Sophomore guard equals career high with 30 points, but timely shooting and offensive rebounding effort by the Wildcats leads to defeat for Eastern, which ends its four-game road stretch Saturday at Idaho State
Sophomore Tyler Harvey got off to a hot start in Big Sky Conference play. But so did Weber State, and the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team began its 27th season as a member of the league with a 74-67 loss at Weber State on Thursday (Jan. 2)
Harvey scored 30 points – including 21 of EWU’s 33 points in the first half – to fuel EWU’s upset bid in Ogden, where EWU is now 4-29 all-time. The Eagles jumped out to a 10-0 lead, but foul trouble in the first half helped Weber State make eight of its last nine shots of the half to lead 37-33 at intermission.
The Wildcats had a similar outburst early in the second half, making 8-of-10 shots during a stretch in which they opened an 11-point lead. EWU came within three late in the game, but Weber State closed out the victory by making 4-of-5 free throws in the final 48 seconds while EWU missed its last three shots.
“If we continue to do this on the road, we are going to get a lot of conference wins,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. “Weber State is a really good, tough team at home. There is never consolation in a loss, but we have to keep focused on two things – first, whether our players are giving us energy, determination and grit. I thought they did that tonight. And are we playing smart enough and staying with the scouting report? I think we did that.”
Weber State made 48 percent of its shots in the game compared to 45 percent for the Eagles, but 11 Wildcat offensive rebounds led to an 18-7 advantage in second chance points. Weber has now won 19-straight Big Sky home games.
“They have the best frontcourt in the conference and give them credit,” said Hayford of the Big Sky preseason favorite. “(Offensive rebounding) was the difference because we played really well. We just had too many instances where we made a stop but didn’t collect the rebound.”
Eastern ends a four-game road stretch by playing at Idaho State on Saturday (Jan. 4) at 6:05 p.m. Pacific time at Holt Arena in Pocatello. The game may be heard on ESPN 700-AM and may be watched via the web at watchbigsky.com.
The Eagles are now 5-7 overall, while the Wildcats improved to 4-5. Idaho State is 4-6 after winning its Big Sky opener 87-76 against Portland State on Thursday. Following this week’s games, the Eagles host Montana (Jan. 9) and Montana State (Jan. 11). Eastern hasn’t played a home game since Dec. 15.
“Credit Weber State -- if they don’t play very well, we win this game,” said Hayford. “Our team gave us the effort we needed, now we need to go to Idaho State and find a way to win that game.”
Harvey, who entered as the third-leading scorer in the Big Sky with a 19.3 average, had 21 in the first half on 7-of-10 shooting from the field. He scored nine in the second half to equal the career high of 30 he set in EWU’s last victory on Nov. 29 versus Seattle. He finished 10-of-17 from the field, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range and 6-of-6 from the free throw line.
Sophomore Venky Jois scored all 15 of his points in the second half after playing just six minutes because of foul trouble, and also had a team-high seven rebounds. Point guard Drew Brandon chipped in eight points, four rebounds and a pair of assists.
“Tyler gave us an amazing game,” praised Hayford. “Venky had fresh legs (in the second half) because we knew we needed him in the second half and we rested him (with two fouls in the first half).”
Harvey scored six early points to fuel a 10-0 start for the Eagles as Weber State didn’t score for the first 3:28. When Jois and Brandon each picked up their second fouls of the half and departed, Harvey continued to take on the scoring load. At one point, he scored 15 straight EWU points.
But the Eagles struggled to hold onto the lead, and Weber State used a 13-4 run to knot the score at 28 with 6:07 left. The Wildcats scored nine of the last 11 points of the half and took their first lead of the game with 3:30 to play en route to a 37-33 halftime lead.
Weber State continued its surge in the second half, and took a 60-49 lead with 10:49 remaining. The Eagles cut the lead to 64-60 and eventually to 70-67, but two free throws by Weber State’s Joel Bolomboy with 48 seconds left made it a two possession game and EWU couldn’t score again.
“In that last minute we needed to get a great shot, but we took an ill-advised shot and then Parker had to take a double-pump three,” Hayford explained. “We did everything we needed to do, but credit them. (Bolomboy) put those two free throws down and that’s how you win games.”
Bolomboy finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds, Kyle Tresnak had 13 points and six boards and Jeremy Senglin led the Wildcats with 16 points.
After a 5-2 start in November, Eastern was winless in December and is looking for its first victory since beating Seattle 82-75 on Nov. 29. Prior to playing WSU, the Eagles lost their last four games to talented teams all ranked in the top 108 in the Sagarin computer ratings (EWU is #210), including an 82-65 setback on Dec. 28 to 15th ranked Connecticut on Dec. 28, which is 28th in the Sagarin ratings.
Although EWU has an eight-game winning streak versus Idaho State, Eastern has now lost the last six meetings against Weber State. The last victory for the Eagles over the Wildcats came in Ogden, Utah, by a 75-59 score on March 2, 2011. Eastern is now 20-44 all-time against Weber State, including a 4-29 record in Ogden.
Besides playing pre-season favorite Weber State, Eastern in its first four league games takes on a Montana team picked to finish second by the media and third by the coaches. Idaho State has been picked to finish 10th by the coaches and 11th by the media. Eastern’s fourth league foe, MSU, was picked fifth by the media and sixth by the coaches.
The Eagles were picked to finish fifth by the coaches and sixth by the media, and will be looking for its first win on an opponent home court since beating ISU 87-73 on March 7, 2013. Idaho State is led by second-year head coach Bill Evans.
“They are the same team they were defensively last year,” Hayford said of the Bengals, who were 6-24 overall a year ago and 5-15 in the league. “But on offense, instead of waiting until late in the shot clock, they are pushing it and playing transition basketball on offense. They have an outstanding coach there, and that’s why they won at home tonight.”
EWU vs. Idaho State Series Notes
* Since Eastern became a member of NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season, the Eagles are 37-26 against the Bengals, including a 25-7 record in Cheney and an 11-18 mark in Pocatello (1-1 on neutral courts). Eastern has won the last 11 meetings in Cheney, dating back to a 65-63 Bengal win at EWU on March 1, 2003, and the last three meetings in Pocatello.
* The Eagles have won eight consecutive games in the series, dating back to the last win for ISU on Jan. 22, 2010 (79-71 in Pocatello). Eastern has won 26 of the past 35 meetings against the Bengals, including a sweeps the last three years. In the 2010-11 season, both meetings took place within eight days of each other and the Eagles won 83-70 in Cheney on Jan. 29, 2011, and then were victorious 69-67 in Pocatello on Feb. 5, 2011. The same thing happened in EWU’s sweep in the 2011-12 season when the Eagles won twice in a six-day span, including an 85-78 win in Pocatello on Feb. 23 followed by a 77-64 victory in Cheney on Feb. 28. The teams met again just four days later on March 3 in the quarterfinals of the Big Sky Conference Championships, with EWU winning in Cheney 81-75 – meaning all three games were played in a nine-day span -- Eastern also recorded season sweeps in the 2001-02, 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons, and again in 2012-13 (57-54 in Cheney on Dec. 22 and 87-73 in Pocatello on March 7).
* Idaho State swept the Eagles in the regular season in 2002-03, but Eastern won the third meeting by a 76-67 score in the semifinals of the Big Sky Conference Tournament. In the 2009-10 season, Eastern lost at Idaho State 80-74 but won 79-71 in Cheney where the season ended for both teams.
* Eastern, which lost eight-straight games to ISU from 1993 to 1997, leads in the all-time series 40-27 (27-6 in Cheney, 12-20 in Pocatello, 1-1 neutral).