March 23, 2009

Eastern Improves by One Victory to 12-18

Eagles were hoping for a bigger leap in 2008-09 as they barely miss the Big Sky Tournament for the third-straight year

It was an improvement, but Eastern Washington University men's basketball coach Kirk Earlywine was hoping for more as he concluded his second year as head coach.

The Eagles finished 12-18, 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 a tiebreaker with Montana State and failed to qualify for the 2009 BSC Tournament for the third-straight season after a string of nine-straight appearances.

Of prime concern was his team's shooting percentage for the season, which went from 40.6 percent in Earlywine's debut season to 41.8 percent in 2008-09. The team's three-point percentage actually went down, from 34.0 to 32.4 percent. The Eagles were 11-3 when they made at least 45 percent of their shots, but were 1-15 when they made 44 percent or less from the field

"I thought we were going to take a bigger step," said Earlywine, whose team loses four seniors, including a pair of starters. "We made only 42 percent of our shots, and it's hard to win when you do that. A lot of it was because we didn't get enough good shots. That has to change."

However, thanks to a home sweep against Sacramento State on Feb. 5 and Northern Arizona on Feb. 7, 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 turned out to be 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.

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, and Earlywine knows it won't be easy to break that streak in 2009-10 without marked improvement from both his returning players and his new players.

"All of the top teams in the league should have four starters returning, and I've made our players aware of that," he said. "We have to determine how we are going to close that gap. It has to come partly from recruiting, but the returning players must also improve. We have to coach them and they have to get better both in the weight room and on the court. As soon as spring break is over, we have to get to work.

Eastern closed the season with an 85-65 loss at Saint Mary's on March 13 in a game that was scheduled just a week earlier. Both schools did not play a full schedule, and the Gaels wanted an extra game to prepare them for an anticipated NCAA Tournament or National Invitation Tournament berth. Saint Mary's improved to 26-6 win the win, but were passed over by the NCAA Tournament selection committee and played in the NIT instead.

In all, Eastern was 0-5 against teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament (Illinois, Minnesota, Washington, Portland State/twice), 0-3 against teams that advanced to the NIT (Saint Mary's, Weber State/twice) and 0-1 against teams in the College Basketball Invitational (Boise State). However, Eastern was 2-0 versus teams that advanced to the Collegeinsider.com Tournament (Idaho, Portland).

Earlywine felt the Saint Mary's game was a microcosm of the way the season went for the Eagles, who were 10-1 when leading with two minutes left, but just 9-4 when they had a halftime lead or were tied.

"(In the Saint Mary's game), we were worn down and brutalized in the second half because we didn't have enough physical strength and, more importantly, stamina," he said. "We didn't have the ability to sustain what we had done well in the first half."

 

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

 

-- One Shot or a Couple of Free Throws May Have Been the Difference -- Sometimes, a single shot can be the difference between winning and losing, or even advancing and not advancing.

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. The Vikings went on to win the league tourney and advance to the NCAA Tournament for the second-straight season as they edged upset-minded MSU 79-77 in the title game.

In fact, because Montana State lost its final three games of the season, Eastern would have finished sixth and been in the conference tournament had they defeated PSU. The Eagles had a chance to win in the final seconds of regulation versus the Vikings, but senior Andy Genao missed a contested driving lay-in after a pass to the baseline from junior Benny Valentine. In overtime, the most damaging blow was a missed front end of a one-plus-one free throw opportunity by Valentine with three seconds left and the Eagles trailing by two.

-- Benny Valentine Earns Second Team All-Big Sky Honors -- Eastern 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 15.1 scoring average, ranking behind Anthony Johnson from Montana (17.6 average) and Loren Leath from Sacramento State (15.6).

For the season, Valentine made 39 percent of his shots from the field, 35 percent of his three-pointers (55-of-158) and 72 percent of his free throws to go along with averages of 3.1 assists (sixth in the league), 1.5 steals (fifth) 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 25 of 30 games in double figures.

In EWU's 12 victories in 2008-09, Valentine averaged 17.8 points on 46.6 percent shooting from the field. In Eastern's losses, those figures fell to 13.3 points and 34.6 percent shooting.  

-- 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 3-13 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 -- 72.7 to 61.3. The Eagles made only 41 percent of its shots on the road compared to 49 percent for its opponents. Eastern was also out-scored (283-162) and out-shot (388-238) at the free throw line on the road in 2008-09, an average deficit of 7.5 makes and 9.4 attempts per game.

 -- 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 48 games played, averaging 9.5 points and 2.3 assists in those 48 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 35 of 60 games in his career, with an average of 8.2 points per game. He made 117-of-310 three-point shots in his career to rank fourth in school history for makes and fifth 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 7.6 points and 5.7 rebounds
(fifth in the Big Sky). In his last 11 games alone, he averaged 10.9 points and 6.5 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 28 games, starting twice. He averaged 10.4 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.

 

-- 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. Their field goal percentage was a big factor in us winning the game."

However, they then 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 closed the league season with a combined 14 points on 5-of-18 shooting in an overtime loss to Portland State, then were just 4-of-20 in a 20-point setback versus Saint Mary's (DeLeon was 0-of-8).

 

-- Benny Valentine Earns Academic All-District Honors -- Eastern 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 of Eastern's December Scholar-Athlete of the Month. "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."

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 87-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 30 games and averaged 11.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game to rank 14th and second, respectively, in the Big Sky Conference. In his 87-game career (47 as a starter), Moore has averaged 8.2 points and 5.4 rebounds while making 50 percent of his shots from the field. His 61 blocked shots now rank 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 65.6 percent in 2008-09 to increase his career mark to 63.0 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 he 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.

 

-- Eagles Were an Early Leader in the Big Sky in Scoring Defense -- Including all games, the Eagles ranked fifth in the Big Sky Conference in scoring defense, allowing 68.5 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 18 losses, Eastern allowed 72.2 points and 48.4 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 1-8 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."

 

-- 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 6-1 When They Scored 70 or More and 1-15 When They Made 44 Percent or Less -- Eastern finished the season 6-1 when it scored at least 70 points, and were unbeaten in that category until falling 75-70 at Idaho State on Feb. 14. The Eagles were 11-3 when they made at least 45 percent of their shots, but were 1-15 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 5-15 when their opponent made at least 44 percent of their shots from the field.

 

-- DeLeon and Busch Cleared to Play Eight Games Into the Season -- 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 5.7 points in an average of 18.0 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 4.3 points and 2.6 rebounds in 15.4 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.

 

Kirk Earlywine COMMENTS

-- On Offense at Home Versus Northern Colorado on Feb. 21 Despite Scoring Only 22 First-Half Points -- "We made strides, particularly on offense even though it didn't look like it in the first half. I don't know if we've had a half where we've gotten better shots -- we just missed them. I wasn't upset at all that we shot 33 percent because we had great shots. We kept doing the same thing in the second half and we made more of them. It was good for our players to stay the course and keep doing what they were coached to do."

-- On 31-6 Run Against UC Irvine After Falling Behind 18-8 on Nov. 30 -- "Those 10 or 12 minutes where we were playing really well were preceded by eight or nine when we were playing really bad, so I guess it evens out. I don't know why we made the mistakes we made early in the game to allow them to make so many three-point shots. They were just inexcusable in my eyes and we have to eliminate things like that in order for us to be good."

-- On Winning Against Experienced Texas Arlington -- "They made a terrific run late in the season in the NCAA Tournament, and they have guys who have been through big games and close games. It showed in their poise and they seemed to keep their focus. They made big shots and they had no panic in their eyes. That is a good basketball team and a good win for us."

 

OTHER NOTES

-- Earlywine Breaks the News To Excited Players -- A week after seemingly ending its season with an overtime loss to Portland State, Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine gathered his team on March. 5. He then told his players about the possibility of playing Saint Mary's the following week on March 13, 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."

The late addition to the schedule came after SMC was looking for another game prior to postseason national tournaments to help better prepare All-America candidate Patrick Mills, who had missed nine games prior to the West Coast Conference Tournament because of a broken hand.

Both the Eagles and Gaels were able to utilize different NCAA schedule exceptions to enable them to add a game at this late date. Eastern had 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 first 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.

"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 at the time the meeting was announced. "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."

Mills, who scored 20 points for Australia against the United States in last summer's Olympic Games, entered the game against the Eagles 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.

He finished with 19 points against the Eagles on 6-of-14 shooting from the field. He had four three-pointers and added a pair of assists and four steals. However, the 26-6 Gaels were snubbed by the NCAA Tournament selection committee and had to settle instead for a berth in the National Invitation Tournament.

 

-- Benny Valentine's Hot Stretches -- Eastern's Benny Valentine was the kind of leader head coach Kirk Earlywine was looking for on Feb. 7 against Northern Arizona and again on Feb. 21 versus Northern Colorado.

En route to a game-high 18 points against UNC, Benny Valentine scored 12 of EWU's last 18 points in the last 7:39 of the game, including the final eight points of the game in the 60-59 must-win victory. Valentine sank two free throws with eight seconds to play to give Eastern a three-point lead, and he also had a pair of steals and two assists to go along with his 8-of-11 shooting from the field.

Against NAU, in a game in which the largest lead for either team was four points, Valentine scored 13 points and had seven assists as the Eagles survived for a 54-50 victory. He made 6-of-10 shots from the floor, including the only three-point shot he tried. His seven assists were a season-high by two. He also had three rebounds and a pair of steals, including one theft in crunch time that helped give EWU the lead for good. Tied at 50 with 2:09 left, Valentine had a steal and assist on a fast-break basket by Gary Gibson that gave EWU the lead for good and a two-point advantage with 1:21 to play.

"I thought Benny Valentine played his best game of the year by far, by a wide margin," said Earlywine of Valentine's performance against NAU. "He ran the team. He got shots for his teammates. He had seven assists, a season high. He wasn't out there chucking shots. I thought that he was the key to the win and he didn't have to score 25 or 30 points to help us."

Earlier, in a four-game stretch from Jan. 4 to Jan. 15, Valentine averaged 24.5 points on 35-of-63 shooting from the field (54.0 percent), 12-of-24 from the three-point stripe (50.0) and 18-of-24 from the line (75.0). In one of those games, he made 11-of-16 shots to finish with 31 points in a 75-68 loss at Northern Colorado on Jan. 15. He scored 33 points three games earlier against Sacramento State on Jan. 4 when he finished with his best scoring game of the season. It was his first of more than 16 in nine games since getting 29 and 21 in back-to-back games in late November against Minnesota and UC Irvine, respectively.

"He was very selective in the first half -- he took nine shots but I thought all nine of them were really good, open shots," said Earlywine after the Sac State game. "There will be some games where we need him to shoot more, but there are more games where we need him to run our team and get more shots for the other players who are shooting a high percentage. He needs to pick his spots, and tonight he did that."

Valentine saw his average drop from a high of 20.3 after the UC Irvine game on Nov. 30 to 15.5 heading into EWU's meeting with Sac State. In those previous eight games, the Texas Tech transfer had averaged 11.9 points while making just 36-of-113 shots for 32 percent and 14-of-46 three-pointers for 30 percent. He also had more turnovers (31) than assists (26) in those eight games.

In a 75-55 loss at Hawaii, he had his first double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds to go along with a team-high five assists. Valentine then scored 29 points against Minnesota on Nov. 26, and followed that with 21 in EWU's 78-64 victory over UC Irvine on Nov. 30. He followed that by scoring 15 at Portland in a 63-58 Eastern victory, including 12 in the second half and 10 of Eastern's last 11 points in the final 3:13. He made three of four shots from the floor and all four of his free throws in that stretch.

And in a 61-55 win over Montana State, Valentine scored 10 points in the first half and finished with 15 for the game to go along with four assists and three steals. He assisted on three-straight baskets in the second half to give EWU a four-point lead en route to a 33-22 scoring advantage in the second half.

"Benny trusted his teammates," said Earlywine after the MSU win. "Sometimes when things aren't going as well as we would like it is easy for him to go off on his own, get shots for himself and try to score. He kept throwing the ball to the right spot. It's good for him to trust his teammates like that."

En route to winning Big Sky Player of the Week honors on Nov. 25, Valentine averaged 19.3 points, 3.3 assists and 1.0 steals in EWU's previous three games -- all victories over NCAA Division I opponents. He made 46.2 percent of his field goal attempts (18-of-39) and 68 percent of his free throws (19-of-28) as Eastern defeated UC Irvine (74-69), Texas Arlington (73-70) and Idaho (69-59).

He had 28 points and four assists versus UTA, a NCAA Tournament participant in 2007-08 and the defending Southland Conference champion. Valentine is originally from Omaha, Neb., and is a 2005 graduate of Omaha Central High School.

"Against Texas Arlington and Minnesota we needed him to score for us," said Earlywine. "In other games, we've just needed him to run our team. But against UC Irvine (on Nov. 30) we needed him to do both within the same game. In the first half when we were struggling, we needed him to score and he did. In the second half, we needed him to run our team, get the ball inside and do the things that got us the 18-point lead, and he did that as well. It's very encouraging that he is gaining a feel and understanding for what our team needs at particular moments and be willing to do that."

The Eagles found out against Idaho how important it was to have Valentine on the floor. He scored 13 points and had four assists in 29 minutes versus the Vandals, nailing all four of his free throws in the last two minutes while playing with four fouls. Eastern led by as many as 21 in the second half versus the Vandals, who were able to rally without Valentine in the game and pulled to within six with 2:19 left. He took just one shot in the first half, but EWU led 41-23.

"Idaho is quick and athletic all over the floor," Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine said. "So whenever we took Benny out of the game, it certainly made things more difficult for us in terms of getting a good shot."

 

-- Rodney Stuckey Returns to Eastern on Jan. 11 in Year He Would Have Been a Senior -- Consider it the Senior Day he was never able to receive.

Former Eastern Washington University men's basketball All-American and current Detroit Piston Rodney Stuckey had his EWU jersey retired in ceremonies that took place on Sunday, Jan. 11 at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.

The event took place in conjunction with Eastern's Big Sky Conference game against Weber State that was televised live regionally on Altitude Sports and Entertainment. He spent more than an hour afterward signing autographs and taking photos with Eastern fans.

"I am very honored and humbled to have my EWU jersey retired," said Stuckey on Dec. 30. "I have so many wonderful memories from my college days and I'm thankful to the University, the fans, my coaches and my teammates."

Stuckey played his freshman and sophomore seasons at Eastern before becoming a first-round draft choice (15th overall) by the Pistons in the 2007 National Basketball Association draft. He became Detroit's full-time starter at point guard on Dec. 9, and on Dec. 23 had a breakthrough game with 40 points, four assists and four steals in a 104-98 victory over Chicago.

He had another huge game with 38 points and seven assists in a 98-92 victory over Sacramento on Jan. 2 to help him earn NBA Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors. He helped the Pistons win four-straight games to earn the honor, averaging 23 points, 5.3 assists and 4.5 rebounds.

Detroit pushed its winning streak to seven before an 84-83 loss at Portland on Jan. 7 in which Stuckey scored 13 points and had seven assists. He had nine points and a pair of assists in a win at Denver on Jan. 9 and 19 points and two assists in a loss Jan. 10 at Utah. Following that road stretch, the Pistons were 14-5 in games Stuckey had started and 22-13 overall.

Considering that this would have been his senior season at EWU had he remained in college, it was appropriate that Stuckey was honored in such a manner. He spent three years on the EWU campus and still has many friends in Cheney, including former high school teammate Aaron Boyce, who is an All-America wide receiver for the Eagle football team. At the ceremony, Boyce presented a framed photo collage to Stuckey on behalf of EWU Athletics.

"I'm happy to share this experience with all the people who supported me throughout my college career," Stuckey said.

Stuckey was an All-American at Eastern -- both athletically and academically -- after averaging 24 points per game in each of his two seasons (2005-06 and 2006-07). He helped EWU win 30 games in two seasons and had a 3.34 grade point average. A 2004 graduate of Kentwood High School in Kent, Wash., Stuckey was a NCAA non-qualifier and had to sit out the 2004-05 season at EWU.

"We've talked about honoring Rodney by retiring his jersey for some time now," said Eastern Athletic Director Bill Chaves. "What he accomplished here in two seasons and Detroit in two more is nothing short of phenomenal, and it's thrilling to watch his progress in the NBA. We're excited to have him back on campus to give him the recognition he deserved but didn't get because of how highly-regarded he was by the NBA."

Through 33 games in 2008-09 (19 as a starter), the second-year pro was averaging 13.5 points, 5.0 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 29.2 minutes per game. In first 90 games of his career (21 as a starter), Stuckey was averaging 9.8 points, 3.6 assists, 2.6 rebounds and 1.0 steals in 22.7 minutes per game.

In his first four games as a full-time starter (including a three-game winning streak), he averaged a double-double -- 15.5 points and 10.0 assists. In his 40-point output against Chicago, Stuckey made 15-of-24 shots from the field with his outstanding driving and finishing ability. He also sank 9-of-11 free throws, and his passing has also been exceptional. In his first 16 games since taking over as a full-time starters, the Pistons were 11-5 as he averaged 18.1 points and 5.9 assists.

Although several Eastern football players have been honored previously in such a manner -- including the retired No. 84 jersey of Bob Picard -- it's believed that no Eastern men's basketball player has had his jersey retired. Eastern's all-time leading basketball scorer (1,741) and rebounder (1,273) Ron Cox is another candidate after being drafted in the sixth round by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1977, but an injury kept him from playing a game in the NBA.

Cox was inducted into the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame in 1998, and Stuckey will no doubt join him as a member as soon as soon as he's placed on the ballot. Another such professional is current Tennessee Titan offensive tackle Michael Roos, who is also a prime candidate to have his jersey retired in the near future. Roos recently became the first-ever Eastern football player to be selected to the Pro Bowl and was also selected as a first team All-Pro selection as one of the top two offensive tackles in the NFL.

"Rodney and Michael have both had unprecedented success in the professional ranks for former Eastern student-athletes," said Chaves. "We are extremely proud of them both. The great talent (Rodney) put on display for Eastern fans for two seasons is now being watched by a world-wide audience. It's truly exciting."

More on Stuckey may be found at:
http://www.nba.com/playerfile/rodney_stuckey/index.html

 

-- Eastern Kept Improving During Six-Game Losing Streak -- Despite a six-game losing streak, Eastern was at both its best and worst during the skid.

"We've done enough good things to give ourselves a chance to win, and now it's time to take the next step," said Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine after the sixth loss of the skid. "Instead of simply being competitive and in those games with a chance to win, we need to make the plays to pull out a victory."

In its sixth loss of the losing streak, Montana used a 14-6 run mid-way through the second half to break away from a 35-all tie and win 60-52 on Jan. 31. The Eagles made just 33 percent of their shots, while the Grizzlies made 46 percent in a game in which the Eagles took 22 more shots, won the rebounding battle 38-31 and had only nine turnovers.

In a 69-65 loss at Montana State on Jan. 29, the Bobcats rallied from 10 points down in each half, using a 15-4 run to lead them to the four-point win. Eastern out-shot MSU 46 percent to 39 percent, but missed its last three field goals and its last two free throws as EWU went the final 2:58 without scoring.

On Jan. 21 in Cheney, Wash., the Grizzlies handed EWU a 63-50 loss at Reese Court -- representing Montana's second road win in 10 games in 2008-09 and EWU's second-straight home setback. The Grizzlies opened a 15-point lead at halftime and withstood a late EWU rally for the win.

Prior to the losses to the Montana schools, Eastern was coming off an 83-61 loss at league favorite and defending champion Portland State on Jan. 24. The Eagles led by as many as seven late in the first half, but PSU runs of 24-5 and 15-0 turned the promising start into a blowout.

The losing streak started on Jan. 11 with a 77-69 home loss to Weber State in which EWU fell behind by as many as 17 points in the second half after a nearly five-minute scoreless stretch in the first half. The Eagles followed that with a 75-68 loss at Northern Colorado in which the Bears turned a one-point game into seven-point win in the final 32 seconds.

Eastern played some good stretches of basketball in the last four outings of the streak, but consistency was a problem. Eastern rebounded well (29-25 against PSU and 38-31 against Montana on Jan. 31), took care of the ball well (just 14 turnovers total in two games versus Montana and only eight against MSU) and shot well (49 percent versus PSU and 46 percent against MSU). But they have also not rebounded well (41-32 versus Montana on Jan. 21 and 40-32 versus MSU), not handled the ball well (19 turnovers versus PSU) and not shot well (31 and 33 percent in games against Montana).

In 2008 at the same juncture of the season, the Eagles were mired in a four-game losing streak -- all in games against Montana and Montana State -- to go from 3-3 in the league to 3-7. Eastern won three of its last six games, but the damage was done as EWU finished 6-10 in the league and failed to qualify for the league tournament for the second-straight season.

During its six-game losing streak, EWU made only 39 percent of its shots from the field, including only 28 percent of its three-point attempts (33-of-118). Opponents, meanwhile, made 47 percent from the field and 37 percent (46-of-123) from the arc.

But the most glaring difference was at the free throw line where Eastern was out-scored by more than double -- 107-52. Opponents received 70 more attempts from the stripe -- an average of nearly 12 per game. In fact, the Eagles had more field goals than their opponents (140 to 137) during the losing streak, with 62 more field goal attempts.

Scoring dry spells and opponent runs were Eastern's undoing.

"Early in the year we were grinding out possessions and grinding out a full 40-minute game," said Earlywine prior to the MSU-UM weekend. "We haven't done that as much lately. We are going through stretches where we don't score, and at those times you have to be extraordinarily tough with the ball and rebounding. We are not doing that well enough for long enough to win right now."

 

-- Dry Spells and Scoring Runs -- Eastern games in January and late December were punctuated by long scoring dry spells for EWU and opponent runs.

Against both Montana schools at the end of January, second-half scoring runs of 15-4 by the Bobcats and 14-6 by the Grizzlies led to Eastern defeats. Prior to that, Eastern was out-scored 24-5 over an eight-minute span to turn a seven-point EWU lead at Portland State into a 12-point deficit. Later in the game, Eastern went 5:06 without scoring as PSU used a 15-0 run to win easily, 83-61.

On Jan. 11 at home, the Eagles went 4:54 without scoring as Weber State went on a 17-2 run to turn a 23-18 deficit into a 32-25 advantage in the 77-69 Wildcat win. Against Northern Arizona in a 72-49 road loss on Jan. 2, the Eagles went the final 7:57 without a field goal as they were out-scored 14-4 in that stretch. The Eagles went 9:11 without a point against Boise State, and on Dec. 20 versus Washington, Eastern had a stretch of 8:22 without a field goal and an additional 5:03 stretch without a point in the 80-53 loss.

But at other times this season, Eastern has had more than enough offense. The Eagles scored 87 points in an 87-74 win over Sacramento State on Jan. 4 after scoring just 97 combined in losses to BSU (57-48) and NAU (72-49). Before the Sac State victory, Eastern's last win was a 90-87 victory on Dec. 22 over Evergreen State, which entered the game 7-2 and was the 16th-ranked team in NAIA Division II. The Geoducks were coming off an 82-68 win over that division's No. 1 ranked team and defending national champion, Oregon Tech.

 

-- Infamy for Valentine and Joshua Lewis-- When Benny Valentine missed a free throw with a half-second remaining in the first half against Idaho State on Jan. 9, little did he know he would have so much in common with former Eagle Joshua Lewis.

Thanks to a 16-of-16 free throw effort in the second half, the Eagles finished with a 20-of-21 night from the line. The 95.2 percent accuracy equaled the school record set in a 95-77 loss at Portland on Dec. 10, 1994 in Portland, when EWU was also 20-of-21. The only player to miss was Lewis, who made 5-of-6 in the game. Eastern made its first eight and its last 12 in that game. Lewis is now living in the Los Angeles area and attended the Eastern at UC Irvine game.

 

-- Eagles Register First League Win on Dec. 6 -- Eastern opened Big Sky Conference play on Dec. 6 with a 61-55 victory over Montana State The league opener came less than a month into the 2008-09 campaign, and was the earliest start to the Big Sky schedule in EWU history. Benny Valentine finished with 15 points, four assists and three steals in the win over the Bobcats.

With the victory over MSU, the Eagles were in first place in the league for nearly a month.

"I will caution our players that we were 1-0 in 2007-08 in the conference as well and ended up not playing in the conference tournament," said head coach Kirk Earlywine after the MSU win. "So while it's a good start and it certainly beats the alternative of being 0-1, there is still a long ways to go."

 

-- More on Eastern's Hot Start -- Eastern's 6-2 start to the 2008-09 season was a complete turnaround from 2007-08 when the Eagles were 2-6 after eight games and had been out-scored by an average of more than 12 points per game. Eastern didn't win its sixth game of the season until Dec. 22.

In 2008-09, EWU won its sixth game on Dec. 6 against Montana State. Through eight games, the Eagles had a 535-529 scoring advantage despite losing to a pair of Big Ten Conference foes by a combined 37 points. Eastern out-rebounded opponents by one per game, and had averaged just 12.5 turnovers per game.

As a result, Eastern won all four of its games decided by six points or fewer, and its victories came by margins of three, five, five, six, 10 and 12. In 2007-09, Eastern was 3-6 in games decided by five points or less, with all six setbacks coming during conference play.

"The combination of us defending fairly well and limiting our turnovers have been the two things in particular (that have helped win close games)," explained Earlywine after the MSU win. "Our offensive rebounding hasn't been overwhelming, but we seem to get them at the right time. Those three things have allowed us to win games, but our statistics as a whole makes you wonder how are we winning those. But it's been timely, clutch plays, and somebody seems to make a basket at the right time. Andy Genao came up with three buckets, including two tough baskets, in the last 2:35 against Montana State. Maybe the stars are aligned right now because we are finding ways to win tough games."

The last time Eastern was 6-2 to start a season came in came in 2002-03 when that squad began the year 3-2 and stretched it to 7-2 with a four-game winning streak. That year the Eagles lost to Weber State 60-57 in the Big Sky Tournament championship game with a trip to the NCAA Tournament on the line. Current Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine was an assistant coach that season for the Wildcats, who were 14-0 in the league and 26-6 overall.

 

-- Four-Game Grind Ends With 3-1 Mark -- Eastern closed a stretch of four games in eight nights with an 88-67 loss at Minnesota on Nov. 26. In the first three games of its four-game grind, Eastern defeated UC Irvine (74-69), Texas Arlington (73-70) and Idaho (69-59). The win over Texas Arlington was particularly impressive because the Mavericks were a NCAA Tournament participant in 2007-08 and are the defending Southland Conference champions.

"It seemed like those were the types of games that slipped away from us a year ago," said Earlywine, particularly of his team's narrow victories over the Anteaters and Mavericks. "I don't know if that means we are improved or the basketball gods are smiling on us at the moment. I know we are better at this point than we were a year ago at this time. How much I don't know yet.

"Having a guard out there in Benny Valentine that can make plays and handle the ball against pressure certainly helps you in those late-game situations," added Earlywine. "Those are very good wins for us and are a sign that we're advancing and becoming better as a program."

Eastern opened its season with a 66-50 loss on Nov. 14 at Illinois of the Big Ten Conference in a game that was tied at 35 at halftime. However, Eastern went 8:05 without a field goal during a 15-1 Illinois run in the second half to spoil a combined 27-point outing for new Valentine and returning 6-9 center Brandon Moore.

 

-- 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. In 2007-08, 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 in 2007-08 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.

 

-- Eagles Versus the Big Ten Conference -- Eastern is now 0-6 all-time versus the Big Ten Conference. Before the 2008-09 season, the last meeting against the league took place last November against Michigan in a 61-53 loss.

11/26/08 - L - Minnesota - 67-88 - A

11/14/08 - L - Illinois - 50-66 - A

11/23/07 - L - Michigan - 53-61 - ~

12/5/03 - L - Iowa - 54-70 - #

11/15/02 - L - Wisconsin - 55-81 - $

12/28/01 - L - Indiana - 60-87 - %

11/24/01 - L - Minnesota - 68-86 - A

11/25/00 - L - Michigan State - 61-83 - &

~Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout in Anchorage, Alaska

#Gazette Hawkeye Challenge in Iowa City, Iowa

$NABC Classic in Madison, Wisc.

%Ameritech Hoosier Classic in Indianapolis, Ind.

&Spartan Classic in Lansing, Mich.

A -- Away

 

-- Eagles Versus Ranked Teams -- The 2008-09 season was the first time 2002-03 that Eastern did not play a nationally-ranked team. The Eagles played 12 such games in the five seasons since then.

Eastern is 1-14 versus nationally-ranked teams -- including three games in the 2004-05 season alone as well as three the year before. Seven of the 13 games came under former head coach Mike Burns and five others came under Ray Giacoletti from 2000-2004.

12/5/07 vs. #3 Kansas - L, 47-85

11/9/07 vs. #10 Washington State - L, 41-68

12/15/06 vs. #22 Oregon - L, 74-100

11/24/06 vs. #16 Washington - L, 83-90

12/19/05 vs. #8 Gonzaga - L, 65-75

12/16/05 vs. #11 Washington - L, 74-91

12/28/04 vs. #14 Arizona - L, 45-79

12/21/04 vs. #13 Gonzaga - L, 70-83

12/5/04 vs. #14 Washington - L, 56-89

3/19/04 vs. #3 Oklahoma State - L, 56-75

12/31/03 vs. #16 Gonzaga - L, 49-70

11/21/03 vs. #14 Oklahoma - L, 59-69

11/15/01 vs. #10 St. Joseph's - W, 68-67

11/25/00 vs. #4 Michigan State - L, 61-83

1/21/85 vs. #10 DePaul - L, 50-72

 

-- Big Crowds -- The Eagles played in front of 14,422 fans at Illinois on Nov. 14, which is the sixth-largest crowd EWU has ever played against. A crowd of 11,977 were on hand on Nov. 26 when EWU played at Minnesota. Those were the 19th and 20th times since the 2000-01 season that Eastern has played in front of crowds in excess of 10,000 fans. Unfortunately, Eastern has failed to win in all 20 of those games.

Eastern's first two games of the 2007-08 season drew crowds of 10,216 (at Washington State) and 12,016 (at New Mexico), Later in the year on Dec. 12, Eastern lost to Kansas at legendary Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kan.

In the 2006 season, the Eagles played in front of 10,000 at Washington after the previous two games there drew 9,876 (2005) and 9,418 (2004). In the 2004-05 season, Eastern played in front of a crowd of 14,535 fans at Arizona, 10,216 at Wichita State and 12,000 against Gonzaga. Three of the 10,000+ crowds also came in the 2003-04 season. Several other games have been played in the first game of pre-season tournaments that have drawn at least that many fans, but the Eagles haven't faced the host team.

Here is a list of those crowds:

16,840 - 3/19/04 vs. Oklahoma State - L, 56-75

16,374 - 11/15/02 vs. Wisconsin - L, 55-81

16,300 - 12/5/07 vs. Kansas - L, 47-85

14,759 - 11/25/00 vs. Michigan State - L, 61-83

14,535 - 12/28/04 vs. Arizona - L, 45-79

14,422 - 11/14/08 vs. Illinois - L, 50-66

12,533 - 11/24/01 vs. Minnesota - L, 68-86

12,299 - 12/31/03 vs. Gonzaga - L, 49-70

12,016 - 11/12/06 vs. New Mexico - L, 57-92

12,000 - 12/21/04 vs. Gonzaga - L, 70-83

11,977 - 11/26/08 vs. Minnesota - L, 67-88

11,879 - 12/19/05 vs. Gonzaga - L, 65-75

11,268 - 11/21/03 vs. Oklahoma - L, 59-69

11,031 - 12/5/03 vs. Iowa - L, 54-70

11,000 - 12/22/02 vs. Gonzaga - L, 64-67

10,432 - 12/28/01 vs. Indiana - L, 60-87

10,216 - 11/20/04 vs. Wichita State - L, 62-80

10,215 - 11/9/06 vs. Washington State - L, 41-68

10,210 - 3/12/03 vs. Weber State - L, 57-60

10,000 - 11/24/06 vs. Washington - L, 83-90

 

-- EWU in Exhibitions -- Until falling 58-56 to Carroll College on Nov. 1, Eastern had won its last 12 exhibition games, which are contests that do not count in EWU's season record or statistics. It's last exhibition loss came on Nov. 13, 1999, to the Northwest Basketball Camp (NBC) Thunder. In that 73-71 loss, former Pepperdine player Shann Ferch made a three-point play with 19 seconds to lift NBC to the win. Here is a list of recent exhibition games:

11/8/08 - Puget Sound - W, 90-66

11/1/08 - Carroll - L, 56-58

11/3/07 - Pacific - W, 91-49

11/4/06 - Northwest Nazarene - W, 98-55

11/13/05 - UC-San Diego - W, 75-44

11/13/04 - Central Washington - W, 79-63

11/12/03 - Ukraine Touring Team - W, 83-55

11/7/03 - Northwest Sports - W, 100-79

11/7/02 - Northwest Basketball Camp (NBC) Thunder - W, 99-72

11/1/02 - Northwest Sports - W, 117-73

11/2/01 - NBC Thunder - W, 108-106

10/10/01 - Alumni - W, 94-85

11/14/00 - SON Blue Angels - W, 90-78

11/4/00 - NBC Thunder - W, 72-63

11/13/99 - NBC Thunder - L, 71-73

11/5/99 - The Hoop USA - W, 106-64

 

-- Moore Also Impressive in Last Eight Games of 2007-08 Season-- Sophomore Brandon Moore averaged 11.3 points and 7.6 rebounds on 53.1 percent shooting in the last eight games of the 2007-08 season. He closed the season with seven points and 12 rebounds in a loss at Portland State, but in his previous game at Northern Colorado he played just 22 minutes because of early foul trouble and finished with only two points and one rebound.

The 6-foot-9 Moore helped lead the Eagles to a crucial home sweep over Weber State (69-57) and Idaho State (63-53) in mid-February as he scored 35 points and had 14 rebounds. He made 14-of-20 shots in the two games and added two blocked shots and two steals. Six of his rebounds were on the offensive end, including four offensive boards versus Weber State.

 

-- Eastern Just The Fifth BSC School to Make Nine-Straight Tournament Appearances -- Although its streak came to an end in the 2006-07 season, Eastern is just the fifth school in league history to make nine-straight appearances in the Big Sky Conference Tournament. Eastern started the streak back in 1998 after making just one trip to the tourney in their first 10 seasons as a member of the conference.

Weber State had its string of 24-straight appearances stopped in 2005-06, and Montana had a string of 21-straight from 1978-98. The other streaks were 16 by Idaho (1981-96) and 11 by Nevada (1982-92). Two years ago, Eastern equaled the streak of eight by Northern Arizona (1997-04).

Interestingly, Montana's 77-69 victory over the Lumberjacks on Feb. 28, 2005, extended Eastern's streak and ended NAU's. Eastern's streak started in 1998 with an end-of-year victory at Montana. That "winner advance, loser eliminated" game ended Montana's 21-year streak.

Eastern is now 7-9 in 10 appearances in the league tournament. Eastern ended its season with losses to Montana in both 2005 and 2006, but the year before won the title with a 71-59 championship game victory over Northern Arizona.

Here is a list of Eastern's appearances in the Big Sky Tournament.

2006 - Semifinal (Flagstaff, Ariz.) - #3 seed vs. #2 Montana - L, 71-73 (ot)

2006 - Quarterfinal (Cheney, Wash.) - #3 seed vs. #6 Portland State - W, 81-75

2005 - Quarterfinal (Missoula, Mont.) - #6 seed vs. #3 Montana - L, 48-58

2004 - Championship (Cheney, Wash.) - #1 seed vs. #2 Northern Ariz. - W, 71-59

2004 - Semifinals (Cheney, Wash.) - #1 seed vs. #5 Weber State - W, 72-53

2003 - Championship (Ogden, Utah) - #2 seed vs. #1 Weber State - L, 57-60

2003 - Semifinals (Ogden, Utah) - #2 seed vs. #4 Idaho State - W, 76-67

2002 - Championship (Bozeman, Mont.) - #2 seed vs. #5 Montana - L, 66-70

2002 - Semifinals (Bozeman, Mont.) - #2 seed vs. #3 Weber State - W, 62-57

2001 - Championship (Northridge, Calif.) - #2 seed vs. #1 CS Northridge - L, 58-73

2001 - Semifinals (Northridge, Calif.) - #2 seed vs. #5 Northern Arizona - W, 58-53

2000 - Semifinals (Missoula, Mont.) - #2 seed vs. #3 Northern Arizona - L, 65-82

1999 - Quarterfinals (Ogden, Utah) - #6 seed vs. #3 Portland State - L, 74-80

1998 - Quarterfinals (Flagstaff, Ariz.) - #3 seed vs. #6 CS Northridge - L, 98-104 (ot)

1990 - Championship (Boise, Idaho) - #2 seed vs. #1 Idaho - L, 62-65

1990 - Semifinals (Boise, Idaho) - #2 seed vs. #5 Weber State - W, 83-67

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