Eagles Play at Nationally-Ranked Washington

Nov. 22, 2006

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In one respect or another, the Eastern Washington University men's basketball team will be at "home" for the next three games following Thanksgiving.

The first comes this Friday (Nov. 24) when the Eagles play at nationally-ranked Washington, which is 4-0 and ranked 16th by Associated Press and 13th in the coaches poll. Five Eagles, including standout Rodney Stuckey from Kent, Wash., will be returning to the Puget Sound area where they reside to play for the only time this season. The game starts at 5:05 p.m. Pacific time and is televised regionally on Fox Sports Net.

After that game, Eastern returns to Cheney, Wash., to play a pair of games at Reese Court. On Monday (Nov. 27), Eastern hosts Cal State Fullerton in a return game from last year when the Eagles played the Titans on the road as part of the ESPN BracketBusters weekend.

On Wednesday (Nov. 29), the Eagles host Eastern Oregon, a NAIA Division II opponent from LaGrande, Ore. Tipoff in both games next week is 7:05 p.m.

Washington has won its four games by an average of 13.5 points per game, beating Pepperdine (99-91), Nicholls State (102-74), Northern Iowa (70-61) and Sacramento State (83-74). The Huskies are averaging 88.5 points per game, with four players averaging between 15.8 and 11.5 points per game. Two of those players are Jon Brockman and Spencer Hawes, who earned All-America honors in high school before moving on to play for the Pacific 10 Conference power.

"The University of Washington is without question the best team we will face this year," said Eagle head coach Mike Burns. "They have two McDonald's All-Americans filling their four (power forward) and five (center) spots, and I'm not talking about guys that were nominated to the team -- these are guys that actually played in the game. There are not a whole lot of teams in the country that have two players of that caliber in the frontcourt."

"And then you look at their backcourt," Burns continued. "Justin Dentmon is one of the premier players in the Pac-10 and Quincy Pondexter is putting up some phenomenal numbers that are making him an early candidate for Freshman of the Year in that conference. They are very, very talented and it's going to be a challenge, but we are looking forward to the opportunity to play them."

Cal State Fullerton is 2-0 heading into a three-game, eight-day road trip to Texas, Louisiana and Washington. The Titans will play at Texas-San Antonio on Nov. 22 and Louisiana-Lafayette on Nov. 24 before coming to Cheney.

The Titans are led by senior guard Bobby Brown, who averaged 17.5 points per game as a junior and has averaged 24.7 points in three previous meetings versus EWU. Brown (has not played thus far), Stuckey (25.5 scoring average after four games) and Washington sophomore forward Jon Brockman (14.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and 61.5 percent shooting) are three players worthy of consideration for All-America honors in the 2006-07 season. Stuckey and Brockman are on the Wooden Award Preseason All-America squad.

Eastern Oregon won its first seven games of the season before falling to Willamette 84-81 on Nov. 18. The Mountaineers play Nov. 24 at Northwest Nazarene -- a team Eastern defeated 98-55 in an exhibition game -- prior to coming to Cheney. Eastern Oregon has four players averaging double figures in scoring, led by the 16.0 average of junior wing Mark Carollo.

Eastern is coming off a 106-65 rout of Evergreen State on Nov. 21 and an 85-70 triumph over Lewis-Clark State on Nov. 18. Prior to that, Eastern opened 0-2 against a pair of talented NCAA Division I foes. Eastern began the year with a 90-75 loss to Gonzaga on Nov. 10 in Spokane, Wash., and an 82-79 setback at UNLV on Nov. 14 in Las Vegas, Nev. Eastern rallied from a 15-point deficit with 7 1/2 minutes left against the Runnin' Rebels to knot the score at 70, but two untimely turnovers down the stretch were the difference.

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.

 

After Big Night, Butorac Two Blocks From Career Record: Eastern senior Paul Butorac had a career day with 20 points, 22 rebounds and five blocked shots as Eastern Washington surged past Lewis-Clark State 85-70 on Nov. 18.

Now with 77 blocked shots in his career, he needs just two more to set the school record. He ranks second in school history behind the record of 79 held by Chris White (1998-00). He will attempt to set the record against Washington as he was one of three players who missed the Evergreen State game because of violation of team rules.

A 6-foot-10 product of nearby Medical Lake, Wash., Butorac's rebounds and blocked shots against L-C State were both the second-most in school history. Butorac's rebounding performance was Eastern's best in nearly 35 years since Dave Hayden had a school-record 28 against Oregon Tech on Jan. 15, 1972. He equaled his career high for blocks as he came one from the school record of six set by Dexter Griffen against Idaho State on Jan. 2, 1987.

"Butorac played great for us," said Eagle head coach Mike Burns of Butorac's performance versus L-C State that exceeded his previous career bests by two in scoring and 10 in rebounding. "He gave us the second best rebounding game and second best blocking game in EWU history. Butorac and (Rodney) Stuckey both played like captains should play."

A career 56.0 percent shooter, of Butorac's 219 career field goals made, 64 of them have been dunks. He is the lone returning player from Eastern's 2003-04 team that won the Big Sky Conference regular season and tournament titles and advanced to the school's first-ever NCAA Tournament.

Butorac's average of 1.76 blocked shots per game as a junior was third in the Big Sky Conference, and his season total of 51 ranked 20th in Big Sky history. He shattered the previous single season school record of 37 set by Matt Peppers in 1981. He had five blocked shots versus UC Riverside as a junior to rank second in school history.

 

Stuckey Up to Seven Games with 30 Points or More: Sophomore Rodney Stuckey, with a career scoring average of 24.4 points in 34 career games, has already had five of the top 20 scoring games in school history. Seven times in his career he has topped 30 points, including 33 versus Lewis-Clark State on Nov. 18.

Without even stepping a foot on the basketball floor for the 2006-07 season, Stuckey attracted national acclaim and attention. Last year he was the Freshman of the Year in NCAA Division I by Collegeinsider.com and won Big Sky Conference Player of the Year accolades.

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. That, incidentally, was the last time he hasn't led the Eagles in scoring during a streak that has lasted 31-straight games through EWU's game with The Evergreen State on Nov. 16.

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

Playing for a team with just one senior, Stuckey burst onto the scene last year with one of the best seasons by a freshman in NCAA Division I history. His record-breaking season was 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.

Below is a list of 30-point games by Stuckey along with his ranking in school history.

1. - 45 - Northern Arizona (1-5-06)

4. - 38 - Portland State (3-4-06)

7. - 36 - Montana (1-28-06)

14. - 34 - Boise State (12-29-05)

20. - 33 - Lewis-Clark State (11-18-06)

28. - 31 - Portland State (1-14-06)

33. - 30 - UC Riverside (12-10-05)

 

Turnovers Have Been Bugaboo: Turnovers have been a bugaboo for the Eagles thus far -- both from the careless variety and as the result of the fast-paced style of play they are trying to utilize. However, the Eagles showed signs of improvement with just 12 turnovers in a 106-65 romp past The Evergreen State.

In Eastern's first three games, Eastern had 62 turnovers with opponents scoring 69 points off those miscues. Eastern, meanwhile, forced 45 turnovers in those three games and did a good job of turning them into points as EWU scored 51 points off turnovers.

The low point came against UNLV when Eastern had 14 first-half turnovers and eight in the second half as the Eagles allowed UNLV to score 25 total points off turnovers. Gonzaga scored 22 points off 20 EWU turnovers.

 

Huskies Have Scored Lots of Points and Forced Lots of Turnovers in Last Three Meetings: In the last three meetings with the Huskies, Washington has scored an average of 94.7 points per game. That came after the Eagles held UW to 58 in a 62-58 EWU victory on Dec. 14, 2002. Washington leads the all-time series 7-1.

In those previous three meetings, Washington has forced an average of 20.3 turnovers per game and scored an average of 28.3 points off 61 Eagle miscues. In the 2004 meeting, Eastern nearly set a school record with 30 turnovers as the Eagles lost 89-56. Washington scored 45 of its 89 points off Eagle turnovers as Eastern's turnover total was one away from the school record of 31. That record was set on Nov. 28, 1995, in a 74-55 loss to Washington in Cheney, Wash.

 

Burns on Taking Care of the Ball Versus Washington: "I don't think we have to play a perfect game, but I think we need to do the things needed to beat a good team like UW. We need to be able to move the ball offensively without turning the ball over and we have to make some shots. The most difficult thing about playing Washington is that they are so good at forcing turnovers and disrupting the opposing team's game plan. If we take care of the basketball it will give us a chance to win."

 

Eagles Back to Full Strength After Suspensions: Eastern expects to return to full strength against the Huskies after six players missed a game due to violation of team rules. Omar Krayem, Brandon Moore and Kellen Williams missed the Lewis-Clark State game and Paul Butorac, Matt Penoncello and Derek Risper --all starters in EWU's first three games -- sat out against Evergreen State.

The end result was Eagle standout Rodney Stuckey playing 39 minutes and Butorac 36 against L-C State. Those two players made the most of those minutes as Stuckey scored 33 points and Butorac finished with 20 points, 22 rebounds and five blocked shots. In a 41-point rout of The Evergreen State, Moore played 34 minutes and finished with 23 points and eight rebounds on 8-of-10 shooting from the field and 7-of-11 from the free throw line. Stuckey scored 26 points in 27 minutes as all eight Eagles that played were in the game for at least 15 minutes each.

 

Speaking of Suspensions: Cal State Fullerton senior point guard Bobby Brown, junior guard Frank Robinson, junior forward Scott Cutley and senior reserve center Curtis Battles were suspended for three games each for an NCAA violation involving misuse of book vouchers. They will travel to Texas and practice but not play until Nov. 20 when the Titans play at Louisiana-Lafayette.

Brown, an unheralded product of Westchester High School in Los Angeles, has developed into one of the nation's finest players and an All-America candidate. He tested the NBA draft waters last summer but opted to return for his senior year. He has been nominated for the Bob Cousy Award as the nation's top point guard and is on CollegeInsider.com's pre-season Mid-Major All-American team. He has made numerous pre-season All-Big West Conference teams and is projected as player of the year by many. Last year he was first-team All-Big West and second-team All-NABC District. He needs 462 points this season to become the Titans' all-time leading scorer, surpassing All-American, Olympic gold medalist and six-year NBA veteran Leon Wood.

In three previous meetings with EWU, Brown has averaged 24.7 points per game.

 

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.

11/24/06 vs. #16 Washington

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

 

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.

 

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

EWU vs. UW Series History: The Eagles are 1-7 all-time against the Huskies, including a 1-6 record in Seattle and 0-1 in Cheney. Former Eagle head coach Ray Giacoletti (now at Utah) was a Husky assistant coach in three of the meetings (1994-96).

When the teams met on Dec. 29, 1996, the game was delayed one day due to the death of Eastern guard Rodrick McClure who was killed in an automobile accident on Dec. 26 in his hometown of Las Vegas, Nev. His stepfather James Addison also died in the accident as he was driving McClure to the airport to catch an early-morning flight back to Spokane for Eastern's basketball practice later in the day. Heavy snow in the Seattle area limited the crowd at UW to just a few hundred people, and Eastern's trip home was delayed because of snow on Snoqualmie Pass.

12/13/89 - L - Washington - 58-74 - Seattle

11/25/94 - L - Washington - 48-64 - Seattle

11/28/95 - L - Washington - 55-74 - Cheney

12/29/96 - L - Washington - 54-81 - Seattle

12/14/02 - W - Washington - 62-58 - Seattle

11/29/03 - L - Washington - 91-104 - Seattle

12/5/04 - L - #14 Washington - 56-89 - Seattle

12/16/05 - L - #11 Washington - 74-91 - Seattle

 

Last Year - #11 Washington 91, Eastern Washington 74: Eastern Washington had its work cut out for it against not only the No. 11 team in the nation, but the top-scoring team as well.

But not even a Herculean effort could have stopped Jamaal Williams and Brandon Roy as they combined for 51 points to lead the Washington Huskies to a 91-74 victory over the Eagles in a non-conference men's basketball game Dec. 16 at the Bank of America Arena.

Williams scored 26 and Roy had 25 as the 11th-ranked Huskies won for the 30th-straight time at home. They combined for 28 of Washington's 49 points in the first half as the high-scoring Huskies remained unbeaten at 9-0 with a 17-point victory.

"They came out and brought the energy," said Eagle head coach Mike Burns. "That's the way Washington plays at home. You know the first five minutes they are going to get after you and they did."

Washington entered the game leading NCAA Division I in scoring (96.4 points per game) and scoring margin (+26.5). Jon Brockman added 16 points and 10 rebounds for UW.

Eagle freshman Rodney Stuckey, who entered the game with the highest scoring average among the nation's freshmen with a 20.3 average, led the Eagles with 17 points and six assists. However, he made just 6-of-20 shots from the field and had six turnovers.

Henry Bekkering came off the bench to hit 6-of-9 shots and finish with 15 points and five rebounds for EWU. Senior Deuce Smith chipped in 14 points and five assists.

The Huskies made 52 percent of their shots from the floor compared to 45 percent for the Eagles. Eastern also had 18 turnovers while Washington had only 13. The Huskies also had a 39-34 rebounding edge.

"They do a great job of pressuring people," said Burns of the Huskies. "Their defense jams up everything and tries to take you out of any kind of pattern. You have to be sound with the dribble and sound with the pass. At times we were 0-for-3 in that department."

Washington jumped out to a quick 12-4 lead as Williams scored his team's first eight points. The Huskies opened an 18-7 advantage before the Eagles scored seven-straight to pull within 18-14.

Eastern stayed within four points before Washington broke the game open with a 18-2 run over the course of a five-minute span. Roy scored six points in the run as UW took a 42-22 advantage.

"I thought we withstood that first spurt and got our bearings," said Burns. "We were in the game at the end of the first half and then they went on that run. That was just an effort run. They had better effort than we did and that was the difference in the game right there."

Williams finished with 16 points in the first half on 7-of-10 shooting and Roy had 12 at intermission on 5-of-8 shooting. The Huskies made 20-of-37 shots in the first half for 54 percent while the Eagles made just 13-of-35 for 37 percent.

The second half was much of the same for the Huskies, who opened the half with an 11-2 run to open its biggest lead of the evening at 60-32. The Huskies led by as many as 29 on three different occasions, but Eastern out-scored the Huskies 11-2 in the final three minutes to close to within 17 at the final buzzer.

 

EWU-Cal State Fullerton Series History: Cal State Fullerton has won the only three meetings between the two schools with all three meetings coming in the last three seasons. The Titans won 77-70 in Fullerton on Dec. 13, 2003, and 70-68 in overtime on Dec. 10, 2004, in Cheney. Last Feb. 18, as part of the ESPN BracketBusters weekend, Cal State Fullerton defeated the Eagles easily 89-63.

Bobby Brown has been a thorn in Eastern's side in all three previous meetings, finishing with 19 points, seven assists and four steals as a freshman. He scored 30 in the overtime win in 2004, but missed a long, potential game-winning three-pointer at the end of regulation after Eastern's Marc Axton nailed three free throws to knot the game with four seconds to play. However, CSF's Jermaine Harper scored 24 and hit a game-winning three-pointer with four seconds left in overtime as Brown and Harper combined for 54 points on 20-of-37 shooting (9-of-21 three-pointers). Last year, Brown scored 25 points against the Eagles, giving him a 24.7 average against EWU.

 

Last Year - Cal State Fullerton 89, Eastern Washington 63: Perhaps the Eastern Washington University men's basketball team was doing its best to conserve energy Feb. 18 in Southern California. Whatever the reason, Eastern didn't have as much energy as they needed as Cal State Fullerton recorded an easy 89-63 non-conference victory over the Eagles at Titan Gym in Fullerton, Calif.

The Titans went on runs of 15-0 and 11-0 in the first half to open a 20-point lead at halftime, and CSF was never threatened in the second half. The Eagles had their four-game winning streak snapped just three days after recording a huge 76-73 victory at Weber State, where the Eagles won for just the third time in 24 tries in Ogden, Utah.

"It's an energy thing," explained Eagle head coach Mike Burns. "We talked to our guys about bringing that energy early in the game, and for whatever reason we didn't have it today. We allowed them to get their feet set and get a couple of open looks. Once you let them do that, they are a powder cake ready to blow. They have guys that can really shoot it and they're athletic. If you don't have that energy, you look like you're defending on roller skates out there. That's kind of how it was for us tonight."

Eastern freshman Rodney Stuckey led the Eagles in scoring for the 22nd-straight game with 19 points. He also had a season-high nine rebounds and dished out six assists. Senior Deuce Smith scored 13 points and freshman Matt Penoncello chipped in 10.

Cal State Fullerton point guard Bobby Brown led all scorers with 25 points, with Frank Robinson and Jamaal Brown added 16 points apiece. The Titans are now 12-11 overall and 4-8 in the Big West Conference, a league that Eastern was previously 3-0 against.

The Eagles made just 37 percent of their shots in the first half, but improved to 54 percent in the second half to finish at 45 percent for the game. The Eagles made just 3-of-15 three-point attempts and 10-of-19 free throws.

The Titans, meanwhile, made a season-best 59 percent of their shots in the game, including 10-of-21 from the three-point stripe and 11-of-16 free throws. Cal State Fullerton was a blistering 19-of-29 for 66 percent in the first half.

"At the end of the day you can say you had sick guys, you can say you had to travel, you can say this and you can say that, but you have to play," said Burns. "That's part of the maturity that has to develop with this group. They have to understand that regardless of whether this is a non-conference game or a conference game, you have to bring it. This is Division I basketball and you have to step up to the effort needed."

Eastern took its only lead of the game at 4-2, and trailed 10-9 when the Titans went on a 15-0 run to take a 25-9 lead. Eastern went six minutes without scoring, then had another drought when CSF followed with the 11-0 run that helped give them a 47-27 advantage at halftime.

EWU never got closer than 18 points in the second half. A Bobby Brown three-pointer gave Fullerton its biggest lead at 28 points -- 77-49 with 9:15 to play.

"I don't know how that could happen," said Burns. "When you turn on the lights and step inside that 94-foot rectangle, there is a certain level of expectation we have when you are wearing an Eastern uniform. The great thing about this group is that in the last three or four weeks they've lived up to that expectation. But we didn't today."

Because of the afternoon game, the Eagles were able to return home late that night to end a five-day road trip. The Eagles versus Titans match-up was one of the 37 games created from the original pool of 100 teams for the ESPN BracketBusters men's basketball schedule. The other 26 teams played each other in "BracketBusters presented by eBay" televised games on ESPN platforms (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN360).

"I do believe that this was just another lesson this team needed to learn, and now they've learned it," Burns added.

 

Eastern Oregon Series History: A frequent opponent when both schools were NAIA members, Eastern leads the all-time history 18-3. But the teams have met just once since 1978 and not at all since Dec. 6, 1984, when Eastern won 100-77 for the ninth-straight time in the series. The last victory for the Mountaineers in the series came on Feb. 22, 1974, by a 62-58 score.

 

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

 

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

 

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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