Eagles Play at UC Irvine Wednesday Before Returning Home

Nov. 17, 2008

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This week's Eastern Washington University men's basketball game has a conference feel to it.

The Eagles play at UC Irvine Wednesday (Nov. 19) at the Bren Events Center in Irvine, Calif., in the first of two games against the Anteaters in a 12-day span. Eastern will host the same squad at Reese Court on Nov. 30 in Cheney, Wash.

But before that rematch, Eastern must survive the grind of playing four games in eight nights -- a stretch which starts in Irvine. Eastern returns home to face UT Arlington on Saturday (Nov. 22) and Idaho Monday (Nov. 24) in a pair of games that start at 7:05 p.m. Pacific time at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash. The Eagles conclude the eight-day stretch at Minnesota of the Big Ten Conference on Nov. 26 in a game nationally-televised on the Big Ten Network.

"At the time we scheduled them, there was no way to foresee the roster difficulties we have at the moment," said Eagle head coach Kirk Earlywine, whose team is still playing without two projected starters who have yet to be cleared. "But you play with the guys who are in uniform and coach those guys. It will be a test for us to play four games in such a short period, but at least a couple of them are at home."

Eastern opened its season with a 66-50 loss 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 EWU guard Benny Valentine and returning 6-9 center Brandon Moore.

"You can learn by winning or by losing, but I know which one I prefer," said Earlywine, whose team opens Big Sky Conference play on the early date of Dec. 6 when it hosts Montana State. "No matter who we are playing, we have to get better. You can take things out of those games, and as we have our eye toward Dec. 6, we can get better no matter what team we are playing. Whether our opponents are from the power conferences or not is irrelevant. But the fact at that level you are playing bigger bodies and maybe little bit better athletes might help in the long run. We'll see."

Valentine, a transfer from Texas Tech who redshirted at Eastern last season, scored all 14 of his points in the first half against the Fighting Illini. Moore finished with 13 points and seven rebounds, with 11 of his points coming in the first half.

"The fact we were able to score 35 points in the first half against Illinois was a positive," Earlywine said of the game against Illinois, which was 16-19 overall and 5-13 in the Big Ten a year ago under head coach Bruce Weber. Just four short seasons ago, Illinois was 37-2 and lost in the NCAA Championship game to North Carolina in March 2005.

"Last season, even though they had a down year for them by their standards, they still guarded and held their opponents to less than 40 percent for the year," Earlywine continued. "So I was concerned about our ability to score the ball against them. We scored well against them in the first half, but what was disappointing is that I felt like we should have been up eight or nine -- even double-digits maybe -- at halftime. We gave up way too many easy points. To win that game, we needed to have a bigger cushion at halftime."

Fortunately for Eastern, the Irvine game is the last of back-to-back road games for the Eagles until league play. Eastern has six non-conference home games and seven on the road, but no more difficult back-to-back road stretches.

Last year, 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.

"I like looking at this schedule more than the one we had last year," said Earlywine. "I like the balance of home games versus road games, and I like the fact we aren't playing more than two consecutive road games."

Earlywine is in his second season at the helm after leading the Eagles to an 11-19 record overall and 6-10 Big Sky Conference mark last season. Season tickets, including several packages with selected games, are now on sale. Information is available at http://WWW.GOEAGS.COM.

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


-- About UC Irvine -- The Anteaters are coming off an 18-16 finish a year ago in which they won seven of their last nine games. They finished 9-7 in the Big West Conference and lost 81-66 to Cal State Fullerton in the Big West Conference Championship game. The Anteaters lost three of their top four scorers to graduation.

UC Irvine opened the season last Saturday (Nov. 15) by falling to USC 78-55. Darren Moore, a 6-foot-3 junior college transfer who played at Big Sky member Northern Colorado in the 2006-07 season, had 16 points and three assists to lead the Anteaters. Another JC transfer, 6-9 Zack Atkinson, had 10 points and seven rebounds. Brett Lauer, a 6-1 guard who averaged 6.2 points a year ago, added 10. Michael Hunter is the top returning scorer averaging 8.8 points a year ago, but the 5-10 guard was scoreless versus USC.

"UC Irvine is a team that played very well late in the year last season," said Earlywine. "They are a grind-it-out, half-court type of team that is very well-coached. The don't make a lot of mistakes, which presents a challenge for us."


-- About UT Arlington -- UTA is one of three teams Eastern will play in the 2008-09 season that played in last year's NCAA Tournament. The Mavericks lost to Memphis 87-63 in the first round after winning the Southland Conference championship with an 82-79 victory over Northwestern State.

The Mavericks won their season-opener 84-64 over Hardin-Simmons on Nov. 16 and will host Texas Wesleyan on Nov. 18 before traveling to Cheney. Brandon Long, a 6-1 guard, scored 18 points in the opener.

Anthony Vereen scored 14 points after the 6-7 forward averaged 13.8 points and 4.8 rebounds a year ago when he was the Southland Conference Tournament MVP. Marquez Haynes, a 6-3 guard who transferred from Boston College, added 10 points, six rebounds and six steals.

"Mid-way through the second half against Memphis they were still in the game," Earlywine said of UTA's NCAA game last year. "They are projected to be pretty good and the transfer from Boston College is a terrific player."


-- About Idaho -- The Vandals, 1-1 under new head coach Don Verlin, have just five players with NCAA Division I experience. Idaho opened its season with a 91-69 victory over Evergreen State and a 100-62 loss at Michigan State, and play at Gonzaga (Nov. 18) and North Dakota State (Nov. 22) before taking on the Eagles.

Washington State transfer Mac Hopson, a 6-2 guard, had 13 points and five assists versus Michigan State after scoring 19 with four assists versus Evergreen State. Brandon Wiley, a 6-6 junior college transfer, had 10 points and eight rebounds against Michigan State. Another JC transfer, 6-4 guard Kashif Watson, scored 25 points and had 10 rebounds in the first two outings for Idaho.

"Idaho has a new coach so we really don't know much about them at this point," said Earlywine. "I do know they've had massive personnel changes."


-- DeLeon and Busch Still Not Cleared to Play -- Eastern is still anxiously awaiting the season debuts of a pair of projected starters. Guard Adris DeLeon and junior college transfer Chris Busch are projected starters who missed both exhibition games and the opener at Illinois, and have yet to be cleared to play.

Busch is a transfer from Merritt Junior College in California. DeLeon averaged 12.5 points and 3.1 assists in 27 games last year for EWU.

It's possible that the soonest they can become cleared will be for the Hawaii game on Dec. 13 after fall grades are posted -- eight games into the schedule and after the team's league opener.


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

11/26/08 - Minnesota - 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 -- This may be the first time since the 2002-03 season that Eastern has not played a nationally-ranked team. The Eagles have 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. It was the 19th time 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 19 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

11,879 - 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


-- Eagles Picked to Finish as High as Seventh -- The Eastern Washington University men's basketball program has been 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. This season, Eastern has a full roster of 14 players that include six returning letter winners. Returning starters are center Brandon Moore and guards Trey Gross and Gary Gibson.


-- Schedule Tough, but More Manageable in 2008-09 -- Eastern's 2008-09 schedule is once again difficult, with road games scheduled against the likes of Illinois, Minnesota, Hawaii, Washington and Boise State. However, back-to-back road games are rare.

"It's a challenging schedule, but it's a little more playable than a year ago in terms of the balance of home games versus away games," explained Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine. "We don't get stuck on the road too long."

In all, Eastern has six non-conference home games and seven on the road. Eastern opens the season at Illinois and UC Irvine, but after that, only during the league season does Eastern play back-to-back road games again. Last year, 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.

"I like looking at this schedule more than the one we had last year," said Earlywine. "I like the balance of home games versus road games, and I like the fact we aren't playing more than two consecutive road games."

Last season, Eastern played a trio of NCAA Tournament teams (Kansas, Washington State and Portland State), and this year the same is true. Texas-Arlington, which lost to Memphis 87-63 in the first round, plays at EWU on Nov. 22. Boise State, a 79-61 loser to Louisville, hosts the Eagles on Dec. 29 and is scheduled to play at Eastern the following season.

The Eagles will play Big Sky Conference rival Portland State on Jan. 24 before hosting the Vikings in Cheney, Wash., on Feb. 28. Last season, Eastern lost at Kansas 85-47 and PSU fell to the eventual national champions 85-61 in the NCAA Tournament.

"We have some games against the power conferences that our guys are really excited about," said Earlywine of the schedule. Besides games against the Big 10, Pacific 10 and Western Athletic Conference, Eastern plays a home-and-home series against UC Irvine, a team from the Big West Conference which won seven of its last nine games of the 2007-08 season.

League play - believe it or not - starts just seven games into the season with a home game versus Montana State on Dec. 6. A nine-team league and the participation of some teams in the ESPN Bracketbusters in February, necessitates the early start.

"I'm definitely not in favor of playing conference games the third week of the season," said Earlywine. "But one good thing is that it's a conference game on a Saturday at home with our students here. We did not have too many of those last year. We hope we will have a heckuva crowd with our students right before final exams with the Bobcats coming to town."

Earlywine expects Portland State to be the early favorite to repeat as league champions. The past two seasons there have been six first-year coaches in the league, and Earlywine thinks those two years of building programs by those schools will payoff this season.

"The word out there is that everybody thinks the Big Sky is going to be very, very good. I would agree," he said. "Portland State and Montana are loaded, and you can never count out Northern Arizona - Mike Adras keeps doing it year-after-year. And I think Idaho State has a chance to make a huge jump. The league is going to be good."



-- EWU vs. UC Irvine Series History -- The Eagles are 1-3 all-time against UC Irvine, with the first meeting taking place in the 1986-87 season and the last meeting taking place 10 years later in 1996-97. The 112-101 loss to the Anteaters on Dec, 13, 1988, featured a school-record 44-point scoring performance by Eastern's David Peed and a school-record 18 assists by Ronn McMahon. The scoring record was erased on Jan. 1, 2006, when current Detroit Piston Rodney Stuckey scored 45 points against Northern Arizona. Peed's single game record of 18 field goals made against UC Irvine still stands.

12/4/96 - W - UC Irvine - 80-53 - H

12/9/95 - L - UC Irvine - 66-86 - A

12/13/88 - L - UC Irvine - 101-112 - A

12/28/86 - L - UC Irvine - 68-97 - %

%at Anteater Classic in Long Beach, Calif. (Long Beach Arena).


-- EWU vs. Texas Arlington Series History -- The Eagles have played just once previously against Texas Arlington, winning 80-62 on Feb. 19, 1987, at Reese Court.

2/19/87 - W - Texas Arlington - 80-62 - H


-- EWU vs. Idaho Series History: Eastern trails in the all-time series 11-38, including last year's 58-49 loss in Moscow. Eastern won four-straight games in the series from Nov. 29, 1999, to Dec. 7, 2002, but that was nothing compared to Idaho's nearly 10-year winning streak. The Vandals won 22-straight games against the Eagles from Nov. 28, 1986, to Feb. 17, 1996, including a 65-62 buzzer beater in the 1990 Big Sky Conference Tournament championship game. The streak was finally snapped with a 66-53 Eagle home win on Nov. 29, 1999.


-- Last Year in Moscow -- Idaho 58, Eastern Washington 49: Eastern went 16 minutes without a field goal to help Idaho take an 18-point lead as the Vandals recorded a 58-49 non-conference men's basketball victory over the Eagles Dec. 9 at the Cowan Spectrum in Moscow, Idaho.

Idaho used EWU's scoring difficulties to go on a deadly 30-7 run to turn a 14-9 deficit into a 39-21 advantage in the second half. The Eagles rallied to within five with a late 13-2 run, but Idaho scored 12 of the last 20 points to win by nine.

The loss to the Vandals ended EWU's month-long stretch of playing nine of its first 11 games on the road, all since opening the season on Nov. 9. Idaho snapped a six-game losing streak to improve to 2-6 on the season while the Eagles fell to 3-8.

Eastern's Gary Gibson scored a career-high 18 points to lead the Eagles as he made 7-of-14 shots from the field. But the rest of EWU's team was 8-of-34 as EWU finished a frosty 31 percent from the field (15-of-48). The Eagles made just 3-of-16 three-point attempts for 19 percent.

Kellen Williams added his fourth double-double of the season with 11 points and a career-high 14 rebounds for the Eagles, who also equaled a season high with 19 turnovers and were out-rebounded 36-31.

Idaho scored the first seven points of the game, but Eastern rallied back with a 14-2 run to take its biggest lead of the game at 14-9. Eastern led 16-13 with 10:45 left in the half on a basket by Williams.

But in the next 16:10, Eastern managed only single free throws by Marcus Hinton and Matt Brunell. Gibson's basket with 14:35 to play broke EWU's stretch without a field goal, but moments later Idaho took its 39-21 advantage. At that point, Eastern had made just one of its last 21 field goal attempts, with a stretch of 16-straight misses.

Eastern rallied behind a 13-2 run to cut the lead to 46-41 as Williams scored four points in that stretch and Milan Stanojevic had five. But Idaho made eight of its last nine free throws down the stretch to help put the game away.


-- Last Time in Cheney -- Eastern Washington 85, Idaho 56: Junior Kellen Williams scored a career-high 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting from the field to lead the Eastern to an 85-56 victory over Idaho Dec. 21 at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash., in the final non-conference game for EWU before starting league action.

Williams made a pair of three-pointers and all four of his free throws, and added six rebounds and three blocked shots. His previous career high was 19 as a sophomore and his previous season high was 13 two games earlier versus Santa Clara.

Sophomore Rodney Stuckey added 16 points, five assists and a career-high seven steals for EWU after playing just four minutes in his last outing because of back spasms. Paul Butorac added 10 points and a game-high nine rebounds. Omar Krayem finished with nine points, a career-high eight assists, three steals and five rebounds.

Krayem also provided the Eagles much-needed defense on Idaho leading scorer Keoni Watson, who finished with 17 points on 7-of-15 shooting. Watson also had five turnovers as the 56 points Idaho scored were the fewest Eastern has surrendered in its first 12 games.

Eastern held Idaho to 42 percent shooting, and out-rebounded the Vandals 35-33. The Eagles also forced 23 turnovers and had just 14 themselves. Eastern had 25 points off turnovers compared to just five for Idaho.

Idaho took its only lead of the game at 3-0, but Eastern quickly erased that and went up by double digits. Eastern led 20-12 when Idaho went scoreless for nearly five minutes as the Eagles went on a 13-0 run to build a 33-12 advantage.

Eastern led by as many as 22 in the first half, taking a 41-19 advantage at halftime. The Eagles led by as many as 29 in the second half (the final score of 85-56) and by no fewer 20.

Series Results (since EWU became a member of NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season)

12/28/83 - L - Idaho - 69-91 - A

1/17/84 - W - Idaho - 77-70 - H

1/16/85 - L - Idaho - 66-59 - A

2/13/85 - L - Idaho - 75-78 - H

12/7/85 - W - Idaho - 79-65 - A

1/15/86 - W - Idaho - 79-67 - H

11/28/86 - L - Idaho - 65-76 - ~

1/14/87 - L - Idaho - 45-55 - H

11/25/88 - L - Idaho - 54-79 - #

2/6/88 - L - Idaho* - 64-74 - A

2/27/88 - L - Idaho* - 58-61 - H

1/28/89 - L - Idaho* - 54-73 - H

2/5/89 - L - Idaho* - 74-87 - A

1/27/90 - L - Idaho* - 51-70 - A

3/1/90 - L - Idaho* - 54-72 - H

3/9/90 - L - Idaho - 62-65 - $

1/26/91 - L - Idaho* - 55-72 - H

3/2/91 - L - Idaho* - 65-80 - A

1/30/92 - L - Idaho* - 54-64 - A

3/7/92 - L - Idaho* - 57-60 - H

1/22/93 - L - Idaho* - 63-87 - A

2/20/93 - L - Idaho* - 80-82 - A

1/21/94 - L - Idaho* - 65-71 - A

2/19/94 - L - Idaho* - 64-82 - H

1/21/95 - L - Idaho* - 62-78 - A

2/17/95 - L - Idaho* - 54-61 - H

1/19/96 - L - Idaho* - 53-75 - H

2/17/96 - L - Idaho* - 63-76 - A

11/29/99 - W - Idaho - 66-53 - H

12/30/00 - W - Idaho - 73-66 - A

12/6/01 - W - Idaho - 59-48 - A

12/7/02 - W - Idaho - 67-62 - H

12/28/03 - L - Idaho - 60-64 - A

01/02/05 - L - Idaho - 50-52 - H

11/30/05 - W - Idaho - 68-55 - A

12/21/06 - W - Idaho - 85-56 - H

~ -- Inland Empire Classic in Spokane, Wash. (3rd)

# -- Inland Northwest Classic in Spokane, Wash. (4th)

$ -- Big Sky/Coors Light Tournament in Boise, Idaho (championship game)

* -- Big Sky Conference Game


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