Eagles Play Former Big Sky Rivals, Including Tuesday Visit by Boise State

Facing a pair of WAC members, Eastern hosts Broncos on Tuesday at Reese Court before playing at Idaho on Saturday


Upcoming Schedule

Date - Opponent - Spokane Radio Station - Time/Pacific
Nov. 24 - vs. Boise State at Reese Court - 1050am or 1510am - 7:05 p.m.
Nov. 28 - at Idaho (Memorial Gym) - 1050am - 7:05 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

With the start of Big Sky Conference play on Dec. 5 -- the earliest it's ever been for the Eastern Washington University men's basketball team -- why not spend the pre-season playing a pair of former league rivals?

That's what the Eagles will do this week when they host Boise State on Tuesday (Nov. 24) at 7:05 p.m. at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash. On Saturday (Nov. 28), the Eagles play at Idaho at Memorial Gym, also beginning at 7:05 p.m.

"These games are big challenges for us," said Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine. "It certainly doesn't get any easier."

Eastern has won its last two games, including an impressive 72-68 road victory at Texas Arlington on Saturday (Nov. 21), which was the fourth game in eight days for the Eagles.

Boise State is 2-2 thus far after losing 87-61 at Wyoming on Nov. 21. The Broncos defeated Loyola Marymount (90-87) and North Dakota (75-60), but lost on the road at Montana (95-82).

The Vandals are 2-1 after an 81-69 victory over North Dakota State, also on Nov. 21. Idaho opened the season with a huge 94-87 road win at Utah, then lost at Texas Southern 72-65. The Vandals host Sacramento State on Tuesday prior to taking on the Eagles.

Last season, Eastern split against the Broncos and Vandals, with the home team winning both games. Eastern defeated Idaho 69-59 at home to improve to 3-1 on the season on Nov. 24, but a month later it was a different story in a 57-48 road loss at BSU. Eastern made only 32 percent of their shots with a stretch at one point of 12-straight misses as the Eagles lost for the fourth time in five games to fall to 7-6. The 48 points EWU scored were a season low for the Eagles.

In the WAC preseason polls, Idaho was picked to finish fourth by both the media and coaches, with guard Mac Hopson picked to the preseason All-WAC team by both. Boise State was picked to finish fifth by the media and seventh by the coaches.

 "We have familiarity with both of them," said Earlywine of the Broncos and Vandals. "Both are quality teams picked to finish in top half of the Western Athletic Conference. Boise State beat us a year ago in a game we didn't play well offensively. We have to play well and still guard them as well as we did a year ago."

Eastern has played the last two games without injured starters Kevin Winford (concussion) and Matthew Brunell (sprained ankle), but Earlywine hopes to have both players back this week. Eastern had just seven healthy players for its last two games, with another injured player -- freshman redshirt Abebe Demissie (hamstring) -- helping out by logging 16 minutes and scoring eight points in the last two games.

"It will help to have Kevin and Matt possibly back," added Earlywine. "It will certainly take little bit of pressure off so we don't have to have guys playing 30-36 minutes a game. We need to get back to our normal rotation."

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 . . .
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
November 8, 2009 - Eastern Pulls Away for 67-58 Exhibition Win
November 4, 2009 - Eagles Face Larger Challenge in Second Exhibition This Sunday
November 1, 2009 - Eagles Roll Past Saint Martin's 98-61
October 23, 2009 - SEASON OUTLOOK


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.


Brandon Moore Has Back-to-Back Double-Doubles in Split -- Senior 6-foot-9 center Brandon 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. 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. He followed that with nine rebounds at Texas Arlington, giving him an 11.8 average for the season. He is also averaging 11.0 points on 55.2 percent shooting from the field.

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. His 67 career blocked shots are third in school history and his 520 rebounds are now sixth.


Mark Dunn Hot Too -- Senior Mark Dunn had the two 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. He followed that with an 11-point performance at Texas Arlington and is averaging 13.0 points per game on team-leading 58.8 percent shooting from the field.

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.


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. The last time it happened came in a 100-85 victory over Sacramento State on Jan. 25, 2007, in which current Detroit Piston Rodney Stuckey scored 31 points. Eastern would have four 100-point performances that season and average 84.2 points per game as Stuckey finished his sophomore season with an average of 24.6 points per game.


Last Year's Eastern-Boise State Game Was a Microcosm of the Season -- Struggling from both the field and from the free throw line, the Eastern Washington University men's basketball team fell to Boise State 57-48 Dec. 29, 2008, at Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho, in EWU's final non-conference game before the resumption of Big Sky Conference play.

The Eagles made only 32 percent of their shots (19-of-60) from the field, and at one point in the first half missed 12-straight shots as the Broncos went on a 12-0 run to break an 11-all tie. Eastern, which also made only 6-of-14 free throws in the game for 42 percent, fell to 7-6 with their fourth loss in the five games.

Eastern would go on to make only 32.4 percent of their shots for the season. Eastern would finish 12-18 overall and 6-10 in the Big Sky, while the Broncos finished 19-13 overall and 9-7 in the Western Athletic Conference to finish third.

Junior Benny Valentine led the Eagles with 13 points, but suffered through a 5-of-16 shooting night. Junior center Brandon Moore chipped in 12 points and nine rebounds, but finished just 5-of-13 from the field and 2-of-8 from the line.

Eastern held Boise State to 41 percent shooting from the field, but that shooting edge and a 15-6 advantage from the line was enough for the Broncos to hold-off the Eagles. Eastern scored the final seven points of the game after falling behind by as many as 19 in the second half.

Eastern had a commanding 43-32 rebounding advantage, including 19 offensive rebounds that led to 15 second-chance points. But the Eagles had 15 turnovers as the Broncos held a 13-2 advantage in points off turnovers.

Senior Mark Sanchez had 14 points and 13 rebounds in BSU's win, but three other players returning for the 2009-10 season contributed to the victory. Six-foot-7 Paul Noonan scored 14 points on his way to averaging 10.0 points per game. Anthony Thomas had just two points but had six assists, and averaged 9.2 points and 4.1 assists for the year. Kurt Cunningham added seven points as the 6-9 center finished the season with averages of 10.0 points and 4.1 rebounds.


Eagles Knocked Off Idaho Last Season Before Vandals Got Hot: Eastern Washington opened an 18-point lead at halftime and went on to defeat Idaho 69-59 in last year's meeting with the Vandals. But ever since that game -- even intermission -- the Vandals have been on a hot streak.

Idaho was 2-3 at that point of the season, but finished 17-16 and 9-7 in the Western Athletic Conference to place third. Idaho is 2-1 this season (heading into Tuesday's game with Sacramento State), meaning they have gone 17-14 since falling to the Eagles.

Three Eagles scored in double figures in last year's meeting, led by a double-double by center Brandon Moore with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Benny Valentine added 13 points and four assists as the Eagles won their third-straight game after a season-opening loss at Illinois.

The Eagles made 57 percent of their shots in the first half (13-of-23) while Idaho made just 35 percent (8-of-23) as EWU built a 41-23 lead at halftime. The second half was a different story as Idaho made 46 percent (11-of-24) and Eastern made only 38 percent (9-of-24).

Eastern went nearly six minutes without a field goal late in the second half as Idaho pulled to within six at 63-57 with 2:19 to play. But Eastern made its last six free throws, including four by Valentine, to close-out the win. Valentine played just 29 minutes because of foul trouble, helping aid Idaho's comeback in the second half.

The Vandals were led by the 25 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals by guard Mac Hopkins, who would average 16.4 points for the season. Fellow guard Kashif Watson scored 11 points with five rebounds and four assists against the Eagles, and he also averaged in double figures for the season (10.3). Both Hopkins and Watson are seniors on this year's squad.


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 four-team 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.

 "Everything we do from now until December 5th will be pointing toward conference play," Earlywine continued. "We want to be peaked and ready for every conference game we play."

The Dec. 5 start to league play represents the earliest Big Sky 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.

"I've made my feelings pretty well known about playing the first conference game in early December," explained Earlywine. "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."

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."



Eagles Versus Broncos -- Trying to snap a current three-game losing streak, the Eagles are 6-29 against Boise State, with the last meeting coming last Dec. 29 in a 57-48 loss in Boise. In the 2005-06 season, EWU lost 76-72 despite 34 points and eight rebounds by EWU's Rodney Stuckey. The previous year in Boise, the former Big Sky Conference rival triumphed 78-67. Eastern won the previous meeting 65-59 in the 2002-03 season in Boise. Below are the meetings since EWU became a member of NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season. The Eagles joined BSU as a member of the Big Sky in the 1987-88 season, and the Broncos departed the league following the 1995-96 season.
1/7/84 - L - 69-92 - A
1/19/84 - L - 64-56 - H
12/1/84 - L - 49-54 - H
1/5/85 - L - 57-68 - A
11/27/85 - W - 66-60 - H
1/4/86 - L - 56-68 - A
12/31/86 - L - 53-71 - H
2/11/87 - L - 45-70 - A
2/13/88 - L - 62-89 - H
2/25/88 - L - 52-92 - A
1/21/89 - L - 52-72 - A
3/4/89 - L - 63-70 - H
1/6/90 - W - 87-55 - H
2/1/90 - L - 59-69 - A
1/12/91 - L - 69-80 - A
1/25/91 - L - 72-76 - H
2/1/92 - L - 54-60 - A
3/5/92 - L - 59-73 - H
2/5/93 - L - 66-76 - H
3/6/93 - L - 81-85 - A
2/4/94 - L - 51-67 - A
3/6/94 - L - 65-83 - H
1/13/95 - L - 56-76 - H
2/11/95 - W - 72-66 - A
1/12/96 - L - 49-73 - A
2/10/96 - L - 65-70 OT - H
11/29/01 - W - 47-42 - H
12/18/02 - W - 65-59 - A
12/15/04 - L - 67-78 - A
12/29/05 - L - 72-76 - A
12/29/08 - L - 48-57 - A


EWU vs. Idaho Series History: Eastern trails in the all-time series 12-38, including last year's 69-59 victory in Cheney and a 58-49 loss the year before 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. From the 1987-88 season through 1995-96, both schools were members of the Big Sky Conference. Below are series results since EWU became a member of NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season.
12/28/83 - L - 69-91 - A
1/17/84 - W - 77-70 - H
1/16/85 - L - 66-59 - A
2/13/85 - L - 75-78 - H
12/7/85 - W - 79-65 - A
1/15/86 - W - 79-67 - H
11/28/86 - L - 65-76 - ~
1/14/87 - L - 45-55 - H
11/25/88 - L - 54-79 - #
2/6/88 - L - 64-74 - A
2/27/88 - L - 58-61 - H
1/28/89 - L - 54-73 - H
2/5/89 - L - 74-87 - A
1/27/90 - L - 51-70 - A
3/1/90 - L - 54-72 - H
3/9/90 - L - 62-65 - $
1/26/91 - L - 55-72 - H
3/2/91 - L - 65-80 - A
1/30/92 - L - 54-64 - A
3/7/92 - L - 57-60 - H
1/22/93 - L - 63-87 - A
2/20/93 - L - 80-82 - A
1/21/94 - L - 65-71 - A
2/19/94 - L - 64-82 - H
1/21/95 - L - 62-78 - A
2/17/95 - L - 54-61 - H
1/19/96 - L - 53-75 - H
2/17/96 - L - 63-76 - A
11/29/99 - W - 66-53 - H
12/30/00 - W - 73-66 - A
12/6/01 - W - 59-48 - A
12/7/02 - W - 67-62 - H
12/28/03 - L - 60-64 - A
01/02/05 - L - 50-52 - H
11/30/05 - W - 68-55 - A
12/21/06 - W - 85-56 - H
12/9/07 - L - 49-58 - A
11/24/08 - W - 69-59 - 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)



On Highlights of First Three Games -- "The Portland and Washington State games reaffirmed in my mind that our freshmen are very competitive. They don't give in -- they don't take a step backwards and they keep coming. The conditioning level for Brandon Moore and Mark Dunn is way, way ahead of where it was a year ago. They really bought in over the summer and fall in taking care of their bodies and reducing their body fat. They are a little quicker and can play a little harder for longer stretches.

On Average of 18.0 Turnovers After Three Games: "It's a daily emphasis for us to not give possessions away. We've done a good job of that the last two years and we have to continue to do that. It's going to be a little more difficult this year because of the number of players we are going to put on the floor who are new to Division I. We just have to continue to emphasize to them how important it is to take care of the ball."

On Brandon Moore's Senior Debut Against MSU-Billings: "I thought he played pretty well -- I didn't see signs of rust. He worked his butt off this past summer and spent a lot of time in the gym. He spent a lot of time working on his body, and it showed. When he got hurt and decided to do the surgery, he spent an extraordinary amount of time doing every aerobic activity under the sun that didn't involve his legs or his feet. It's a credit to him to stay in shape and minimize the amount of rust."

On Exhibition Wins: "The win or the loss isn't important to me in the exhibition games. I want to get tested -- I want our new players to come under fire and see how they react to stressful situations. So far, this group of newcomers have been outstanding in terms of their effort level, competitiveness and doing the same things in games as they do in practice. I couldn't be any happier with the new players."



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