After Loss to Gonzaga, Eagles Play at UNLV

Nov. 13, 2006

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With a busy early-season schedule featuring a school-record eight games in November, disappointment can't last very long for the Eastern Washington University men's basketball team.

After losing its season-opener 90-75 to national power and regional rival Gonzaga, Eastern heads to Las Vegas, Nev., to play UNLV on Tuesday, Nov. 14. Tipoff at the Thomas and Mack Center is 7:30 p.m. Pacific time in the first-ever meeting between the two schools.

Following the UNLV game, the Eagles return to open their home schedule on Saturday, Nov. 18 against Lewis-Clark State followed by a home game versus Evergreen State on Tuesday, Nov. 21. Tipoff in both games is 7:05 p.m. Pacific time at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.

On Tuesday, Eastern takes on a UNLV team that is 1-0 after knocking off Hawaii 73-59 on Nov. 10. The Runnin' Rebels took a 38-27 lead in the first half, and forced 19 turnovers while holding Hawaii to 33 percent shooting in the game. A crowd of 9,284 attended the game in the 18,500-season arena.

Four players scored in double figures, led by guard Jo'Van "Wink" Adams with 16 points on 9-of-11 shooting from the free throw line. Kevin Kruger, son of head coach Lon Kruger, added 12 points versus Hawaii in his UNLV debut. He transferred from Arizona State and is eligible because of a new NCAA rule passed in April that allows student-athletes with a fifth year of eligibility to transfer and play immediately provided they have graduated with a bachelor's degree.

Last year, UNLV finished 17-13 overall and 10-6 in the Mountain West Conference to place fourth. Guard Michael Umeh, who scored seven against Hawaii, averaged 11.0 last year and Adams averaged 10.9. Lon Kruger is now 353-260 in his 21st season as a collegiate head coach. This is his third season at UNLV and is 35-27 thus far.

"UNLV is an extremely athletic team," said EWU head coach Mike Burns. "They are very talented and will pose a real challenge for us Tuesday. Their backcourt has a lot of very good players who are difficult to defend. Thomas and Mack is one of the toughest places to play in the country, and that will make it an even bigger challenge."

Eastern had hoped to give the Bulldogs a run for their money, but instead fell victim to a 16-2 run in the first half and fell behind at halftime 55-36. Eastern eventually lost by just 15, 90-75, but never mounted a rally in the second half and lost for the 20th-straight time in the rivalry.

"Offensive execution and taking care of the basketball," said Burns of his team's most-needed areas of improvement. "The game was tied and we were handling things well. But a couple of turnovers turned into baskets on the other end. They went on a run and we never recovered."

Burns is hoping his team's second half performance against the Bulldogs was something his team can build on. Although they never trailed by any less than the final margin in the second half, the Eagles had just five turnovers and out-scored Gonzaga 39-35.

"If you don't do the little things when you play in an environment like Gonzaga or Las Vegas, it is going to be cause for trouble," added Burns. "If you can, you give yourself a chance to win. We only had five turnovers in the second half and played reasonably well against Gonzaga, but it still was not great."

In pre-season exhibition action, Eastern defeated Northwest Nazarene 98-55 on Nov. 4. The Eagles scored 21-straight points in the first half to cruise to an easy win. Eastern had five players score in double figures and made 58 percent of its shots from the field.

Eastern is coming off a season that saw it win seven more games than the 2004-05 EWU squad. Eastern finished 15-15 overall and 9-5 in the Big Sky Conference. The Eagles advanced to the Big Sky Conference Tournament semifinals, but lost to eventual champion Montana in overtime. The Grizzlies went on to win a game in the NCAA Tournament.

 

Acclaim Already Begins for Stuckey in 2006-07: Without even stepping a foot on the basketball floor for the 2006-07 season, Rodney Stuckey has attracted national acclaim and attention.

Recently, Stuckey was one of 50 players selected as a preseason candidate for the men's 2006-07 Wooden Award All-American Team as selected by the National Preseason Selection Committee for the John R. Wooden Award. The list is composed of 50 student athletes who, based on last year's individual performance and team records, are the early frontrunners for college basketball's most coveted trophy.

He was also selected by Collegeinsider.com as one of 16 players nationally on its preseason All-America team. Another impressive accolade came from Lindy's Magazine, which ranked him as the third-best shooting guard in all of NCAA Division I. Gary Parrish from CBS Sportsline selected Stuckey as the sixth-best shooting guard in the nation.

Stuckey was named a first team selection on the collegehoops.net All-Underrated Team in September and CHN also ranked him as the 34th-best player in the nation (eighth among sophomores).

He was also recognized by Frank Burlison on Fox Sports.com as a sophomore to watch. Burlison quoted Southern California head coach Tim Floyd - a former head coach at Idaho and the Chicago Bulls - as saying Stuckey was "the best NBA prospect we played against last season." Stuckey scored 15 points and had five rebounds in EWU's 69-51 loss to the Trojans at the Great Alaska Shootout.

In addition, Stuckey has or will be featured in various collegiate publications and web sites, including Slam Magazine and Basketball Times.

Playing for a team with just one senior, Stuckey burst onto the scene with one of the best seasons by a freshman in NCAA Division I history. Among his many awards was being honored as Collegeinsider.com Freshman of the Year after a record-breaking season unmatched in the history of Eastern Washington and by any freshman in the 43-year history of the Big Sky Conference.

The 6-foot-4 guard from Kent, Wash., set seven school records, including a 24.2 scoring average per game that is a Big Sky record for a freshman and the seventh-best overall in the history of the league. His average ranked eighth in NCAA Division I. His 726 total points is fifth-best in league history, the most in the conference in nearly 30 years (since 1978-79) and the most-ever by a freshman in the BSC.

Stuckey became just the 36th player in NCAA Division I to lead his conference in scoring as a freshman. He won league MVP and Freshman of the Year honors, and in the process, became the first player in Big Sky history and the 12th in Division I history to earn league MVP honors as a freshman.

 

2006-07 Schedule Has Similar Feel: Eastern's 2006-07 schedule has a familiar ring to it as the Eagles take on the likes of Gonzaga, Washington, Oregon and UNLV - all on the road. Gonzaga and Washington, as well as Big Sky rival Montana, advanced to the NCAA Tournament where all three teams picked up first-round victories.

"We have always scheduled tough, and this year is no different," said Eagle head coach Mike Burns. "Those are not easy places to win basketball games. But we have a group that can go in there and physically compete against those teams. We're excited about that."

Eastern plays an unprecedented eight games in November as the NCAA moved-up the allowed season starting date by a week. From Nov. 18 to Nov. 29 the Eagles play five games, including four home games and a visit to Washington on Nov. 24.

"The schedule allows us to start a week earlier and we kind of shoe-horned some games in around Thanksgiving as well," Burns said. "We'll have a tough stretch there to deal with. From Nov. 18 to 29 we play five games, but at least four of those five games are at home."

Four-straight road games follow in December, with Eastern hosting Idaho on Dec. 21 prior to Christmas. However, because of the addition of Northern Colorado to the Big Sky, league play will begin before the new year begins. Eastern hosts Montana State on Dec. 28 and Montana on Dec. 30.

"We tried to make sure we had some time to rest as we get ready for conference play," Burns said of his December schedule. "It's tough starting off the conference race right after Christmas. The fortunate part is we start at home. I think our schedule allows us a chance to get better against some pretty good teams and ultimately get ourselves ready for conference play."

 

Eagles Picked to Finish Third: Just one point separated first and second place in the 2006-07 Big Sky Conference Men's Basketball preseason media and coaches' poll. In the coaches' poll, Northern Arizona is first and in the media poll, Montana is first. Eastern was third in both as it finished just five points out of first in voting by the coaches and just 11 points from first in the media poll.

Eastern received one first-place vote in the coaches' poll and 54 total points. Seven media members voted the Eagles first, and EWU earned 222 points in that poll.

Coaches' Poll
School (First-place votes) Points

1. Northern Arizona (4) 59
2. Montana (4) 58
3. Eastern Washington (1) 54
4. Portland State 41
5. Sacramento State 37
6. Weber State 27
7. Idaho State 22
8. Montana State 17
9. Northern Colorado 8

Media Poll
School (First-place votes) Points

1. Montana (9) 233
2. Northern Arizona (13) 232
3. Eastern Washington (7) 222
4. Portland State 149
5. Sacramento State 143
6. Montana State 109
7. Weber State 95
8. Idaho State 93
9. Northern Colorado 30

 

SERIES HISTORY

Eagles Versus UNLV: This is the first-ever meeting between the two schools.

Eagles Versus Lewis-Clark State: Eastern has a 45-5 record all-time against Lewis-Clark State, but hasn't played the Warriors since the early 80's back when the Eagles were still affiliated with the NAIA. The last meeting was on Feb. 8, 1982, in Lewiston, won by EWU 67-57. Earlier that season on Jan. 28, Eastern won at Reese Court by a 79-55 score. Eastern has won the last eight meetings, with the last L-C State victory coming on Feb. 3, 1976, by a 97-93 score in Lewiston.

Eagles Versus Evergreen State: The Eagles are 2-0 all-time versus the Geoducks, with both games taking place at Reese Court. Eastern defeated Evergreen State 93-66 in the first-ever meeting between the two schools on Dec. 22, 1998. Eastern also won 90-58 on Nov. 21, 2000.

 

MORE NOTES

Eastern Just The Fifth BSC School to Make Nine-Straight Tournament Appearances: 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). Last year, 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 seed Montana - L, 71-73 (ot)

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

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

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

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

2003 - Championship (Ogden, Utah) - #2 seed vs. #1 seed 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 Cal State 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 seed Cal State Northridge - L, 98-104 (ot)

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

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

 

Eagles Versus Ranked Teams: Eastern is now 1-10 versus nationally-ranked teams -- including three games in the 2004-05 season alone as well as three the year before. Five of the 11 games versus ranked teams came under Ray Giacoletti from 2000-2004.

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 11,879 fans that watched Eastern's near-upset of Gonzaga on Dec. 19 in the Spokane Arena was the 14th time since the 2000-01 season that Eastern has played in front of crowds in excess of 10,000 fans.

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 (Eastern's game at Washington the last two seasons had crowds of 9,418 in 2004 and 9,876 in 2005). 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.

Unfortunately, Eastern has failed to win all 14 of those games. Here is a list of those crowds:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Eastern 12-62 Versus the Pacific 10 Conference: With losses to Washington each of the last three seasons and a 1-7 record all-time against the Huskies, Eastern is now 12-62 all-time versus current members of the Pacific 10 Conference.

Eastern's win at Washington in the 2002-03 season snapped a five-game losing streak versus Pacific 10 Conference opponents dating back to Eastern's 83-82 overtime win versus Washington State on Dec. 22, 1997, in Kennewick, Wash. That victory was Eastern's first-ever victory over a Pacific 8 or Pacific 10 Conference opponent since the inception of the conference in 1968. It was also Eastern's first win over Washington State since Dec. 1, 1952, when the Eagles pulled out a 72-71 overtime win in Pullman. The Cougars had led the all-time series 49-10 and had won 17-straight games over the Eagles prior to that win.

Eastern's last game against a Pacific 10 opponent was a 91-74 loss to 11th-ranked Washington on Dec. 16, 2005. In the 2004-05 season, Washington was ranked 14th in the nation and defeated EWU 89-56. The Huskies also prevailed 104-91 in 2003, but Eastern defeated the Huskies 62-58 in December 2002. Washington won the previous four meetings which all took place between 1990 and 1997.

Other recent meetings against the Pac 10 have yielded losses to Arizona (79-45 on Dec. 28, 2004), California (56-27 on Nov. 16, 2001 and 94-63 on Nov. 25, 1998), Oregon State (58-50 on Dec. 19, 2000 and 78-62 on Dec. 15, 1999) and Washington State (91-72 on Dec. 5, 1998). Including an 11-50 record versus Washington State and 1-7 mark versus the Huskies, Eastern is now 12-62 versus the Pacific 10 Conference.

 

2005-06 Season Recap: It was the year of Rodney Stuckey, but it was also a season of vast improvement for a youthful Eastern Washington University men's basketball team.

In fact, the Eagles won seven more games than the 2004-05 EWU squad.

"In talking with our players about this year, the one thing the season has done is create an even greater hunger for success next year," said Eagle head coach Mike Burns at the conclusion of the season. "I think that's a key component to having the sort of success we've come to expect around here."

Playing for a team with just one senior, Stuckey burst onto the scene with one of the best seasons by a freshman in NCAA Division I history. Among his many awards was being honored as Collegeinsider.com Freshman of the Year after a record-breaking season unmatched in the history of Eastern Washington and by any freshman in the 43-year history of the Big Sky Conference.

The 6-foot-4 guard from Kent, Wash., set seven school records, including a 24.2 scoring average per game that is a Big Sky record for a freshman and the seventh-best overall in the history of the league. His average ranked eighth in NCAA Division I. His 726 total points is fifth-best in league history, the most in the conference in nearly 30 years (since 1978-79) and the most-ever by a freshman in the BSC.

Stuckey became just the 36th player in NCAA Division I to lead his conference in scoring as a freshman. He won league MVP and Freshman of the Year honors, and in the process, became the first player in Big Sky history and the 12th in Division I history to earn league MVP honors as a freshman.

His many accolades also included Mid-Major All-America by Collegeinsider.com; selected to the Freshman All-America second team by Rivals.com; National Freshman of the Week accolades by CBSsportsline.com and Rivals.com; Big Sky Conference All-Tournament; and four Big Sky Conference Player of the Week awards. He was also Eastern's first-ever member of the NABC All-District 13 squad, and was honored on the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District VIII squad for accumulating a 3.34 grade point average through five quarters of academic work at EWU.

Whew. Not bad for a player who couldn't even practice or play for the Eagles in the 2004-05 school year because of NCAA academic eligibility requirements.

"The accolades speak for themselves," said Burns. "To have a player from the Big Sky Conference recognized by a major media outlet as the National Freshman of the Year speaks volumes about the impact he made not only regionally but also nationally. He is very deserving of any and all accolades he receives, and I think that sheds light on where our program is heading."

Thanks to Stuckey and his teammates, the Eagles finished 15-15 after a third-place finish in the Big Sky Conference with a 9-5 mark. That was an improvement of three positions and four wins from a year earlier when the Eagles were 8-20 overall and 5-9 in the Big Sky.

After opening the Big Sky Conference Tournament with an 81-75 victory over Portland State, Eastern fell 73-71 in overtime to eventual Big Sky Champion and NCAA Tournament representative Montana in the semifinals. The Grizzlies survived in overtime against EWU after Stuckey missed a short jumper that could have won it for the Eagles.

It was Eastern's sixth trip to the semis in the last seven years, but the Eagles came up short in their bid for a fifth trip to the title game in six seasons. The Eagles won the Big Sky regular season and tourney titles and advanced to their first-ever NCAA Tournament in the 2003-04 season.

Eastern won seven of its last nine games versus Big Sky foes, with the lone losses coming to UM. Montana went on to pound tournament host Northern Arizona 73-60 for the title, then upset fifth-seeded Nevada 87-79 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

"We thought we had a very special group," said Burns. "They were very young and very inexperienced, and they fought through a very difficult schedule in December. We knew that would be a challenge and it was. But to finish the way we did bodes very well for the future. We hosted and won a playoff game, and then took the eventual conference champions to overtime in the semifinals."

Stuckey scored 26 points in the semifinals against the Grizzlies as he finished the year leading EWU in scoring in its final 27 games of the season. One game earlier, he had the second-most points in tournament history with 38 versus the Vikings as the Eagles completed a three-game sweep of PSU. Interestingly, the record - 39 by Mike O'Quinn of Cal State Northridge - came in an overtime victory versus EWU in 1998 in the first game of a current string of nine-straight tourney appearances for the Eagles.

Eastern finished third in the league standings with 9-5 record, with Montana at 10-4 and Northern Arizona 12-2. Behind the Eagles were Montana State (7-7), Sacramento State (5-9), Portland State (5-9), Idaho State (4-10) and Weber State (4-10). Weber State ended its run of 24-straight appearances in the Big Sky Tournament.

Eastern is now 7-9 in 10 appearances in the league tournament, and is just the fifth team in the 31-year history of the tournament to qualify for at least nine-straight tournaments. The EWU streak started back in 1998 after the team made just one trip to the tourney in its first 10 seasons as a member of the conference.

 

Eagles Continue Winning Ways: In the last seven seasons, Eastern has won 66 percent of its conference games (a league-best 67-35). Eastern won regular season titles in 1999-00 and 2003-04, was runner-up three other times and was the third-place finisher in 2005-06. Overall during that time span, Eastern is 107-97 (53 percent) with only one losing season.

 

Eagles Play Five NCAA Tournament Teams, Two in NIT Last Season: Eastern Washington played five teams in the 2005-06 season that advanced to the NCAA Tournament. Eastern was 0-7 against those squads - Gonzaga, Washington, Marquette, Southern Illinois and Big Sky rival Montana. The Eagles lost to Brigham Young and split with Northern Arizona as those two squads advanced to the NIT.

 

Eagles 11th Nationally in Field Goal Percentage: Eastern Washington finished 11th among 326 NCAA Division I schools with a .486 shooting percentage that ranked third in the Big Sky. Eastern was also 36th nationally in assists (15.9 per game), 58th in blocked shots (4.3 per game), 61st in scoring (74.1 per game) and 70th in three-point percentage (.368). Eastern's lowest rankings were 309th in field goal percentage defense (.473) and 284th in scoring defense (74.0).

Individually, freshman Rodney Stuckey was eighth in scoring (24.2 per game) and 49th in steals (2.2 per game).

 

Stuckey Wins National Freshman of the Year Honor: What the Big Sky Conference now knows, the rest of the nation is learning as well.

Sensational Eastern Washington University men's basketball player Rodney Stuckey was selected by Collegeinsider.com as its 2005-06 National Freshman of the Year. The internet media outlet made the announcement March 6.

The high-scoring 6-foot-4 guard was chosen along with 24 other NCAA Division I players to Collegeinsider.com's Freshman All-America team. After a record-breaking season unprecedented in Big Sky history - and rare in the history of college basketball - Stuckey was chosen as the best.

"Rodney has received many tremendous accolades this year, however, being recognized nationally as the Freshman of the Year is a phenomenal achievement," said Eagle head coach Mike Burns. "We obviously feel he is deserving of the award. Not only has he been a great player, but he's been a great student and, most importantly, a great teammate."

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