Eagles Play at Nationally-Ranked Gonzaga
After game against 25th-ranked Bulldogs, Eastern hosts Sacramento State in Big Sky Conference home opener
Date - Opponent - Spokane Radio Station -
Dec. 28 - at Gonzaga - 1050am - 6:05 p.m.
Dec. 31 - Sacramento State - 1510am - 3:05 p.m.
Eagles on TV/Radio/Webcasts . . .
All EWU home games will be televised live and/or delayed on SWX in Spokane (SWX Digital 6.2, Cheney Cable 12, Comcast 115, Time Warner 306, Charter 287). Eagle Radio Broadcasts home and away in 2009-10 may be heard live, and stations in Spokane/Cheney that may be used are 1510-AM, 1050-AM or 790-AM. Broadcasts may also be heard via the internet -- road games may be heard free of charge via WWW.TEAMLINE.CC and the audio and video of home games may also be heard via WWW.BIGSKYTV.ORG.
The road has not been kind to the Eastern Washington University men's basketball team. And the short, 20-minute drive from Cheney to Spokane may not be any easier.
Eastern begins Big Sky Conference play in earnest on Dec. 31, but before that the Eagles must play 25th-ranked Gonzaga on Monday (Dec. 28) in EWU's first game against a nationally-ranked foe in two seasons. Also, senior center Brandon Moore will be playing in his 100th Eastern game.
Tipoff at the McCarthy Center on the GU campus is 6:05 p.m. Pacific time, and the game will be televised live on KHQ Channel 6 in Spokane and regionally on Fox Sports Net. Eastern's radio broadcast in the Spokane area will be on 1050-AM and via the internet at www.teamline.cc.
Following Monday's game, Eastern then hosts Sacramento State in a Big Sky Conference game on Dec. 31 at 3:05 p.m. It will be EWU's first home game since defeating Seattle University 100-97 in overtime on Dec. 12, and the first league game for the Eagles since dropping their opener at Portland State 98-75 on Dec. 5.
"It's coming up quick," said Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine, whose team takes a short break for Christmas but also has even short spans to prepare for the Bulldogs and Hornets. "We have to get back to work on the 26th and start getting ready for our next games."
Eastern is coming off a pair of losses at the Hoop TV Las Vegas Classic at the Orleans Arena on Dec. 22-23. The Eagles made only 28 percent of their shots and lost to Chicago State 62-53 in their first game. Less than 15 hours later, Eastern fell 72-67 to previously winless Jackson State.
"Generally you hope by Christmas you know what you have," Earlywine said. "We've had a lot of players coming and going at times, but right now it feels like early to mid-November when you don't know exactly what your team is like yet. That's not a good feeling at Christmas."
Gonzaga is 8-3 overall and hasn't played since losing to seventh-ranked Duke 76-41 on Dec. 19 at Madison Square Garden in New York, N.Y. Gonzaga slipped from 15th to 25th in the national rankings with that loss. The other losses for the Bulldogs came against Michigan State (currently ranked ninth and were second at the time of the 75-71 loss) and to Wake Forest (77-75 on Dec. 5).
The lone common foe for the Eagles and Bulldogs was Washington State. The Eagles lost to the Cougars 67-61 on Nov. 16, while the Bulldogs beat them 74-69 on Dec. 2.
After Win Over Seattle, Eagles Come Up Empty on Road Trip: Eastern faced a grueling early-season schedule with eight games in a 22-day span. The Eagles then had a week off for fall quarter final exams at EWU before facing the full-court pressure of a very athletic and talented Seattle University team on Dec. 12. Despite playing with four freshmen at times in their lineup, the Eagles had just 15 turnovers in the game and used a 7-0 run in overtime to prevail 100-97.
Eastern followed that with four games in seven nights, starting with a hard-fought 73-70 loss at Nevada on Dec. 17 in which Eastern lost on a Wolf Pack three-pointer with 4.3 seconds remaining. That game featured 15 ties and seven lead changes, with the Seattle game including 12 ties and seven lead changes.
Eastern followed those encouraging losses with a trio of discouraging ones. Eastern lost a pair of start-to-finish losses against Brigham Young (91-34 on Dec. 19) and Chicago State (62-53 on Dec. 22), then lost to previously winless Jackson State (72-67 on Dec. 23). The BYU game had just one lead change as the Cougars went on a 33-0 run after EWU scored the first basket of the game. The 57-point setback was not the worst in school history -- EWU lost at New Mexico by 59 points, 121-62, on Dec. 3, 1993.
"We'll go back and look at the videos and try to figure out what we can change, alter, tinker with, do different and do better," said Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine. "It's the same team that shot 49 percent against Nevada less than a week ago. I just don't know what team we have -- whether it's the team that battled Portland, Washington State and Nevada and played well in games, or the team that didn't play as well in Vegas."
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
Recent EWU Men's Basketball Headlines . . .
December 23, 2009 - Eastern Drops Fourth-Straight With 72-67 Loss
December 22, 2009 - Eagles Roll 62-53 Loss to Chicago State in Las Vegas
December 19, 2009 - Eagles Thumped by Brigham Young 91-34
December 17, 2009 - Eagles Lose Nip-and-Tuck Game 73-70
December 12, 2009 - Eagles Prevail 100-97 in Overtime Versus Seattle
December 5, 2009 - Eastern Dealt 98-75 Loss by Portland State in BSC Opener
December 1, 2009 - Eastern Romps Past Walla Walla 89-61
November 28, 2009 - Eagles Drop 76-54 Decision to Idaho
November 24, 2009 - Eastern Falls at Home to Boise State 82-69
November 21, 2009 - Freshman Jeffrey Forbes Scores 24 in Eagle Win
November 17, 2009 - Eastern Survives for 100-88 Victory Over Whitman
November 16, 2009 - Eagles Start and Finish Fast, But Fall to Cougars 67-61
November 14, 2009 - Eastern Loses Opener to Portland 64-58
October 23, 2009 - SEASON OUTLOOK
Eagles Versus Ranked Teams: The 2008-09 season was the first time since 2002-03 that Eastern did not play a nationally-ranked team. The Eagles played 12 such games in the five seasons before that.
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 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
The Dunn and Dean Show: Senior Mark Dunn and freshman Glen Dean have each had seven double figure scoring performances this season, and they combined for 28 points in EWU's loss at Nevada on Dec. 17. Dunn leads the team in scoring with an average of 11.9 points per game, and is shooting a team-best 50.4 percent from the field. Dean is averaging 9.8 points and leads EWU with an average of 3.8 assists per game.
Dean had 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting and 10 assists in Eastern's three-point loss at Nevada on Dec. 17, earning high praise from head coach Kirk Earlywine. Dean equaled the 14th-best recorded assists total in school history, and was the most since Rodney Stuckey (now with Detroit Pistons) had 10 versus Idaho State on Feb. 22, 2007.
"I couldn't ask for anything more from Glen Dean -- I thought he was spectacular," said Earlywine of the 2008 graduate of Seattle's Roosevelt High School. "Glen was terrific tonight."
Dunn, who has scored at least 20 points three times this season, had two of the highest-scoring games in his Eastern career in back-to-back nights versus Washington State (Nov. 16) and Whitman (Nov. 17). He had 17 points versus the Cougars, making 7-of-9 shots from the field, including 3-of-4 three-point attempts. The next night he made 7-of-12 field goals and 7-of-8 free throws to finish with 21 points.
Before this season, his previous career high was 14 points in games against Montana and Weber State last season on his way to an average of 5.6 points per game as a 24-game starter. However, he made only 2-of-11 three-pointers in his previous 31 games as an Eagle. He helped lead Danville Area Junior College to a fourth-place finish at the NJCAA Division II National Tournament as a sophomore in the 2007-08 season. He averaged 5.5 points and 3.9 rebounds that season, with a season-high of 19. As a freshman, he averaged four points and four boards.
Early Trends: Eastern has improved its offensive output from last year, but so has its opponents. Eastern is averaging 69.4 points per game this year (63.5 last year), compared to 76.8 for opponents (68.5 last year).
Eastern's shooting percentages have not improved, however, as the Eagles have made only 40.7 percent this season (41.8 last year), and 30.9 percent from three-point range (.324 last year). Eastern is 4-2 when it makes at least 46 percent of its shots, with losses to Portland State and Nevada representing the two losses. Eastern opponents have made 47.3 percent of their shots thus far (.467 last year), including shooting performances of 69 percent by PSU and 64 percent by BYU.
Eastern has averaged better than 30 points and 20 rebounds more in its wins than in its losses, plus have made a full 10 percent more of its shots from the field. In EWU's wins, the Eagles have averaged 90.2 points and have made 47 percent of their shots from the field with an average of 50.2 rebounds per game. Opponents in those games have averaged 78.5 points and 39.0 rebounds on 38 percent shooting. But in Eastern's losses, the Eagles have made 37 percent from the field with averages of 60.1 points and 29.1 rebounds -- opponents are at 53 percent, 76.1 points and 36.6 rebounds.
Eastern is 3-2 at home where the Eagles are averaging 83.2 points per game on 42 percent shooting from the field, while opponents have averaged 78.4 points with the same percentage. But on the road where EWU is 1-7, Eastern has been outscored 60.8 to 75.9, and out-shot 39 percent to 51 percent. Eastern has had a 3.6 advantage in rebounding at home but a 4.9 disadvantage on the road.
Hitting the Century Mark: The Whitman game on Nov. 17 was the 61st time in school history that Eastern has scored 100 points in a game. Eastern then scored 100 in a 100-97 overtime victory over Seattle University on Dec. 12.
Before this season, the last time EWU hit the century mark came in a 100-85 victory over Sacramento State on Jan. 25, 2007, in which current Detroit Piston Rodney Stuckey scored 31 points. Eastern had four 100-point performances that season and averaged 84.2 points per game as Stuckey finished his sophomore season with an average of 24.6 points per game.
Eagles Spend First Month Dealing with Injuries: The heavy schedule and five injuries in November did not allow the Eagles to have as productive of practices as head coach Kirk Earlywine would like. But that has changed recently as EWU has become healthy again.
The Eagles spent the first month of the season dealing with injuries to five Eagles -- Gary Gibson (knees), Brandon Moore (foot and ankle), Abebe Demissie (hamstring), Kevin Winford (concussion) and Matthew Brunell (ankle). The missed time has impacted Eastern not only in games, but in practice.
"We've already had a season's worth of bad luck," said Earlywine before Eastern's league opener on Dec. 5. "Hopefully we're close to being through it and we don't have any more. It's been hard, and it's been hard because you can't practice effectively."
Brunell and Winford suffered their injuries in the second game of the season, and Moore missed the Walla Walla game and parts of another with a sprained ankle. Moore also missed much of the preseason because of a foot injury that required minor surgery. Brunell missed five full games and parts of two others; Gibson missed six games; and Winford missed two.
Eagles Face Three Players Ranked in Top Five Nationally in Scoring: Eastern's first nine games of the season included a trio of opposing players ranked among the top five scorers in NCAA Division I. And one of them the Eagles will have to face again on Feb. 1.
Through games of Dec. 13, Marquez Haynes from Texas Arlington was averaging 25.7 points per game to rank second nationally, Washington State's Klay Thompson was third with a 25.1 average and Charles Garcia was fifth at 24.6. Thompson scored 24 against the Eagles and Haynes had 32, but the Eagles held Garcia to just 12 on 4-of-12 shooting from the field and 4-of-9 from the free throw line.
But Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine was even more impressed by Nevada's Luke Babbitt, who made 10-of-18 shots to finish with 29 points and nine rebounds on Dec. 17 against EWU. He had entered the game averaging 18.1 points and 10.5 rebounds per game.
"We've played three of the top five scorers in the country, but I think Babbitt is by far the best player we've played against," praised Earlywine. "He had a couple of easy baskets against us, but not very many. He made 10 baskets against us, and I would say eight of them were pro-level shots -- they were 16-foot fadeaways. He has incredibly long arms and we can't do anything to stop those buckets. He made tough shots and he's good -- very, very good. My hat is off to him."
A transfer from Riverside Community College and originally from Los Angeles, Calif., Garcia has helped the Redhawks become a force to reckon with in just their second year as a member of NCAA Division I. A year ago, in the first meeting between the two schools in more than 23 years, Seattle pulled out a 63-59 overtime victory. The two schools will play again later this season on Feb. 1 at Key Arena in Seattle.
"We knew we had our hands full against Garcia," Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine said after the game. "To be honest, I didn't know if we could hold him to below 20 because he's so big and so skilled. The one thing we wanted to do was to keep him off the free throw line -- we wanted to hold him to single digit free throw attempts. We wanted to make him earn his baskets with jump shots, and for the most part we did that."
Garcia had scored 41 points in an 84-83 loss to Wofford College, and had four double-doubles in his first nine games of the season -- Weber State (27 points/11 rebounds), Fresno State (21/12), Cal Poly (26/16) and UC Davis (22/12).
"He's legit -- he's a first-round draft pick," complimented Earlywine before the game. "He's 6-10 and he handles it like (Houston Rockets 6-8 guard/forward) Tracy McGrady. He can shoot the ball and drive it -- he's putting up 20 and 10 numbers against every team he faces, including on the road. He had 41 the other night. He's the real deal."
EWU versus Gonzaga Series History: Eastern has lost the last 21 meetings against Gonzaga, with the last Eastern win in the series coming on Jan. 8, 1990, in Spokane by a 70-55 score. Eastern is 5-31 versus Gonzaga since Eastern moved to NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season, including a 2-14 record at Gonzaga, 2-12 mark in Cheney and 1-5 record on neutral courts. The two teams paired off in the Inland Empire Classic at the old Spokane Coliseum in November of 1986 and 1987. The Bulldogs lead the all-time series 50-7.
1/10/84 L Gonzaga 80-91 H
2/5/85 L Gonzaga 52-62 A
2/11/85 W Gonzaga 66-63 H
1/10/86 W Gonzaga 56-54 H
2/12/86 W Gonzaga 60-58 A
11/29/86 W Gonzaga 62-60 3
12/20/86 L Gonzaga 58-87 A
1/20/87 L Gonzaga 69-79 H
11/28/87 L Gonzaga 61-82 5
12/5/87 L Gonzaga 63-75 A
1/5/88 L Gonzaga 68-88 H
12/1/88 L Gonzaga 63-75 H
12/10/88 L Gonzaga 68-70 A
1/8/90 W Gonzaga 70-55 A
12/13/90 L Gonzaga 67-108 H
12/15/90 L Gonzaga 63-81 A
12/15/91 L Gonzaga 67-74 A
1/4/92 L Gonzaga 49-67 H
12/23/92 L Gonzaga 50-71 A
1/9/93 L Gonzaga 68-73 H
12/11/93 L Gonzaga 54-99 A
12/22/94 L Gonzaga 58-68 H
12/22/95 L Gonzaga 55-68 A
1/5/96 L Gonzaga 53-63 H
12/21/96 L Gonzaga 65-80 H
12/14/97 L Gonzaga 78-100 A
11/30/98 L Gonzaga 59-81 H
11/26/99 L Gonzaga 47-81 A
11/17/00 L Gonzaga 65-74 H
12/4/01 L Gonzaga 74-84ot A
12/22/02 L Gonzaga 64-67 34
12/31/03 L Gonzaga 49-70 34
12/21/04 L Gonzaga 70-83 34
12/19/05 L Gonzaga 65-75 34
11/10/06 L Gonzaga 75-90 A
3 -- Inland Empire Classic at the Spokane Coliseum; 5 -- Inland Empire Classic at the Spokane Coliseum; 34 -- Played at the Spokane Arena
EWU-Sacramento State Series History: The Eagles have won the last seven meetings dating back to an 88-69 Hornet victory on Jan. 7, 2006, in Sacramento. Since Eastern became a member of NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season, the Eagles are 23-7 versus Sacramento State, and the two schools did not play against each other prior to that.
The Eagles have won 16 of their last 19 games against the Hornets, and have a 14-1 record versus Sacramento State in Cheney and a 9-6 record in Sacramento. Eastern has won the last 13 meetings at home against Sac State, dating back to a 68-67 Hornet victory on Jan. 19, 1995.
EWU Season Recap Thus Far -- Eastern opened the season with a 64-58 loss to Portland on Nov. 14 after a pair of exhibition wins (98-61 over Saint Martin's and 67-58 over Montana State-Billings). The Eagles lost by just six points despite making only 32 percent from the field (15-of-47), allowing Portland to make 7-of-13 three-pointers and getting out-rebounded 37-24.
"I liked our shots -- we just didn't make them," said head coach Kirk Earlywine. "It's hard to win when you compound getting out-rebounded with giving up 54 percent from the arc and pile on top of that shooting 32 percent. Really, it's surprising that we were in the game with a chance."
The Eagles followed that with a 67-61 loss at Pacific 10 Conference member Washington State. The Eagles, who had a 17-9 lead early in the game, rallied with a 15-5 run late in the game to pull within one at 62-61 with 1:04 left. But the Cougars sandwiched a three-pointer and two free throws in the final 44 seconds around an Eagle turnover to score the final five points of the game.
The following night in a 100-88 helter-skelter victory over NCAA Division III Whitman College, Eastern made 50 percent of its shots from the field, had a 54-35 rebounding advantage and scored 56 points inside the paint. However, EWU finished with 30 turnovers to come one away from the school record of 31 against Washington in 1995. The game included 49 total turnovers, 56 total fouls (30 by Whitman) and 79 total free throws.
Despite playing its fourth game in eight days, the Eagles registered a 72-68 road victory at Texas Arlington on Nov. 21. Freshman Jeffrey Forbes had 24 points as the Eagles led from start to finish, opening a 16-point lead in the first half.
The Eagles followed that with an 82-69 home loss to Boise State as the Broncos took a 10-0 lead with eight early fast-break points. After BSU led by 14 at halftime, Eastern cut the lead to one in the second half. But eight-straight Bronco points helped put the lead out of reach as they equaled their biggest lead of 14 twice.
The Idaho game on Nov. 28 followed a similar pattern as the Eagles fell behind by scores of 12-3 and 36-15, and trailed at halftime 45-23. Both teams scored 31 points in the second half, and the game earlier EWU actually out-scored Boise State 39-38 after intermission.
The Eagles led from start to finish in their 89-61 victory on Dec. 1 against Walla Walla University, with Mark Dunn scoring 17 of his career-high 23 points in the first half. In the following game against Portland State on Dec. 5, the Eagles had no answer for the 69 percent shooting night by Portland State and fell 98-75. The Vikings made 33-of-48 shots in the game, including a blistering 16-of-21 in the first half as EWU allowed its most points in nearly three years. Portland State used a 12-0 run in the first half to take the lead for good, and then scored 10 unanswered points in the second half to pull away.
The Eagles followed the PSU game with a week off, and then recorded a 100-97 overtime home victory over Seattle University on Dec. 12. The game featured 12 lead changes and seven ties, and the final time the game was knotted was at 87-all with 3:01 to play in overtime. But EWU's Glen Dean hit a driving layin, followed by a pair of baskets by Brandon Moore. Dean closed the 7-0 run with a free throw to give EWU a 94-87 advantage with 1:09 to play. Eastern, which had forced the overtime with a basket with 10 seconds to play in regulation by Dunn, closed the scoring in overtime with a pair of free throws by Kevin Winford with seven seconds left.
Eastern didn't have the same late-game magic against Nevada on Dec. 17, as Nevada's Brandon Fields nailed a three-pointer with 4.3 seconds to play to defeat Eastern 73-70. Freshman guard Glen Dean, who finished with 13 points and 10 assists for the Eagles, missed a desperation three-pointer at the buzzer in a game that featured 15 ties and seven lead changes. Eastern missed four of its last five shots, including a pair with the game knotted at 70.
The Eagles then followed with a 91-34 loss at BYU. The Eagles scored the first basket against the Cougars, and then were out-scored 33-0 over the next 10 minutes. Eastern was out-shot 64 percent to 27 percent, and were out-rebounded 45-17.
In a pair of neutral site games at the Las Vegas Classic, Eastern fell to Chicago State 62-53 and then lost to Jackson State 72-67. Eastern made only 28 percent of its shots against the Cougars, which used runs of 12-0 and 9-0 in the first half to take a 34-20 lead at intermission. Jackson State used a late 10-0 run to register its first victory in 11 games in the 2009-10 season.
Brandon Moore Selected as Big Sky Player of the Week: Eastern Washington University senior 6-foot-9 center Brandon Moore was selected as the co-Big Sky Conference Player of the Week on Dec. 14, sharing the honor with Portland State's Phil Nelson. It's the first such honor of Moore's EWU career, which currently totals 99 games (including 55 starts) heading into Monday's (Dec. 28) game at Gonzaga.
Moore had a career-best 26-point effort against Seattle University on Dec. 12 in which he made 10-of-19 shots from the field and 6-of-7 free throws in the 100-97 overtime win. Four of his points came in a 7-0 run in overtime, and he also finished the game with 11 rebounds and a career-high four assists. His previous career high for points came as a freshman against The Evergreen State with 23 points.
A 2005 graduate of Bethel High School in Graham, Wash., Moore is currently third in the Big Sky in rebounding, although his average slipped from a league-high 9.9 to a current average of 8.3 when he had just one at Nevada on Nov. 17 and three at BYU on Nov. 19. He is also averaging 11.7 points per game as he has started his senior season with three double-doubles thus far.
Moore has 843 career points, as well as 565 rebounds to rank fifth in school history (Chris White is fourth with 620 from 1998-01). His 70 career blocked shots ranks him third in school history (White is second with 79).
Now with nine double-doubles in his career, Moore had the seventh and eighth double-doubles of his career en route to having a combined 29 points and 32 rebounds in a roughly 26-hour span in November. He had 10 points and 13 rebounds in a 67-61 loss to Washington State on Nov. 16, then had 19 points and 19 rebounds the next night in a 100-88 win over Whitman.
Moore's 19 rebounds ranks as the third-best performance in recorded school history. His previous career high for rebounds was 14 versus Portland State on Feb. 28, 2009. He also tied his career-high with five blocked shots against the Missionaries, equaling the second-best recorded performance in school history.
Eagles Now 2-1 in December League Openers: The Dec. 5 start to league play in a 98-75 loss at Portland State represented the earliest Big Sky Conference opener in school history. Last year, the Eagles opened league play on Dec. 6 with a 61-55 home win over Montana State, and the previous season opened on Dec. 22 with a 58-57 home victory over Portland State. However, both seasons the Eagles failed to qualify for the six-team Big Sky Conference Tournament.
Eastern, picked to finish eighth in the league race by both the media and coaches, took on PSU in its first league game. The Vikings were selected to finish second by the media and fourth by the coaches. Despite EWU's success in its opener the last two years, Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine would much rather open league play in the more traditional month of January, not just a few weeks into the season.
"I've made my feelings pretty well known about playing the first conference game in early December," he explained. "But we've actually been ready to play that game the last two seasons. I shouldn't be too critical because we've won our opener each of the past two years."
Following the PSU game, Eastern will resume league play on Dec. 31. Eastern is hoping its five senior letter winners and talented newcomers will help the Eagles earn their first Big Sky Conference Tournament berth in four seasons when that event takes place on March 6, 9 and 10. However, Earlywine expects several other league teams to feature even more returning starters and experience.
"The league is going to be very, very good," he said. "Top to bottom, it may be as good as it's been in the last 10 years. I told our team after our last game last season that our challenge was to go catch the other teams in the league. Nobody is backing up, so we have to go catch them. Our focus has been on doing what we have to do to improve and not count on other teams to stub their toe."
Earlywine has been in the Big Sky Conference for nearly 10 years now, dating back to 1999 when he became an assistant at Weber State. He knows the January to March grind in the league is difficult, but it's made even more difficult this season with the cost-saving measure of playing most weekend doubleheaders on Friday/Saturday instead of Thursday/Saturday.
"The travel difficulties haven't changed - we still have nine institutions spread over eight states," he said. "You go from sea level to altitude, and one time zone to another. It's tough."
Schedule includes games with Washington State and Gonzaga: Eastern's 2009-10 schedule is highlighted by non-conference games against Washington State and Gonzaga, as well as the earliest Big Sky Conference start in school history.
Eastern opens its league schedule on the early date of Dec. 5, giving the Eagles two exhibition games and seven non-conference games to prepare for league play. Among those seven games, Eastern hosts Portland on Nov. 14 and Boise State on Nov. 24, and plays road games at Washington State on Nov. 16 and Idaho on Nov. 28.
"I like our non-conference schedule and the fact we're not stuck on the road very long," Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine said. "But November is very tough and we have to be ready right from the start."
Eastern plays at Portland State on Dec. 5 before resuming league play on Dec. 31 at home against Sacramento State. The other non-conference games for the Eagles include road games at Nevada (Dec.17), Brigham Young (Dec. 19) and Gonzaga (Dec. 28), as well as an appearance in the Las Vegas Classic at the Orleans Arena on Dec. 22-23.
In addition, Eastern plays both at home (Dec. 12) and on the road (Feb. 1) against Seattle University, a newcomer in NCAA Division I in the 2008-09 season. Seattle defeated the Eagles in overtime last season, but the Eagles were able to edge both Portland (63-58) and Idaho (69-59) before both of those teams finished strong in the West Coast Conference and Western Athletic Conference, respectively.
"We have our hands full with our non-conference schedule, but that's always the case," Earlywine said. "Now that Portland and Idaho have elevated their programs in the last year, it makes our non-conference schedule that much tougher.
Eastern 12-68 Versus the Pacific 10 Conference: Following a 67-61 loss at Washington State on Nov. 16, 2009, the Eagles are now 11-52 in the all-time series against Washington State, to go along with a 1-10 record all-time against Washington. Eastern is 0-6 against other members of the Pacific 10 Conference, giving the Eagles a 12-68 record all-time against that league.
Eastern losses to Washington each of the previous six seasons (2003-2008), and has a current 10-game losing streak versus the Pac 10. Eastern lost at Washington 83-50 on Dec. 20, 2008, and the year prior, lost to Washington State 68-41 on Nov. 9, 2007, and Washington 82-68 on Nov. 18, 2007.
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 over WSU 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 EWU victory.
Eastern's lone victory over the Huskies was 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 Oregon (100-74 on Dec. 15, 2006), 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).
EWU in Exhibitions: Until falling 58-56 to
Carroll College on Nov. 1, 2008, Eastern had won its last 12
exhibition games, which are contests that do not count in EWU's
season record or statistics. Before that setback, EWU'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:
11/8/09 - Montana State-Billings - W, 67-58
11/1/09 - Saint Martin's - W, 98-61
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