Eagles Have Hands Full Friday in Moraga

In late addition to the schedule, 12-17 Eagles face 25-6 Gaels and one of the nation's premier players in Patrick Mills

An extra game is what Gaels wanted, and an extra game is what the Eagles get -- as well as the difficulty of playing one of the best teams and one of the best players in all of NCAA Division I.

The Eastern Washington University men's basketball team will extend its season and play Saint Mary's College of the West Coast Conference Friday (March 13) at 7:05 p.m. Pacific time at the McKeon Pavilion in Moraga, Calif. The game will be carried live via radio on 790-AM in Spokane, with Larry Weir calling the play-by-play.

Eastern, 12-17, thought it had ended its season on Feb. 28 with a 68-62 overtime loss to Portland State. The setback eliminated the Eagles from contention for one of six berths into the Big Sky Conference Tournament, which started March 7.

Saint Mary's, meanwhile, is 25-6 after falling to Gonzaga 83-58 in the championship game of the West Coast Conference Tournament. The Gaels entered the tournament as the No. 2 seed and defeated Portland 71-61 in the semifinals, but had played its previous nine games without All-America candidate Patrick Mills because of a broken hand.

The late addition to the schedule came after SMC was looking for another game to help better prepare the sophomore guard for an anticipated NCAA Tournament berth or invitation to one of the other postseason national tourneys. He is averaging 17.8 points per game this season, but had just 17 total points on 5-of-28 shooting in two tourney games.

"It's a wonderful opportunity for us to go play a very, very good team with a player who is most likely a lottery pick in the NBA Draft," said Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine of the agreement that was reached March 6. "They are a team that is most likely going to be in the NCAA Tournament and are capable of making a good run in the tournament."

Both the Eagles and Gaels are able to utilize different NCAA schedule exceptions to enable them to add a game at this late date. Eastern has played in the NCAA limit of 29 games, but EWU's game at Hawaii in December is exempt from that restriction. Saint Mary's played three of its 29 games in the 76 Classic in Anaheim, putting it one game short of the alternative NCAA limitation of 27 games plus one qualifying regular-season multiple team event.

Portland was the only common opponent for the two teams this season. Eastern defeated the Pilots 63-58 on Dec. 3 in Portland while SMC was 2-1. Besides the tournament victory over the Pilots, the Mills-less Gaels lost 84-66 in Portland on Jan. 31 and won 77-65 on Feb. 14 in Moraga. The Gaels did not play an opponent from the Big Sky Conference.

Practices resumed for the Eagles on Monday, with the Eagles expected to fly to Northern California the day of the game.

"I'm a little more concerned about our players forgetting out-of-bounds plays and set plays in a week than I am the absence of conditioning," said Earlywine of the week off. "We'll spend Monday reviewing to make sure they haven't completely forgotten things, then we'll start preparation for Saint Mary's on Tuesday."

Saint Mary's is coached by Randy Bennett, who is in his eighth season at the helm. He spent the 1986-87 and 1987-88 seasons as an assistant coach at the University of Idaho under Tim Floyd, who is now head coach at USC. Bennett was also an assistant coach at Saint Louis under current Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar.

Links:
Eastern Basketball -- http://goeags.cstv.com/sports/m-baskbl/ewas-m-baskbl-body.html
Big Sky Conference Basketball -- http://www.bigskyconf.com/sport.asp?path=mbball&tab=mens
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

 

-- More on Patrick Mills and His Supporting Cast -- Patrick Mills, who scored 20 points for Australia against the United States in last summer's Olympic Games, is averaging 17.8 points, 3.7 assists and 2.2 steals per game for the Gaels.

But he missed nine games after suffering a broken hand in the first half at Gonzaga on Jan. 29 and undergoing surgery on Feb. 4. Saint Mary's was 18-1 at the time, and he scored 18 first-half points in helping SMC to a 38-32 halftime lead over the Bulldogs. But without Mills in the lineup, the Gaels lost that game and three others to fall out of the national rankings. He was cleared to practice again on March 2.

"They only had one loss with Mills in the lineup (before his injury)," said Earlywine of the challenge ahead. "All of our players saw him in the game against United States last year and what he did in that game. I think our players will be every bit as excited for this game as they were for our first game of the year at Illinois."

Mills is supported by 6-7 Diamon Simpson and 6-foot-11 Omar Samhan, who have combined for an average of more than 27 points and exactly 20 rebounds per game. Simpson is averaging a double-double at 13.8 points and 10.7 rebounds per game, and Samhan averages 13.7 points and 9.3 boards. Senior Carlin Hughes is averaging 8.3 points and 3.5 assists per game and has made 49 three-pointers, second only to the 53 by Mills.

In a 71-61 victory over Portland in the semifinals of the WCC Tournament, Simpson had 15 points, 14 rebounds and six steals, and Samhan added 12 points and 13 rebounds. Mills scored 12 points, but was 3-of-12 from the field with three turnovers in his first game back after suffering the injury.

In an 83-58 championship game loss to Saint Mary's, Samhan led the way with 17 points and nine rebounds, and Simpson had 19 points and nine boards. Mills was 2-of-16 from the field, including all seven of his three-point attempts, as he finished the game with five points, three turnovers, two steals and an assist.

Simpson, one of five Saint Mary's seniors who will receive a bonus "Senior Night" on Friday, is the school's all-time leader in rebounds (1,085), steals (165), blocked shots (234), free throws made (452) and free throws attempted (744). He has now scored 1547 points in his career, ranking third in school history.

 

-- Earlywine Breaks the News To Excited Players -- Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine told his players about the possibility of playing Saint Mary's on the afternoon of March 5, and joyous EWU players quickly hit the court as Earlywine and his staff resumed their recruiting efforts at high school and junior college tournaments.

"Needless to say, they were really excited about it -- the whole team was," Earlywine said of the team's reaction. "That was one of the conditions that I had set in my mind for us to go play the game -- all the players had to want to play and it had to be unanimous. I thought they would be, but I wasn't 100 percent sure. But they are excited and I'm excited."

Four Eastern seniors -- Milan Stanojevic, Adris DeLeon, Andy Genao and Jeff Christensen -- will get the opportunity to play one more game in their collegiate careers. And for the team's six underclassmen -- including second team All-Big Sky Conference selection Benny Valentine -- the game helps them build for next year.

"As a coach and even during my own playing career, many times I have heard guys say, ‘What I would give to be able to play more game,'" said Earlywine. "And in this case, they are going to get to play one more game.

"I'm looking at it as another game for four seniors who have contributed a lot to this program," he added. "And for our other six players, it gives them another game under their belt in trying to build for next year."

 

-- Benny Valentine Earns Second Team All-Big Sky Honors -- Eastern Washington University junior guard Benny Valentine concluded his first year on the Eagle men's basketball team by earning second team All-Big Sky Conference honors as selected by the league's head coaches, the conference office announced March 5.

The 5-foot-7 Valentine redshirted the 2007-08 season after transferring from Texas Tech University where he played for Bobby Knight. He is originally from Omaha, Neb., and is a 2005 graduate of Omaha Central High School. Valentine finished third in the league with a 15.2 scoring average, ranking behind Anthony Johnson from Montana (17.6 average) and Loren Leath from Sacramento State (15.6).

For the season, Valentine made 40 percent of his shots from the field, 34 percent of his three-pointers (53-of-155) and 72 percent of his free throws to go along with averages of 3.1 assists (fifth in the league), 1.5 steals (fourth) and 2.8 rebounds per game. He led Eastern in scoring in 15 games, with a pair of 30-point performances, six outings with at least 20 and 24 of 29 games in double figures.

In EWU's 12 victories this season, Valentine averaged 17.8 points on 46.6 percent shooting from the field. In Eastern's losses, those figures fell to 13.4 points and 34.6 percent shooting.

 

-- Season Recap -- Baby steps aren't what Eastern Washington University men's basketball coach Kirk Earlywine was hoping for as he concluded his second year as head coach.

The Eagles finished 12-17, improving by one victory over the 2007-08 season's 11-19 mark. Both teams finished 6-10 in Big Sky Conference play, with a seventh-place finish followed by a sixth-place finish in 2008-09. However, Eastern lost the tiebreaker with Montana State and failed to qualify for the BSC Tournament for the third-straight season after a string of nine-straight appearances.

"I thought we were going to take a bigger step this year," said Earlywine.

Thanks to a home sweep on Feb. 5 (Sacramento State) and Feb. 7 (Northern Arizona), and a home win over Northern Colorado on Feb. 21, the Eagles were able to surpass the previous year's win total of 11. Eastern's 6-2 record after the first eight games was its best start since the 2002-03 season when EWU used a four-game winning streak to improve to 7-2. Eastern was unable to duplicate that 7-2 start by losing at Hawaii on Dec. 13, but Eastern won its Big Sky opener against Montana State in the earliest Big Sky start in EWU history.

A six-game losing streak from Jan. 11 to Jan. 31 was the nail in Eastern's coffin. The streak included a pair of losses at home -- 77-69 to league champion Weber State and 63-50 to third-place finisher Montana. Eastern's third league home loss was to runner-up and defending regular season and tournament champion Portland State, with that setback coming by a 66-62 score in overtime on Feb. 28. In fact, because Montana State lost its final three games of the season, Eastern would have been in the conference tournament had they defeated PSU. The Eagles had a chance to win in the final seconds of regulation, but senior Andy Genao missed a contested driving lay-in after a pass to the baseline from junior Benny Valentine.

The Eagles concluded their 22nd season in the Big Sky, but made just one trip to the Big Sky Conference Tournament in their first 10 seasons in the league. Eastern then qualified for the next nine tournaments, becoming only the fifth league member to do that in the 46-year history of the league. But EWU has come up empty the last three seasons.

 

-- Senior Farewell -- Eastern bid adieu to four seniors prior to the start of EWU's final home game at Reese Court on Feb. 28 in a loss to Portland State. Guards Adris DeLeon and Milan Stanojevic played two seasons after transferring to EWU from junior colleges. The other two seniors were forwards Andy Genao and Jeff Christensen, a pair of transfers from four-year colleges who redshirted the 2007-08 season.

DeLeon finished his career with 18 starts in 47 games played, averaging 9.7 points and 2.3 assists in those 47 games. His career was highlighted by a 42-point effort in a win his junior season over Northern Colorado that ranks as the third-best performance in school history. He is from the Bronx, N.Y., and came to EWU from the College of Southern Idaho.

Stanojevic started 34 of 59 games in his career, with an average of 8.2 points per game. He made 115-of-308 three-point shots in his career to rank fourth in school history for makes and sixth in attempts. The native of Subotica, Serbia, came to Eastern from Northwest College in Wyoming.

Genao had four double-doubles in his only season as an Eagle, with averages of 7.5 points and 5.8 rebounds. In the last 10 games alone, he averaged 11 points and nearly seven rebounds per game. In EWU's first meeting with Portland State, he had 20 points, 10 rebounds and four assists, then had a season-high 21 six games later against Idaho State. Earlier in the season, he equaled the fourth-best performance in school history with 17 rebounds against UC Irvine. Formerly from the Bronx, N.Y., Genao transferred to Eastern from Prairie View A&M.

Christensen played in 27 games, starting twice. He averaged nearly 11 minutes per game and scored 46 points, including a season-high seven against both Idaho and UC Irvine. He is from Portland, Ore., and graduated from Wilson High School in 2004. He attended Lewis & Clark College in Portland before transferring to EWU.

 

-- Road Woes And Home Joys -- Eastern finished the season 5-3 in the Big Sky Conference at home after concluding the road portion of the conference season with a 1-7 record, including losses in its last six games on opponent home courts. Overall, Eastern was 9-5 at home and 3-12 on the road.

For the season, Eastern out-scored opponents 66.0-63.7 at home, but on the road was out-scored by more than 10 points per game -- 71.9 to 61.1. The Eagles made only 41 percent of its shots on the road compared to 49 percent for its opponents. Eastern was also out-scored (270-150) and out-shot (373-223) at the free throw line on the road this season, an average deficit of eight makes and 10 attempts per game.

 

-- Moore and Genao Impressive in Last 10 Games -- Junior center Brandon Moore and senior forward Andy Genao were impressive at times in EWU's last 10 games, and led EWU in scoring and rebounding during that stretch.

Moore scored in double figures in eight of those 10 games, averaging 12.2 points and 6.8 rebounds to lead EWU in both categories during that 10-game stretch. Genao had a pair of double-doubles in that stretch and averaged 11.0 points and 6.8 rebounds. Benny Valentine, EWU's leading scorer on the season (15.2) and in Big Sky games only (15.3), averaged 11.2 points in those last 10 games.

Genao had a 14-point, 12-rebound performance at Montana on Jan. 31, and had eight points and seven boards one game earlier versus Montana State. He had a season-high 20 points with 10 rebounds and four assists on Jan. 24 at Portland State, then bettered that with a 21-point outing at Idaho State on Feb. 14. He had four double-doubles in 29 games, and finished the year averaging 7.5 points and 5.8 rebounds (fifth in the Big Sky) while making 47 percent of his shots from the field.

 

-- Valentine & DeLeon Hit Extremes -- In Eastern's 60-59 win over Northern Colorado on Feb. 21, EWU was sparked by the play of guards Benny Valentine and Adris DeLeon. They started together for the first time this season and combined for 34 points on 14-of-21 shooting from the field, and also combined for six steals and seven assists.

"They both played well, especially in terms of their shot selection," said Earlywine. "They were a combined 14-of-21 and we can live with that, especially as much as it's been a struggle for us offensively this year. Their field goal percentage was a big factor in us winning the game."

However, they combined for only eight points on 1-of-14 shooting in a 63-59 loss to Seattle, with DeLeon going scoreless on 0-of-8 shooting from three-point range. They also combined for five assists, three steals and five turnovers. They closed the season with a combined 14 points on 5-of-18 shooting in an overtime loss to Portland State.

 

-- Benny Valentine Earns Academic All-District Honors -- Eastern Washington University junior Benny Valentine was selected to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District VIII men's basketball team released Feb. 5. The squad is selected by members of the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).

Valentine has a 3.40 grade point average as a business administration major after transferring from Texas Tech University. The qualifying standards include a minimum 3.3 grade point average at Eastern and be a significant contributor to the team.

"We're proud of Benny and his efforts and success in the classroom," said Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine. "To be honest, I expected no less from him when he came to Eastern. He was a good student in high school, junior college and at Texas Tech, so I had every reason to believe he would be an excellent student here as well."

Eastern's December Scholar-Athlete of the Month, Valentine is a 2005 graduate of Omaha Central High School in Nebraska.

Current Detroit Piston Rodney Stuckey won the same honor in both 2006 and 2007, and went on to earn third team Academic All-America honors in 2007. EWU's other All-District VIII selections were Jason Humbert (2002) and Aaron Olson (2001).

The other four players selected included fellow Big Sky Conference player Matt Stucki from Idaho State. Also selected were Washington State's Taylor Rochestie and Daven Harmeling, as well as Fresno State's Nedeljko Golubovic.

The District VIII university division includes all NCAA Division I teams from nine western states, including Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington.

 

-- Moore Ends on a High Note -- Eastern 6-foot-9 junior center Brandon Moore had a season of highs and lows, but he ended the league season with his highest of highs.

Moore closed the year with a double-double against Portland State on Feb. 28, scoring 18 points and pulling down a career-high 14 rebounds with a career-high five blocked shots. It was the second-highest scoring game against a NCAA Division I opponent in his 86-game EWU career, ranking only behind the 21 he scored versus Weber State in his sophomore season. His career-high came versus The Evergreen State in his freshman season and he had 22 earlier in his junior campaign against that same school.

But the 2008-09 season wasn't always like that as his shooting percentages and fouls were a great indicator of his trials and tribulations. Moore is from Graham, Wash., and is a 2005 graduate of Bethel High School.

Moore was the only Eagle to have started all 29 games and averaged 11.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per game to rank 15th and second, respectively, in the Big Sky Conference. In his 86-game career (46 as a starter), Moore has averaged 8.1 points and 5.4 rebounds while making 50 percent of his shots from the field. His 61 blocked shots now third in school history.

Moore had three double-doubles in Eastern's first 12 games of the season, but didn't have any in his next 16 until the PSU game. A career 60.8 percent free throw shooter entering the season, he made 64.7 percent in 2008-09 to increase his career mark to 62.5 percent. He had made 17 of his last 19 attempts heading into EWU's Jan. 24 game at Portland State.

On Jan. 11 in a 77-69 loss against Weber State, foul trouble limited Moore to 10 total minutes. He was 4-of-4 from the free throw line and 0-of-0 from the field after getting fouled on the only field goals he attempted. He had four points and five rebounds before fouling out. One game earlier he had no fouls in a 17-point, seven-rebound effort against Idaho State. Against Northern Colorado on Jan. 15, he was 8-of-10 from the line but just 1-of-8 from the field.

Moore had his third double-double of the year with 22 points, 13 rebounds and a career-high three assists in EWU's 90-87 win over Evergreen State on Dec. 22. Moore made 6-of-12 shots from the field and 10-of-13 free throws against the Geoducks, and seven of his rebounds came on the offensive end. The 6-foot-9 Moore came just one point from his career high of 23 points set as a freshman against Evergreen State. His assists tied his career high from that game.

Moore's other double-doubles came against Idaho (14 points, 10 rebounds) and Texas Arlington (16 points, 11 rebounds), and now has six in his career. He had a near-miss at Boise State on Dec. 29 when he finished with 12 points and nine boards. He also has eight double figure rebounding performances as an Eagle.

 

-- EWU in Big Sky-Only Statistics -- In league games only, Eastern finished second in the Big Sky in turnover margin (+2.00 per game) and was third in offensive rebounds (10.5 per game). Thanks to allowing a total of 96 points in back-to-back home games against Sacramento State and Northern Arizona, the Eagles moved from eighth to third in scoring defense, and finished fifth (66.4). Eastern was last in no categories, but was eighth in three-point field goal offense (.316) and rebounding margin (-1.0).

Individually, Benny Valentine ranked fifth in scoring (15.3), fifth in steals (1.8), seventh in three-pointers made (1.8 per game) and eighth in assists (3.2). Brandon Moore was second in rebounding (6.6), second in offensive rebounds (2.8), 10th in free throw percentage (.750) and 17th in scoring (10.3). Also, Andy Genao finished ninth in rebounding (5.4) and sixth in offensive rebounds (1.9), and Milan Stanojevic was 11th in three-pointers made per game (1.6).

 

-- Eagles Were an Early Leader in the Big Sky in Scoring Defense -- Including all games, the Eagles ranked fourth in the Big Sky Conference in scoring defense, allowing 67.9 per game (Montana led at 64.4 per game). Through eight games -- and a 6-2 record -- the Eagles were allowing just 66.1 to lead the league. Before holding Boise State to 57 points on Dec. 29, the Eagles had allowed an average of 78.3 in their previous four games to fall out of the lead.

In its 17 losses, Eastern allowed 71.4 points and 48.3 percent shooting. In EWU's 12 victories, those figures dropped to 63.0 and 44.0. Eastern was 8-4 when it held opponents to 65 points or fewer and 7-3 when it held opponents to 43 percent shooting or less. The Eagles were 1-7 when allowing at least 75 points.

In its first six victories of the season, Eastern had allowed only 62.5 per game while holding opponents to 39.9 percent shooting from the field and 29.0 percent from the three-point stripe. But in their seventh win, a 90-87 triumph over Evergreen State, the Geoducks made 66 percent from both the field overall (35-of-53) and the three-point stripe (10-of-15). Eastern followed that by holding Boise State to 42 percent shooting overall (20-of-48) and 18 percent from the arc (2-of-11) in a 57-48 loss.

Ideally, Eastern liked to win with defense like it did in early February when the Eagles held Sacramento State and Northern Arizona to a combined 96 points in a pair of EWU wins. In its league opener on Dec. 6, Eastern held Montana State to just 22 second-half points as the Bobcats made only 29 percent from the field after intermission. The result was Eastern's best defensive performance of the season at that point by allowing MSU just 55 total points, eclipsing the 58 Eastern allowed one game earlier against Portland in a 63-58 win. The Pilots scored only nine points in the final 8:21, including a fairly meaningless basket with 16 seconds to play. But in the eight minutes prior to that, the Pilots were just 1-of-7 from the field with four turnovers.

"I know we're not going to shut anybody out -- I tell our players that all the time," said Earlywine. "But we need to make teams earn their points. For the most part against Portland, we did not give them points -- they had to earn them."

 

-- Eagles 6-1 When They Scored 70 or More and 1-14 When They Make 44 Percent or Less -- Until falling 75-70 at Idaho State on Feb. 14, Eastern had won all six games when the Eagles scored at least 70 points. When they made at least 45 percent of their shots they were 11-3, with the lone losses coming in back-to-back games at Portland State on Jan. 24 and at MSU on Jan. 29. The Eagles were 1-14 when they made 44 percent or less from the field.

Eastern was 8-4 when holding opponents to 64 or fewer points and 7-3 when holding them to 43 percent shooting or less. The Eagles were 8-3 when EWU had a better field goal percentage than its opponent. In addition, the Eagles were 8-4 when they out-rebounded opponents and 8-5 when they held opponents to 31 rebounds or less. Eastern was also 9-8 when forcing more or equal turnovers and 6-3 when the Eagles forced at least 15 turnovers. Eastern was also 5-14 when their opponent made at least 44 percent.

 

-- DeLeon and Busch Finally Cleared to Play -- The 75-55 Hawaii loss on Dec. 13 marked the season debuts for returning 12-game starter Adris DeLeon and junior college transfer Chris Busch. Both missed the first eight games of the season before being officially cleared to play on Dec. 12 after final exams from fall quarter were completed and grades submitted.

DeLeon averaged 6.0 points in an average of 17.8 minutes per game. He made his first start of the season against Sacramento State on Jan. 4 and responded with 17 points and three assists. He had 16 points, five assists and four steals in a critical 60-59 win over Northern Colorado on Feb. 21. Busch, who scored a team-high 13 at Washington on Dec. 20, averaged 4.0 points and 2.5 rebounds in 14.9 minutes per game. Busch was a transfer from Merritt Junior College in California while DeLeon averaged 12.5 points and 3.1 assists in 27 games as a junior for EWU in the 2007-08 season.

 

-- Eagles Win Three on Road, Nine at Home -- The schedule, with just one occurrence of back-to-back road games until the start of league play, started well for the Eagles. Eastern picked up road wins at UC Irvine, Portland and Sacramento State, and won six of its first seven games at Reese Court.

But losing a pair of mid-season league home games -- 77-69 to Weber State on Jan. 11 and 63-50 to Montana on Jan. 21 -- were blows head coach Kirk Earlywine was hoping to avoid. Of the first 18 league games played, Weber's victory was just the fifth road breakthrough. Two of the home losses at the time were owned by 0-4 Sac State.

In 2007-08, Eastern had only two home games in its first 11 outings of the season. As a result, Eastern was just 3-8 to start the season before going 8-9 in their next 17 games. The Eagles ended the season with a pair of road losses and finished the season 8-5 at Reese Court and 3-14 away from home.

 

-- Eagles Picked to Finish as High as Seventh -- The Eastern Washington University men's basketball program was picked to finish as high as seventh in the Big Sky Conference in preseason polls released Oct. 22 by the Big Sky Conference.

The league's head coaches selected EWU seventh, while the media picked EWU to finish eighth in the nine-team league. Last year, the Eagles finished 11-19 overall and seventh in the league with a 6-10 mark under first-year head coach Kirk Earlywine.

The Eagles had only three players with NCAA Division I experience on their roster last year and a total of just eight players who participated in at least 15 games. Entering the 2008-09 season, Eastern had a full roster of 14 players that included six returning letter winners. Returning starters were center Brandon Moore and guards Trey Gross and Gary Gibson, but Gross left the team in December.

 

SERIES HISTORY

-- Series History Versus Saint Mary's -- Eastern is 2-2 all-time versus Saint Mary's, including an 88-80 Eagle victory in Cheney in the most recent meeting on Nov. 26, 2002. The Eagles finished 18-13 and advanced to the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) that season, a year before EWU advanced to its first and only NCAA Tournament.

Eastern lost 73-67 in Moraga on Dec. 22, 2001, in Randy Bennett's first year as Saint Mary's head coach. Eastern's head coach in the last two meetings with the Gaels was Ray Giacoletti, who is now an assistant coach at Gonzaga.

The Eagles also beat the Gaels on Dec. 29, 1989, in Cheney and lost to them 76-56 on Dec. 19, 1988, on a neutral court.

 

-- The Last Time They Played in Cheney . . . Nov. 26, 2002 . . . Eastern Washington 88, Saint Mary's 80 -- Alvin Snow and Chris Hester combined for 41 points as Eastern Washington held off Saint Mary's 88-80 in a non-conference men's basketball game Nov. 26, 2002, at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.

Snow made 9-of-15 shots from the field and Hester made 9-of-11 as the Eagles made 59 percent for the game. Saint Mary's made 54 percent from the field including 7-of-13 three-point attempts.

Brendon Merritt added 15 points, including 13 in the second half when the Gaels chipped away at a 16-point Eagle lead to pull within five in the final minute. Merritt made 11-of-13 free throws, and freshman Danny Pariseau made 7-of-8 to finish with 10 points. Marc Axton and Gregg Smith each chipped in nine points, and had career highs with six and three assists, respectively.

Eastern took an early 22-12 lead, and led by 12 on several occasions before setting for a 38-28 halftime advantage. The Eagles took their largest lead at 57-41 with 14:30 to play before the Gaels used hot three-point shooting to get back in it.

Saint Mary's pulled as close as five with 48 seconds to play, but the Eagles made nine-straight free throws -- two by Snow and seven by Pariseau -- in the final 51 seconds to ice the win.

 

-- The Last Time They Played in Moraga . . . Dec. 22, 2001 . . . Saint Mary's 73, Eastern Washington 67 -- Despite a furious 21-4 Eagle rally in the closing minutes, an earlier 16-0 run by Saint Mary's put Eastern Washington into a major hole it couldn't climb out of as the Gaels defeated the Eagles 73-67 Dec. 22, 2001, in Moraga, Calif.

"We showed a lot of heart and character, but we came up short at the end," Eagle head coach Ray Giacoletti said.

The Eagles trailed by just two at 41-39 early in the second half when the roof caved in. Several minutes later, the Gaels finished off a 16-0 run with a three-point play by Ethnie Stubbs. Just like that, Saint Mary's led 57-39 with 10 minutes to play.

The Gaels led by as many as 21 at 62-41 before Eastern cut the lead to 64-52 with 4 1/2 minutes to play. A three-point play by Jason Humbert cut the lead to 66-58, then Alvin Snow recovered a loose ball and had a steal that led to four quick points and pull Eastern to within 66-62 with 1:06 left.

Eastern forced a turnover on the next Saint Mary's possession, but Jason Lewis couldn't convert on a driving layin. The Gaels clinched the win by making 5-of-6 free throws in the final 48 seconds.

In the first half, Eastern started the game with four-straight turnovers and then missed its first two shots. The Eagles tied the game at nine, then led by as many as seven at 30-23 with 3:08 left. But Saint Mary's rallied back to take a 35-34 lead at halftime.

Six-foot-10 backup center Gregg Smith, still getting back into game shape after missing three games with a hip injury, led the Eagles with 13 points. Two true freshmen were also in double figures, with Marc Axton finishing with 12 and Darren Cooper adding 10. Humbert also had 10 points for the Eagles, and shared team-high honors with Smith in rebounding with five.

Saint Mary's out-rebounded Eastern 35-31 and made 26-of-32 free throws for 81 percent. Eastern made just 33 percent of its shots in the second half, and only 40 percent in the game. Eastern also had 23 turnovers.

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