years as a member of the league. Eastern has 12 previous appearances (1990, 98, 99, 2000, 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 11, 12).
* The Big Sky Conference Tournament will take place March 13-15 at the site of the regular season champion. For the second-straight year, it will now include seven teams, with the regular season champion receiving a first-round bye. The tournament will include a quarterfinal round with six of the teams playing, followed by semifinals and the championship game.
* Eastern sophomore forward Venky Jois from Boronia, Australia, was named to ESPN’s "All-Aussie" team selected by analyst Fran Fraschilla. The squad was revealed by Fraschilla during the New Mexico/Kansas game on Dec. 14. In addition, Jois was selected by College Hoops Daily to its All-Big Sky Conference Team for the month of November and its All-Big Sky Conference Team during non-conference play. Jois helped lead EWU to a 5-2 record in November -- the school's best start to a season in five years.
* Eastern guard Tyler Harvey was selected as the Big Sky Conference Player of the Week on Dec. 3 after his 30-point performance against Seattle in an 82-75 victory on Nov. 29. In recording the 49th performance of 30 points or more in school history (currently tied with nine others for 39th), Harvey sank four crucial free throws in the final three minutes to help Eastern improve to 5-2 on the season -- the best start in five seasons for EWU, which was 6-2 to start the 2008-09 season. Harvey made 9-of-15 shots from the field, including 6-of-9 3-point attempts, and also sank all six of his free throws. “Tyler obviously had a tremendous game,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. “He is an extremely talented offensive player, and he has improved in every level of his game.”
* In defeating Seattle 82-75 on Nov. 29, Eastern improved to 5-2 on the season for the first time since 2008-09 when EWU started 6-2. At the time, the Eagles were 3-0 at home, 0-2 on the road and 2-0 on neutral courts, and nearly two full months ahead of last year’s win total. The Eagles, who were 10-21 a year ago, picked up their fifth victory on Jan. 28, 2013, with a 76-65 victory over Portland State and their sixth victory three nights later.
* The Eagles played three games in three nights on Nov. 22-24 in Irvine, Calif., as part of the of the 2K Sports Classic benefitting the Wounded Warrior Project. They came away with a 2-1 record, beating Boston University 80-68 and LIU Brooklyn 102-70 before bowing to host UC Irvine 81-58 in the finale. In Eastern’s 80-68 win over Boston University, four players scored in double figures on a hot-shooting night against the team picked to win the Patriot League title. Eastern made 54 percent of its shots while holding the Terriers to 38 percent. Six players scored in double figures the next night in a 102-100 victory over LIU Brooklyn, as Eastern had five 3-pointers in the first seven minutes to open a 28-1 lead. The 102 points Eastern scored was its most against a NCAA Division I opponent since beating Cal State Fullerton 110-70 on Nov. 27, 2006. Eastern finished the game making 11-of-17 3-pointers for 65 percent, and sank 64 percent of its shots overall. Eastern held the Blackbirds to 35 percent shooting and dominated rebounding by a 40-29 margin. The Eagles led 54-29 at halftime and led by as many as 37 in the second half. The third night, in an 81-58 loss to UC Irvine, Eastern fell behind by 21 points at halftime. UC Irvine made 11-of-19 3-point shots (58 percent) and 40 percent overall in the game, while Eastern made only 26 percent and was 4-of-21 from 3-point range.
* Sophomore Tyler Harvey was named to the All-Tournament team at the 2K Sports Classic in Irvine, Calif., where EWU went 2-1. Harvey led the Eagles in scoring against Boston University and UC Irvine with 21 points in each game, and also led EWU in rebounding with eight versus LIU Brooklyn. He followed that performance with a career-high nine boards against the Anteaters. He averaged 18.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.3 steals per game in the tourney while making 52.8 percent of his shots from the field including 7-of-15 from the 3-point stripe, as well as 11-of-13 free throws for 84.6 percent.
* Sophomore Venky Jois, the Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year a year ago, joined Harvey on the All-Tournament team at the 2K Sports Classic. He averaged 15.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game while making 56.3 percent of his shots from the field.
* Six-foot-10 junior Martin Seiferth finished with 24 points and 18 rebounds against Walla Walla, as he equaled the fifth-best rebounding performance in school history. He came close to his career highs of 27 points and 21 rebounds set in separate games last season. The last time EWU had a 20-20 performance was Paul Butorac against Lewis-Clark State College on Nov. 18, 2006.
* Eastern returns four starters and seven total letterwinners from last year’s team, which finished 10-21 overall and 7-13 in the 11-team Big Sky under head coach Jim Hayford, who is in his third year at the helm of a squad with no seniors. A year ago, Eastern finished with four wins in its last eight outings, but came up short in qualifying for the seven-team Big Sky Conference Tournament. However, three of those late losses included an overtime loss to UNC, a four-point setback to North Dakota and an eight-point loss at Weber State.
* In all, Eastern’s 2013-14 schedule includes 10 games versus six schools who participated in national postseason tournaments a year ago. Eastern will play six games against those opponents on the road, and four games at home. Three appeared in the NCAA Tournament – LIU Brooklyn (Nov. 23 in Irvine), Saint Mary’s (Dec. 8 on the road) and Montana (Jan. 9 at home and Feb. 8 on the road). UC Irvine (Dec. 15 at home and Nov. 24 in Irvine) played in the College Basketball Invitational Tournament, and won a game before falling in the quarterfinals. The other three postseason opponents on EWU’s schedule were also in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT). Weber State (Jan. 2 on the road and March 8 at home) won four games to advance to the championship, where it lost to East Carolina 77-74. North Dakota (Jan. 30 at home and March 1 on the road) played in the first round, as did Boston University (Nov. 22 at UC Irvine Tournament).
* The schedule also featured a trip to the East Coast to play Connecticut and Seton Hall. Connecticut finished 20-10 overall and 10-8 in the Big East Conference last season, while Seton Hall was 15-18 overall and 3-15 in the league. However, Seton Hall and six other teams in the so-called “Catholic 7” broke off from the league, but have retained the Big East tag. The remaining Big East teams, plus others in the expanded conference, are now named the American Athletic Conference.
* The Eagles hope a more experienced team will translate to winning more of the close games they lost in the 2012-13 season. Nine of EWU’s losses were one-possession games with less than four minutes remaining, and the Eagles finished 6-10 in games decided by 10 points or less.
* Hayford won for the 279th time in his 400th game as a collegiate coach on March 7 when the Eagles beat Idaho State 87-73. He entered the 2013-14 season with a 279-122 (69.6 percent) record in 14 seasons as a head coach, including a 25-38 mark at Eastern. He was 217-57 (79.2 percent) in 10 seasons at Whitworth (2001-2011), and before that was 37-27 in two seasons at the University of Sioux Falls (S.D.).
Quoting Coach Hayford
On Portland State Loss: “We had different guys playing well, but we have to get that from all five players. I thought in the first half we had all five playing very well. We had players who didn’t have offensive success and that hurt us defensively. We have to get everybody on the same page. We executed a great defensive game plan in the first half by allowing them only 30 points. The 62 points they scored in the second half is more like 50 without our fouls at the end, but that’s still too drastic of a difference. We need to coach through it and develop so that our players are consistent in their performance.”
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.”
EWU vs. North Dakota Series Notes
* Eastern is 1-3 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.
EWU vs. Northern Colorado Series Notes
* The Eagles are 6-9 all-time versus UNC (4-3 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).
* 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.