Pair of teams tied for fifth in the Big Sky standings square off Thursday at 7 p.m. as Montana State visits; Grizzlies in town Saturday at 5 p.m.
EWU versus Montana State
Thursday, Feb. 24 - 7:05 p.m. Pacific
Reese Court - Cheney, Wash.
EWU versus Montana
Saturday, Feb. 26 - 5:05 p.m. Pacific
Reese Court - Cheney, Wash.
TV: (Montana State) Televised regionally by SWX (SWX Digital 6.2 in Spokane, 25.3 in the Tri-Cities & 23.3 in the Yakima area; Comcast 115; Time Warner 306; Charter 287)
(Montana) Televised regionally on Altitude Sports & Entertainment
Radio: (all EWU games) 700 ESPN "The Ticket" and http://www.espnnorthwest.com
Webcasts: (All home games and all Big Sky Conference games) http://www.bigskytv.org
Live Stats: (EWU home games) http://web.ewu.edu/groups/athletics/mbasketball/mblivestats/xlive.htm
There are three pivotal Big Sky Conference games left to play for the Eastern Washington University men's basketball team. But for obvious reasons, none is bigger than this Thursday.
In the midst of an intense race for a postseason playoff berth, Eastern now tackles its final three conference games of the season in search of an elusive spot in the league tournament. Eastern is 8-18 overall and 5-8 in the league, and has remaining league games at home versus Montana State this Thursday (Feb. 24 at 7:05 p.m. Pacific time) and Saturday against Montana (Feb. 26 at 5:05 p.m.) before ending the regular season on the road at Weber State (March 2).
Trying to clinch its first berth in the Big Sky Conference Tournament in five seasons -- and first under fourth-year head coach Kirk Earlywine -- Eastern is tied for fifth with 5-8 Montana State, which defeated EWU earlier this season in Bozeman. Eastern is still one game ahead of seventh-place Idaho State and Sacramento State in the battle for six berths in the league tournament that starts on March 5 at campus sites. The Bengals and Hornets are 4-9, tied with Portland State, which is not eligible for the tournament. Because of a season sweep, Eastern has a tiebreaker advantage over Idaho State.
Thursdays game against the Bobcats is televised live regionally on SWX (Digital 6.2 in Spokane, 25.3 in the Tri-Cities & 23.3 in the Yakima area; Comcast 115; Time Warner 306; Charter 287). Saturday's game will be carried live regionally on Altitude Sports and Entertainment.
The radio broadcast of all Eastern games may be heard on 700-AM ESPN "The Ticket" and via the web at www.espnnorthwest.com, with veteran play-by-play broadcaster Dennis Patchin calling the action. All home games and other Big Sky Conference games may also be viewed free of charge at www.bigskytv.org.
"It's maybe the biggest game we've had in the four years I've been here," said Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine. "If we beat them, we're one step closer to being in the conference tournament. It's just a monster game. It only counts for only one win or loss in the conference standings, so in that regard it's no bigger than any other. But we know different."
Montana State out-scored EWU 48-33 in the second half and won the first meeting between the two teams 71-59 back on Jan. 16. The Bobcats improved to 5-1 in the league at that point, but have lost all seven of their league games since, and have dropped nine games overall to enter Thursday's game 11-16 on the season.
"We guarded them really, really well in the first half at a time when they were playing well and had won five of their first six league games coming into that game," recalled Earlywine. "Then in the second half we gave up three three-pointers before the first media timeout in the second half and it snowballed from there."
On Saturday, the Eagles will face a Montana team currently atop the Big Sky standings with an 11-3 record, and are 19-8 overall. They are battling for the regular season league title with 10-3 Northern Colorado and 9-4 Weber State. The Grizzlies play at Portland State Thursday before taking on the Eagles.
"We can't win two until we win one," Earlywine added. "For the time being we'll forget about Montana and that will be my message to our players as we start the week. All our focus -- 100 percent -- will be on Thursday night."
As the league race winds down, Eastern will also do its share of scoreboard watching as well. Montana State has remaining games at Portland State (Feb. 26) and at home versus Idaho State (March 2). The Bengals host Weber State (Feb. 22) and Northern Colorado (Feb. 28) before playing at MSU, and Sacramento State hosts Northern Arizona (Feb. 24) and Weber State (Feb. 26) before ending its regular season at Northern Colorado (March 2).
The first round of the tournament takes place on Saturday, March 5, with the sixth-seeded team playing at the third seed, and No. 5 playing at No. 4. Those winners advance to play the top two finishers, with the regular season champion hosting the semifinals and championship game on March 8 and 9, respectively.
Eastern Looks for Solutions to Free Throw Discrepancy and Second-Half Letdowns: With a rematch with Montana State looming, Earlywine is hopeful that Eastern can improve upon its 6-7 record when leading or tied at halftime. In its 13 conference games thus far, Eastern has been out-scored by nine points in the first half and 32 in the second half.
It was in the earlier meeting with MSU that an all-too familiar pattern began. Eastern was out-scored 48-33 in the second half of the 71-59 loss after leading 26-23 at intermission. In its last outing, a 68-59 home loss to Cal State Northridge, the Eagles led 30-26 at halftime and then were out-scored 42-29 in the second half as the Matadors made 13-of-21 shots from the field for 62 percent and 14-of-18 free throws for 78 percent. One game earlier in an 83-74 loss at Northern Arizona on Feb. 16, Eastern built an 18-point lead in the first half and a 15-point advantage early in the second half. But the Lumberjacks out-scored EWU 56-35 in the second half to spoil a career-high 31-point night by Glen Dean.
"We have to continue to do the things that have given us leads," Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine said. "We've had halftime leads at Montana State and Northern Arizona -- I can go on down the line. But now we have to find a way to sustain it. I thought we came out in the second half and guarded really hard against NAU. But they paraded to the free throw line in the second half."
A common denominator in EWU's recent losses has been free throw shooting. Eastern was out-scored by 16 free throws against Cal State Northridge, and in its previous six league games, had been outscored by an average of 10 per game. The biggest discrepancy came at Northern Colorado on Feb. 3 when EWU was just 4-of-7 from the line compared to 28-of-33 for the Bears. In 13 league games thus far, Eastern has been out-scored 261-184 at the line and has been whistled for 40 more fouls.
"We're going to watch video from some of those games and look at every one of the fouls we've committed," said Earlywine. "We out-scored Cal State Northridge 52-45 from the field, but when you get out-scored by 16 at the free throw line, that's hard to overcome. And we were outscored by a total of 36 points -- nine per game -- in our previous four games on the free throw line. Nine is hard to hard enough to overcome, let alone 16. We have to find a way to stop that from happening."
Coaches Shows Take Place Mondays: Eagle Coaches Shows at Northern Quest Casino and Resort will feature head men's basketball coach Kirk Earlywine and play-by-play announcer Dennis Patchin during the 2010-11 season.
Shows begin at 6 p.m., and take place on Mondays through the end of the season. The show will take place live from Northern Quest in the former broadcast room adjacent to the Q Sports Bar and Restaurant. Fans will be able to order food and beverages and listen to the show from that location, as well as watch Monday Night Football and other sporting events.
The show is aired on 700-AM ESPN "The Ticket" and via the internet at www.espnnorthwest.com
Northern Quest is located at 100 N. Hayford Road in Airway Heights. From downtown Spokane, take exit 277 off I-90 and follow Highway 2 for 4.4 miles, then turn right on Hayford Road and follow for 1.0 miles. From Cheney, take exit 272 off I-90 and follow WA-902 toward Medical Lake for just 0.3 miles. Take a right on Geiger Blvd., followed by a quick left on Hayford Road and follow for 4.4 miles.
Eastern Basketball -- http://goeags.com/sports/m-baskbl/index
Big Sky Conference Basketball -- http://www.bigskyconf.com/index.aspx?tab=basketball&path=mbball
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 . . .
February 19, 2011 - Matadors Use 15-2 Run to Pull Away for 68-59 Victory over Eagles
February 16, 2011 - Lead, Fourth Place Goes Up in Smoke for Eastern in 83-74 Loss
February 12, 2011 - Eastern Can't Keep Up With Wildcats in 80-68 Loss
February 5, 2011 - Eagles Come Up With Big Plays Late In Crucial 69-67 Win Over Bengals
February 3, 2011 - Eagles Drop Another Road Contest, 63-53, at Northern Colorado
January 29, 2011 - Eagles Explode in Second Half Again for 83-70 Win
January 27, 2011 - Eastern Out-Scores Vikings by 18 in Second Half in 65-51 Win
January 22, 2011 - Sacramento State Wins Over Eagles With One Second Left, 57-55
January 20, 2011 - Eastern Beats Big Sky's Top Offensive Team 72-59
January 16, 2011 - Despite "Outstanding" First Half, Eagles Fall to MSU 71-59
January 13, 2011 - Points Hard to Come By in 66-47 Loss to Montana
January 8, 2011 - Eastern Overcomes Slow Start But Loses at PSU 74-58
January 6, 2011 - Eastern Falls at Seattle 60-51
December 31, 2010 - Bears Hold Off Eagles for 75-73 Win
December 29, 2010 - Eastern Beats Sacramento State 88-79 in Overtime
December 20, 2010 - Eastern Can't Hold Seven-Point Lead in Second Half and Loses 78-72
December 18, 2010 - Eagles Shoot 21 Percent From the Field and Fall to Cornhuskers 72-42
December 15, 2010 - Eagles Hold Off Seattle 95-91 For First D-I Win
December 12, 2010 - Glen Dean Makes Debut and Scores 23 in Narrow Loss
December 4, 2010 - Eastern Romps Past New Hope 112-41 on Record-Breaking Night
November 30, 2010 - Three-Pointers Bury Eagles as Gonzaga Cruises to 86-57 Win
November 27, 2010 - Winford Sets School Record with Eight Treys in Loss
November 24, 2010 - Eagles Drop Road Game in Boise, 83-54
November 18, 2010 - Fast Start Helps Eastern Win 96-87|
November 16, 2010 - Promising Start for Naught as Eagles Fall to Huskies 98-72
November 12, 2010 - Despite Strong Defensive Effort, Eagles Begin Season With 67-60 Loss
November 8, 2010 - Eastern Falls to Montana State-Billings 66-60
November 5, 2010 - Eagles Should Have More Firepower Available Monday
November 2, 2010 - Shorthanded Eagles Fall to Seattle Pacific 87-82
October 29, 2010 - SEASON OUTLOOK: Returning Guards Key to Eastern's Big Sky Hopes
TEAM & PLAYER NOTES
Eagles in Big Sky Conference Statistics: In Big Sky Conference statistics, Eastern features the league's third-leading rebounder in junior college transfer Cliff Ederaine, who is averaging 7.5 rebounds per game. Teammate Laron Griffin is seventh (6.5), with Griffin and Ederaine ranking 1-4 in the league in offensive rebounds, respectively (3.2, 2.9). As a team, Eastern is leading the league in offensive rebounds (12.7) and is second in offensive rebound percentage (.343). Tremayne Johnson is fourth in blocked shots (1.2), Ederaine is fifth (1.2) and Griffin is ninth (0.8) as the Eagles rank third as a team in the league (4.0).
Eastern ranks last in field goal percentage (.405), eighth in turnover margin (-0.8), seventh in scoring defense (71.8), seventh in scoring margin (-4.0) and seventh in rebounds allowed (36.2). The Eagles are second in the league in three-pointers made per game (8.1), and are fourth in three-point field goal percentage (.358) and rebounds per game (34.7).
Also, Kevin Winford is second in three-pointers made per game (2.5) and is 18th in scoring (11.0). Jeffrey Forbes is second in the league in free throw percentage (52-of-58 for 89.7 percent), eighth in three-pointers made per game (1.9) and 24th in scoring (10.0). Johnson is also 24th in scoring (10.0), and is 16th in rebounding (5.0) and 13th in free throw percentage (63-of-81 for 74.7 percent), and Cliff Colimon has moved into 28th in scoring (9.5). Glen Dean's averages of 14.2 points, 4.3 assists and 2.1 three-pointers per game would rank eighth, third and sixth, respectively, had he played in enough games to qualify (20 games; he has played in 19).
In statistics from league games only, Eastern is leading the league in turnover margin (+2.3 per game) and is third in three-pointers made per game (7.7), and its worst rankings are eighth in field goal percentage (.402), rebounding margin (-3.1 per game) and total rebounds per game (31.5). Individually, Dean is seventh in scoring (14.3), third in assists (4.7), second in assist-to-turnover ratio (+2.2 per game with 61 assists and 28 turnovers) and fourth in free throw percentage (52-of-64 for 81.3 percent). Ederaine ranks sixth in rebounds (6.8) and he and Griffin are both third in offensive rebounds (2.7).
Taking Care of the Ball: One of the pet peeves of Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine is "giving away possessions," and the Eagles have done a splendid job of taking care of the ball in their last four games. Eastern has had just 34 total turnovers in those games, including five against Weber State (Feb. 12), seven versus Idaho State (Feb. 5) and eight at Northern Arizona (Feb. 16). In their last 10 games, the Eagles are averaging only 10.0 turnovers per game (total of 100) with five performances with less than 10. In EWU's first 16 games of the season, the Eagles averaged 16.1 and had no performances in single digits.
Eagle Trends: The Eagles are just 8-18 this season, but have a winning record at 7-4 when they have a better field goal percentage than their opponents, and are 5-3 when they make at least 45 percent from the field. However, Eastern is just 1-14 when it is out-shot from the field, and 3-15 when it makes 44 percent or less.
Eastern is 6-6 when it out-rebounds or is tied in rebounding, but is 2-12 when it's out-rebounded. The Eagles are also 6-4 when they score at least 70 points and 2-14 when they score 69 or fewer.
In EWU's only road win of the season -- a 69-67 win at Idaho State on Feb. 5 that snapped an 18-game road losing streak dating back to last year -- the Eagles had some important milestones. It was the first time in 12 games this season the Eagles have won when they did not have a better field goal percentage than their opponent. It was also only the second time they had won in 11 games when they were out-rebounded, and EWU was victorious for the second time in 14 games when it didn't score at least 70 points. Eastern had a season-low seven turnovers in the win, bettered the next game with just five versus Weber State.
Eagles Shooting 45 Percent at Home and 37 Percent on the Road: With a 7-5 record at home and 1-13 mark on the road, you don't have to look much further than shooting percentage to see a major reason why. Eastern has made 45.0 percent at home (40.9 percent from the three-point line), leading to an average of 77.6 points per game. On the road, Eastern is shooting at a 36.6 percent clip (30.8 percent from the arc) and has averaged just 59.4 points per game.
Opponents have made only 40.9 percent at Reese Court but 46.2 percent on their home courts. Additionally, Eastern has a plus 2.8 rebounding margin at home, and is a minus 5.1 on the road.
Eastern Just The Fifth BSC School to Make Nine-Straight Tournament Appearances: Although its streak came to an end in the 2006-07 season and the Eagles haven't been back since, 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).
Interestingly, Montana's 77-69 victory over the Lumberjacks on Feb. 28, 2005, extended Eastern's streak and ended NAU's eight-season streak. 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 Montana - L, 71-73 (ot)
2006 - Quarterfinal (Cheney, Wash.) - #3 seed vs. #6 Portland State - W, 81-75
2005 - Quarterfinal (Missoula, Mont.) - #6 seed vs. #3 Montana - L, 48-58
2004 - Championship (Cheney, Wash.) - #1 seed vs. #2 Northern Ariz. - W, 71-59
2004 - Semifinals (Cheney, Wash.) - #1 seed vs. #5 Weber State - W, 72-53
2003 - Championship (Ogden, Utah) - #2 seed vs. #1 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 CS 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 CS Northridge - L, 98-104 (ot)
1990 - Championship (Boise, Idaho) - #2 seed vs. #1 Idaho - L, 62-65
1990 - Semifinals (Boise, Idaho) - #2 seed vs. #5 Weber State - W, 83-67
Dean Looking Like the "Glen Dean of Last Year": Sophomore Glen Dean, the Freshman of the Year in the Big Sky Conference last season when he averaged 12.2 points and 4.4 assists per game, was cleared to practice on Dec. 8 after missing nearly two months due to a stress fracture in his left foot.
In 19 games thus far, Dean is averaging 14.2 points and 4.3 assists per game to lead the Eagles in both categories. He has led the team in scoring nine times, and has scored in double figures on 14 occasions, including 23 in his first game back. He had a season-high eight assists against Sacramento State on Jan. 22 and scored 57 in back-to-back losses against Weber State (26 on Feb. 12) and Northern Arizona (31 on Feb. 16).
He enters the Montana State game averaging 22.8 points per game in his last four outings. He had a career-high 31 points at NAU on Feb. 16, eclipsing his previous high of 29 on Dec. 31, 2009. Dean made 8-of-18 shots from the field, including 4-of-9 from the three-point arc, and made 11-of-12 free throws. He also had two assists and two steals as no other Eagle scored in double figures.
He also had 26 points and six assists in an 80-68 home loss against Weber State on Feb. 12, with 14 of his points and four assists coming in the first half. Dean kept the Eagles within striking distance most of the way with 7-of-12 shooting from the field, including 6-of-9 from the three-point arc.
On Eastern career lists, his three-point field goal percentage of .414 currently ranks sixth in school history, and his free throw percentage of .798 is sixth.
"There is a little extra pop in his feet when he comes to a stop. He's just crisper," explained Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine following the Weber State game. "We saw it in the last three minutes last week Idaho State (on Feb. 5), we saw it all week in practice and we saw it for a full 40 minutes against Weber State. It looked like the Glen Dean of last year, and that's encouraging."
Despite missing valuable practice time, Earlywine made certain the two months off the floor weren't a total loss for Dean, who is a 2008 graduate of Roosevelt High School in Seattle, Wash.
"Sometimes it's good when players have to step back and take a look at things from the bench," explained Earlywine. "It was very noticeable that Glen sat very close to me during games so he could hear the decision-making process and what happens during games. As a coach on the floor, hopefully that will help him in the long run."
Dean made his debut on Dec. 12 against San Jose State and finished with 23 points, four assists and just one turnover in 30 minutes of action. Dean made his first appearance of the season at home at Reese Court in Eastern's 95-91 win over Seattle on Dec. 15, and finished with 11 points, four assists and a steal in 28 minutes of action.
Prior to making his debut, he practiced just twice prior for an hour each after getting cleared to play. With the 2009-10 Freshman of the Year back in the lineup, Eastern can concentrate on building its team around a player who averaged 12.2 points and 4.4 assists a year ago.
"It goes to show the amount of time and work he put in on a bike, the stair master, in the swimming pool and in the training room," Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine said. "It's quite a tribute to him and he has an unbelievable work capacity. The reason I feel good about our direction right now is that Jeffrey Forbes, Kevin Winford and Glen Dean know how to work. They know how hard and how long, and that's rubbing off on our other guys."
At the same time, Eastern welcomed back point guard Cliff Colimon, who had missed the previous three games and four total games with a sprained ankle. Plus, forward Rashano McRae missed those same three games and valuable practice time with a concussion.
McRae was coming off his best outing of the year when he suffered his concussion, and had missed valuable practice time early in the year with back spasms. The 6-foot-7 junior college transfer had three points, five rebounds and four assists on Nov. 24 at Boise State.
Coupled with Willie Hankins getting cleared by the NCAA to practice with the team -- but not yet play in games -- Earlywine was overjoyed to have 15 players practicing on Dec. 9 for the first time the entire season.
Winford Climbing Up Three-Point Charts: Sophomore guard Kevin Winford has already made 65 three-pointers this season to rank fifth in single season school history, and his 178 attempts are also fifth. On career charts, his 99 makes are seventh and his 282 attempts are seventh as well. In addition, his .857 free throw percentage would rank second in school history behind teammate Jeffrey Forbes (.886) if he had enough attempts to qualify (he has 63 and would need 108).
With an average of 8.1 treys and 22.6 attempts per game, Eastern is on pace to finish with totals of 243 and 680, respectively, in a 30-game season. That would put EWU two treys better than the single season makes record of 241 set in 1999, and would be 31 more than the record for attempts of 649 set the same season.
For the season, Winford has scored in double figures 13 times, and has led the team in scoring on six occasions. He is second on the team with an 11.0 scoring average for the season, making 37.9 percent of his field goal attempts overall and 65-of-178 three-point attempts (36.5 percent). He has also made 32-of-38 free throws (84.2 percent), including 24-of-27 in league play (88.9).
Winford sparked the Eagles to a pair of come-from-behind victories, scoring 12 points in the second half of wins over Portland State (65-51 on Jan. 27) and Idaho State (83-70 on Jan. 29). In the two games he scored 26 points, with 24 of them coming in the second half when he made a collective 9-of-11 from the field and 6-of-7 from three-point range. He was 0-9 overall and 0-7 from the arc in the first half of those games.
The Eagles had a collective 96-62 advantage after intermission in those victories, compared to a 59-52 deficit in the first half as EWU trailed at halftime of both games. In both games, Winford fueled runs that opened up the game for the Eagles. He scored six of EWU's points in a 12-2 run against PSU that gave EWU a 48-37 lead. Two nights later, he hit a trio of threes in a 14-4 Eastern run that gave EWU a 53-43 advantage.
Winford poured in 39 points -- including a record 10 three-pointers -- in Eastern's overwhelming 112-41 non-conference victory over New Hope Christian College on Dec. 4. En route to the fifth-best scoring night in school history against New Hope, Winford broke the school record of nine treys he set just a week earlier against Idaho on Nov. 27. As a team, the Eagles broke the school record for made three-pointers (18) and three pointers attempted (43), and tied the mark for field goals made in a game with 45. Previous records were 16 three-pointers versus Cascade on Dec. 14, 2007; 38 attempts versus Nevada on Feb. 14, 1991; and 45 field goals made against U.S. International on Feb. 2, 1991.
Winford's 23 three-point attempts were also a Big Sky Conference record, breaking the previous mark of 17 set by Nevada's Kevin Franklin against Oregon on Dec. 16, 1989. His makes were third-most, with Portland State's Brian Towne owning the record with 12 in a 1998 game against Idaho State. As a team, Eastern was two made three-pointers from the Big Sky record of 20, but its 43 attempts were a record. The previous league mark of 41 was set by Weber State against Utah State in the 1993-94 season.
Against Idaho just seven days earlier, Winford finished with what was then a career-high with 28 points as he made 8-of-16 treys, breaking the record for attempts as well. Winford, a 2008 graduate of Bartlett High School in Anchorage, Alaska, broke the previous record of seven three-pointers set on 11 different occasions by five different Eagles. The latest was Marc Axton versus Gonzaga on Dec. 21, 2004, and the first was Greg Gaulding versus New Mexico on Feb. 1, 1987. Shannon Taylor had five of the performances during his two-year career from 1998-99.
Winford's previous career high for points was 20 set twice last season as a redshirt freshman.
Forbes Hot at Home, Frosty on the Road: Eastern sophomore guard Jeffrey Forbes obviously likes his home court much more than the road. He is averaging 14.0 points per game at home, making 47.1 percent of his shots overall and 48.4 percent from three-point range. On the road, he is sixth on the team with a 6.6 average on 31.7 percent shooting overall and 30.5 percent from the arc.
For the season, Forbes has scored in double figures 12 times, and has led the team in scoring twice. He has a team-leading four 20-point performances -- all at home -- including 23 versus New Hope and 21 in back-to-back home games versus Sacramento State and Northern Colorado. He is third on the team with a 10.0 scoring average, making 39.4 percent of his field goal attempts overall and 49-of-123 three-point attempts (39.8 percent). He has also made 52-of-58 free throws (89.7 percent) and is averaging 2.1 assists per outing.
On EWU career lists, his .886 free throw percentage (101-of-114) currently ranks as the school record ahead of Dick Edwards (.849 from 1953-55). Forbes is second in single season percentage (.897), ranking ahead of Darren Cooper (.899 in 2002). His 96 three-pointers made in his career ranks 11th, his 252 attempts are 12th and his .381 percentage ranks 10th.
Cliff Notes: Two key Eastern newcomers -- both juniors who transferred from junior colleges -- are known as "Big Cliff" and "Little Cliff," and both were huge in Eastern's 83-70 Big Sky victory over Idaho State on Jan. 29.
Six-foot-seven forward Cliff Ederaine had 13 points, and six rebounds, and made a three-pointer in the second half as the shot clock expired on his first attempt of the year. A 37.6 percent free throw shooter entering the game, he also made both of his free throws. He is from Moreno Valley, Calif., and played previously at College of the Sequoias in California.
"Other than free throws, I don't know if he's taken a shot outside of four or five feet," said Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine. "And to his credit, he knows who he is and what he is. You figure out who you are and what you are and you take pride in it. If you're a defender and a rebounder who doesn't shoot well outside of eight feet, don't shoot outside of eight feet. Big Cliff knows that."
Six-foot guard Cliff Colimon scored 10 with four assists in the victory over the Bengals, including a pair of baskets early in the second half to help turn a three-point halftime deficit into a 13-point win. However, it was his defense on ISU guard Broderick Gilchrest that was the key to the game. Idaho State's leading scorer entering the game with a 15.0 average per game, Gilchrest scored only six points on 2-of-9 shooting. Colimon is from Brooklyn, N.Y., and transferred to Eastern from Eastern Utah Junior College.
"Little Cliff can really guard the ball -- he can crawl up into your jersey and make things fairly miserable for you," Earlywine said. "That was a big reason why we recruited him. There are players in this league who can get hot and score a bunch of points. He's taken on that challenge and kind of relished that role against Idaho State and did a good job on Gilchrest."
For the season, Ederaine has scored in double figures seven times, including a career-high 22 points with eight rebounds against Sacramento State on Dec. 29. He has one double-double with 12 points and 17 rebounds against New Hope on Dec. 4 as his rebounding performance equals the fifth-best recorded performance in school history. He has led Eastern in scoring once and rebounding on 12 occasions, and is averaging 8.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocked shots per game on the season. He was the only Eagle to have started all 23 games this season until that streak ended against Weber State on Feb. 12.
Colimon has scored in double figures 10 times, including a career-high 21 points in the second game of his EWU career against Northwest University on Nov. 18. He is averaging 9.5 points, 1.8 assists and 2.1 rebounds per game.
Former Junior College Teammates Tremayne Johnson and Laron Griffin Contributing in Big Ways: Junior forward Tremayne Johnson scored 29 points and had nine total rebounds in back-to-back games versus Idaho State (Feb. 5) and Weber State (Feb. 12). Two games earlier against Idaho State on Jan. 29, he only scored three points but had eight rebounds, a career-high four assists and a blocked shot in EWU's 83-70 win over Idaho State. Three of his rebounds came on the offensive end as he earned praise from head coach Kirk Earlywine.
"He played well, and it shows his maturation that he can affect the game without taking a lot of shots and scoring," he said. "He got us three extra possessions because of his work on the offensive glass."
For the season, Johnson has scored in double figures 12 times, including four performances of at least 20 points. He has led Eastern in scoring five times, including a 20-point effort in a 65-51 win over Portland State on Jan. 27. He is third on the team with a 10.0 scoring average for the season, making 42.9 percent of his field goal attempts. He is also averaging 5.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocked shots per game.
Johnson is an extremely athletic and talented 6-foot-7 forward who played one season with EWU teammate Laron Griffin at Los Angeles Southwest Junior College. Johnson attended EWU for the first time in January 2010 after completing his associate degree, but as a mid-year transfer, could not play because of NCAA rules. He was recruited by San Francisco and Arizona, but originally signed a letter of intent with the Eagles in spring 2009 and then re-signed in November 2009.
A junior, Griffin is in his second year on the floor for the Eagles, and has started 24 of 26 games. He is averaging 6.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 0.8 blocked shots per game. He has led the Eagles in scoring twice and rebounding on 10 occasions, with career highs of 19 points, 16 rebounds and five assists against Northwest University on Nov. 18. He also had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds against Sacramento State on Jan. 22, and has a total of six double-figure scoring performances and three in rebounding.
Johnson had by far his best game of the season in Eastern's 95-91 victory over Seattle on Dec. 15. He scored a career-high 26 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the floor and 9-of-10 marksmanship from the free throw line. He also had eight rebounds and four blocked shots as he responded in a big way from a three-point, one-rebound effort at San Jose State on Dec. 12.
"There was a lot of read and react basketball that took the thinking out of it for Tremayne," said Earlywine of Johnson's performance against Seattle. "He has the most difficult position to learn in all the things we are doing offensively. The (two forward positions) are dramatically different in all of our sets, and he has to learn those two spots. Seattle scrambled the game and when they did that it became read and react, and it played into Tremayne's hands."
A starter in six of Eastern's first eight games of the season, Johnson came off the bench in the victory over Seattle. One of his baskets included a high-flying, rim-rattling fast-break that caused fans to gasp in amazement. Earlywine was posed the question of whether or not Johnson was more comfortable coming off the bench than as a starter.
"I don't really care about his comfort as much as mine," laughed Earlywine, who heaped praise upon Johnson for diving on the floor for a loose ball and coming up with a steal with the Eagles leading by four with less than 40 seconds remaining. "Tremayne made an unbelievable effort to get to that loose ball. Two Seattle guys were closer to that loose ball than him, and he beat them to it and dove on it. That may be the first time he has ever dove on the floor for a loose ball in his life. I should go check with him to see if there are any broken bones or if he needs to go to the hospital because I think that's what he thinks is going to happen if he dives on the floor. But seriously, he made an unbelievable effort."
EWU-MSU Series History (Since 1983-84): Since Eastern became a member of NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season, the Eagles are 21-34 against Montana State. Eastern has won 13 of the last 23 after winning just once in the previous 13 games. However, Eastern is just 4-8 against the Bobcats in the last 12 meetings, including losses in Bozeman in six of the last seven meetings. Until a 75-73 triumph on Jan. 10, 2010, in Bozeman, the Eagles hadn't won in Bozeman since Feb. 5, 2004, in a 64-61 triumph. Later in the season on Feb. 12, 2010, Eastern won at home against the Bobcats 74-69 to complete EWU's first sweep over MSU since 2004.
Since 1983-84, Eastern is 6-22 in Bozeman and 15-12 in Cheney against the Bobcats. EWU trails in the all-time series 27-40 (20-14 in Cheney, 7-26 in Bozeman, 0-0 neutral).
Earlier This Season -- Despite "Outstanding" First Half, Eagles Fall to Montana State 71-59: After an outstanding first half, the switch was flipped to off in the second half for the Eastern Washington University men's basketball team.
Montana State went from 30 percent shooting in the first half to 73 percent after intermission to register a 71-59 Big Sky Conference victory over the Eagles Jan. 16 at Worthington Arena in Bozeman, Mont. Eastern went without a field goal for 7:10 in the second half to provide the nail in the coffin.
Sophomore point guard Glen Dean paced the Eagles with 17 points, four assists and a pair of steals as the Eagles fell to 4-13 overall and 1-4 in the league. Fellow sophomore guard Kevin Winford made 4-of-10 three-point attempts and finished with 14 points against MSU, which improved to 11-7 overall and 5-1 in the league.
"I don't understand how that can happen after how well we played defensively in the first half, which was just outstanding," said Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine. "I was pleased with our level of competitiveness in the first half -- other than some missed block-outs that caused us to be outrebounded by nine. We guarded our butts off and had only four turnovers."
The loss extended EWU's losing streak on the road to 16 games -- 10 games this year and six to end the 2009-10 season. The last time Eastern tasted victory on the road was a year ago on Jan. 10, 2010, when Dean made a game-winning, six-foot running bank shot with 3.8 seconds to play in a 75-73 victory at Montana State.
The Eagles found themselves poised for another upset, and were leading 34-31 early in the second half. But a 15-1 Montana State helped the Bobcats open a double-digit lead as EWU went from 16:32 to 9:22 without a field goal. The closest Eastern came after that was seven
"In the second half it almost looked like we flipped a switch," said Earlywine. "Our team played well and got ourselves a three-point lead, but the way we were getting it done apparently wasn't pretty enough for us. It looked like we were trying to outscore them 50-48 in the second half. When you struggle to score the ball in the paint, that's hard to do."
Eastern led at halftime 26-23 after a first half that featured four ties and five lead changes. There were three more ties and three lead changes in the second half before the roof caved in.
"We talked for a couple of days about playing like an underdog, with a chip on our shoulder and as guys that weren't highly recruited," said Earlywine. "We wanted to play like we had something to prove, especially on the defensive end of the floor. And we did that in the first half."
Five Bobcats scored in double figures, with Bobby Howard, Erik Rush and Rod Singleton each finishing with 14. Howard scored all of his points in the second half as the Bobcats remained unbeaten at home in eight home games this season.
Big Sky Conference rebounding leader Cliff Ederaine added nine points and a team-high seven boards for the Eagles. But Eastern's inside game was inconsistent, and the Eagles were out-rebounded by a huge 39-22 margin.
"We didn't change anything from a coaching perspective in the second half," added Earlywine. "We have to keep going inside, and we did that in the first half even though we didn't get a lot of points. We had a three-point halftime lead on the road in a league game against a team that is undefeated at home. They are very good here. We had played very good basketball in the first half, then we went sideways in the second half."
EWU-UM Series History (Since 1983-84): Eastern had lost the last seven of the last eight meetings and 13 of the last 15, with the lone victories in that stretch coming on Dec. 30, 2006, in Cheney when the Eagles beat the Grizzlies 74-71 and on Feb. 14, 2010, when the Eagles prevailed 69-68 at Reese Court.
Eastern is 16-41 against the Grizzlies since 1983-84, including a 7-22 record in Missoula, 9-17 in Cheney and 0-2 on neutral courts versus the Grizzlies. Montana leads the series overall 58-37.
Earlier in the 2009-10 season, the Eagles fell at Montana 79-66. Eastern lost in 2008-09 by scores of 63-50 at home and 60-52 on the road, and lost in the 2007-08 season 80-61 in Missoula and 59-57 in Cheney. The two teams split in the 2006-07 season.
In the 2005-06 season, Montana swept the Eagles in three games -- 78-72 in Missoula, 68-46 in Cheney and 73-71 in overtime in the Big Sky Conference Tournament in Flagstaff, Ariz. In both regular season meetings that season, Eastern had leads before succumbing to Montana second-half comebacks. In the overtime loss, Eastern trailed by 14 before a late 10-0 run put Eastern back into the game. But Eagle freshman Rodney Stuckey missed a potential game-winning shot at the buzzer to end regulation. Montana then went on a 6-0 run in overtime to end Eastern's season.
Prior the six-game losing streak that Eastern ended on Dec. 30, 2006, Eastern had won 10 of the previous 14 meetings including regular season sweeps three-straight conference seasons from 2001-03. However, the Grizzlies snapped a four-game losing streak to the Eagles when the fifth-seeded Grizzlies upset second-seeded EWU 70-66 in the 2002 Big Sky Conference Tournament championship game in Bozeman, Mont.
Included in the series history was an 81-75 victory in Missoula to end the 1998-99 season that clinched the sixth and final berth in the Big Sky Conference Tournament for the Eagles. That victory snapped Eastern's eight-game losing streak in Missoula, and a home win in 1998 snapped a 10-game losing streak overall in the series.
A 77-75 Eagle home loss at the end of the 2000-2001 regular season gave Montana a share of the Big Sky Conference men's basketball title in front of 5,426 fans at Reese Court in Cheney. The Eagles had taken a 12-point lead with 8:06 to play in the second half, but went the next 6:21 without scoring. During Montana's 17-0 run, the Eagles missed 10-straight field goal attempts while the Grizzlies made 6-of-7 shots. The loss was Eastern's first in eight conference home games. Montana made 4-of-6 free throws in the last 23 seconds to clinch the win and hold off Eastern's comeback attempt that included a trio of three-pointers in the last 1:45.
Earlier This Season -- Points Hard to Come By in 66-47 Loss to Montana: Points were agonizingly hard to come by against the Big Sky Conference men's basketball leader in defense.
Eastern Washington University made just 30 percent of its shots from the field and had 18 turnovers as Montana defeated the Eagles 66-47 Jan. 13 at Dahlberg Arena in Missoula, Mont.
Montana went on a 15-1 run to help open an 11-point halftime lead, then grabbed a 47-27 advantage mid-way through the second half. Sophomore guard Glen Dean was the only Eagle in double figures with 12 points.
Montana entered the game allowing just 60.2 points per game and an 8.2 average winning margin – both tops in the league. It was the second-fewest points EWU has scored this season, having scored only 42 in a 30-point loss at Nebraska on Dec. 18.
"We turned the ball over 18 times against very little denial and very little pressure," explained Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine as the key to the loss. "We gave the ball away and that led to a bunch of points in the first half. We just can't give the ball away, and we did."
Montana improved to 12-5 overall and 4-1 in the league with the victory. Aside from ties of 0-0 and 6-6, Eastern trailed for all but 2:11 of the game against Montana. The Grizzlies made 44 percent of their shots from the field, and held EWU to just 3-of-13 shooting from three-point range. Eastern, second in the Big Sky entering the game in three-pointers per game (8.2), didn't attempt its first trey until eight minutes had elapsed.
"It was just the way the game was going," said Earlywine. "Montana knows we have players who are capable of shooting the ball really well from the arc, and they did a great job of getting out there and forcing us into the paint. And we struggled to score the ball inside over their size. We had a couple of shots that were missed and blocked. The six blocks they had were point-blank shots for us, but those blocked shots weren't the difference in the game. You have to keep going in there, get fouled and get to the free throw line."
Eastern trailed early 24-9, but used a 12-3 run to pull within 27-21 with 2:53 to play in the half. Four different Eagles scored in that stretch, including a pair of baskets by Dean.
"We didn't make a turnover in that stretch," said Earlywine. "For some reason we've lost patience offensively. Everybody that catches the ball is trying to make a play – to make the assist, pass or shot. We are flying off in too many different directions on the offensive end of the floor."
Montana followed with a 6-1 run and led 33-22 at intermission. In the second half, the Grizzlies used a 12-3 run to open a 47-27 lead with 11:14 to play. Three Grizzlies scored in double figures in the game, led by the 15 points, three steals and three assists by guard Will Cherry.
MORE SEASON NOTES
Defending The Trey: A week after facing a Weber State team that was ranked fifth in NCAA Division I in three-point field goal percentage accuracy, on Feb. 16 the Eagles faced a NAU team that led the nation at the time. The Lumberjacks made 4-of-6 -- including a 3-of-3 performance by Rogers -- after entering the game making 43.9 percent for the season.
Weber State entered its game against Eastern on Feb. 12 having made 42.2 percent of its treys this season. The Wildcats responded with a back-breaking 9-of-14 performance against EWU, moving WSU to second nationally behind NAU. And it came against an Eastern team that had entered as the Big Sky leader in three-point defense, allowing opponents to make just 32.3 during the league season.
Road Skid Ends at 18: A 69-67 victory at Idaho State on Feb. 5 snapped EWU's losing streak at 18 games, including 12 games this year and six to end the 2009-10 season. The last time Eastern had tasted victory on the road was a year ago on Jan. 10, 2010, when Glen Dean made a game-winning, six-foot running bank shot with 3.8 seconds to play in a 75-73 victory at Montana State.
Shooting Turnarounds at Home: Eastern used second-half explosions to beat Portland State 65-51 and Idaho State 83-70 in back-to-back home games on Jan. 27 and 29, respectively. The Eagles had a collective 96-62 advantage after intermission in those victories, compared to a 59-52 deficit in the first half as EWU trailed at halftime of both games.
The Eagles nearly doubled their shooting percentages from the first half to the second. Before intermission, the Eagles made just 35 percent from the field overall (20-of-57) and 25 percent from the three-point arc (6-of-24). After halftime, Eastern made a sizzling 63 percent (34-of-54), including 48 percent from the three-point stripe (11-of-23).
Against PSU, the Eagles made only 29 percent in the first half to fall behind 26-22 at intermission, but exploded for 60 percent shooting in the second half to out-score the Vikings 43-25 and cruise to the huge 14-point win.
Eastern trailed 33-30 at halftime against Idaho State, but made 9-of-12 three-pointers in the second half to out-score the Bengals 53-37 after intermission. Eastern made 75 percent of its shots in the second half after making only 33 percent in the first half. Eastern finished 13-of-24 from three-point range for 54 percent, slightly better than the team's 52.8 percent shooting night overall that was the second-best of the season and the best against a NCAA Division I opponent.
The Point-Less Eagles: The Eagles played four of its first seven games without the availability of both point guards -- Glen Dean and Cliff Colimon.
Colimon had injured the ankle earlier in the year and missed EWU's opener against San Jose State, then played three games before injuring it again in practice two days after EWU lost at Boise State on Nov. 24. Dean had a stress fracture in his foot and missed the first seven games after earning Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year accolades in the 2009-10 season when he averaged 12.2 points and 4.4 assists per game.
"The only analogy I can think of is trying to play a football without a quarterback," said Earlywine. "If all your quarterbacks get hurt and you have to all of the sudden throw another player from another position in there, he has to be able to recognize coverages, audible, change plays, call the pass protection and those types of things. Chances are it's going to be a disaster."
Eastern averaged 17.9 turnovers per game in their first seven games, including eight in the first half against Idaho in which the Eagles fell behind at intermission 28-22. The lack of an experienced point guard was particularly noticeable in a 66-60 exhibition loss to Montana State-Billings on Nov. 8 as Eastern had only four assists and made just 15-of-60 shots from the field. The Eagles had 12 assists and made 37 percent from the field in a 67-60 loss against San Jose State, but had 12 of their 17 turnovers in the second half after leading 36-33 at intermission.
Colimon, a transfer from Eastern Utah Junior College, started and played Eastern's next three games until the loss to Idaho. He averaged 12.0 points and 2.1 assists in the three games he was able to play during that stretch in an average of 20.0 minutes per game. Because of the absence of a point guard for the most part this season, guard Jeffrey Forbes averaged 35.1 minutes per game in those first seven games. He and guard Kevin Winford (29.3 minutes per game in that span) played all 40 minutes against Idaho, and Forbes also played all 40 versus Gonzaga on Nov. 30.
Good Timing of Bad Situation: Eastern's injuries came at an ideal time, with 11 days between NCAA Division I games. Eastern lost to Gonzaga 86-57 on Nov. 30, and didn't play another DI opponent until San Jose State on Dec. 12. In between, Eastern defeated New Hope -- a member of the National Christian College Athletic Association -- 112-41 and took four days off from practicing for final exams at Eastern.
"When we made the schedule, we had no way of knowing we were going to have three of our top six or seven guys sitting on the bench when final exams rolled around," Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine said. "Having them sidelined with injuries came at a perfect time for us. In essence, we took four days completely off while our players took care of their school work, and that certainly helped us from a health perspective."
For The Second-Straight Season, Eagles Spend First Month Dealing with Injuries: Eastern got off to a rocky start on the injury front when practices started in mid-October for the 2010-11 season. Just a few days into practice, Eastern lost 2009-10 Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year Glen Dean due to a stress fracture in his left foot. Dean averaged 12.2 points and 4.4 assists a year ago. He was finally cleared to practice and play on Dec. 8.
Early practices sidelined true freshman Geoffrey Allen, and he was feared lost for the season with what was thought to be a broken hand. But once swelling and bruising subsided, the injury wasn't as severe as first thought and he returned to practice on Nov. 10. He made his debut against San Jose, finishing with three points, three rebounds and three assists in 15 minutes of action. The son of former UCLA and NBA standout Lucius Allen, he is from Los Angeles, Calif., and is a 2010 graduate of Pacific Hills High School
Also, freshman Carter Warnock (who is now redshirting) missed two weeks with a severe case of pink eye, and did not play in EWU's exhibition opener versus Seattle Pacific. Point guard Cliff Colimon missed the second exhibition with a sprained ankle suffered on Nov. 7, and did not play in the season opener against San Jose. He hurt it again in a practice and missed three games from Nov. 27 to Dec. 4. Freshman walk-on redshirt Sean Fischer has a cartilage tear in his shoulder and has yet to make his first appearance in an Eagle uniform.
Actually, the rash of injuries started the week prior to practices starting when men's basketball athletic trainer Donald Sims suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon, then assistant coach Jamie Matthews spent time in the hospital with a staph infection near his eye.
Besides injuries in early practices to Dean and Allen, returnee Laron Griffin and Colimon both suffered minor injuries within seconds of each other during the same drill. Griffin took an elbow to his head and Colimon was poked in the eye. Newcomer Rashano McRae suffered from back spasms in the opening practices and has missed practice time and one exhibition, then a concussion forced him to miss the same three games Colimon missed from Nov. 27 to Dec. 4.
Also, newcomer Willie Hankins was not cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse to practice until Dec. 9 and is still unable to play in games, further thinning further Earlywine's roster. At one point after the first weekend of practices, Earlywine remarked, "I don't know whether to laugh or cry."
A year ago, 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 impacted Eastern not only in games, but in practice.
"We've already had a season's worth of bad luck," said Earlywine a year ago 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.
Brunell continued to be bothered by his injury, and then missed Eastern's game against Sacramento State with an injury to his other ankle. Another sprained ankle, this time by starter Alden Gibbs, kept him out of four games from Jan. 15 to Jan. 23.
Eagles Receiving High Marks Academically: Eastern has a high-achieving team academically, with a team grade point average of over 3.0 in each term a year ago. Glen Dean, Jeffrey Forbes and Kevin Winford were all selected to the Big Sky Conference All-Academic Team, as all three had accumulative GPAs of 3.23 and above through the 2009-10 academic year.
Winford, in fact, is Eastern's nominee this winter for Capital One Academic All-America honors as selected by members of the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). Through fall quarter 2011, Winford had a 3.44 grade point average as an interdisciplinary studies major in liberal arts. The minimum GPA to be nominated is 3.0. He will be selected to the Big Sky Conference All-Academic team for the second time this winter.
Winford, Dean and Forbes are joined by several other recruits with impressive academic credentials, including a 4.0 high school GPA by Carter Warnock and 3.5 and above accumulative GPAs for Jaylen Henry and Geoffrey Allen. Cliff Ederaine expects to major in pre-med in hopes of becoming a doctor.
"That's an overlying theme with this year's incoming class of high school players and several others," said head coach Kirk Earlywine. "Three of our incoming freshmen are 3.5 students or higher, they come from good families and they are high-character kids. We want student-athletes who want to get a degree and are also good basketball players, and many of our student-athletes fall into those categories."
Eagles May Be The Least Experienced Team in NCAA Division I: Eastern has no seniors on its 2010-11 roster, and features a quartet of returning letter winners from last year's team that finished 9-21 overall and 5-11 in the Big Sky Conference. In preliminary results from a recent survey of NCAA Division I teams, no other school has less NCAA Division I experience than the Eagles, whose four returnees have lettered one year each.
Pair of Eagles Return to Puget Sound: Eagles Glen Dean and Jeffrey Forbes returned to the Puget Sound area when Eastern played at Washington on Nov. 16 and Jan. 6 when the Eagles played at Seattle.
Dean is a 2008 graduate of Roosevelt High School in Seattle, and Forbes is a 2009 graduate of Federal Way (Wash.) High School. Forbes helped Federal Way win the WIAA State 4A Championship in 2009.
Weber State Picked as the Team to Beat in League Race: The Eagles have been picked to finish sixth in the Big Sky Conference in both the media and coaches polls. Weber State, which has gone 28-4 in the BSC over the last two seasons and is the two-time defending league champion, is picked first in both polls. However, 2009-10 Big Sky MVP Damian Lillard was lost for the season with a foot injury before league play began.
"Weber State had kind of been the dominant team in the league the last three or four years, and the question we asked ourselves is 'what do we have to do to catch them and beat them?'" said Earlywine. "We can't sit back and hope they digress -- we have to go catch them."
"What we have to understand as a program is that the league is not going to back up -- we are going to have to catch them. In order to do that, the players in the program have to improve themselves -- not only in their skill level but also in their conditioning and strength. On top of that, we have to replace our five seniors with five players who are ultimately better. That's not a knock against those seniors, but that's just what we have to do to get better. You improve the players in your program and you go get better players to replace those who leave. That's what we are trying to do."
Eagles Versus Ranked Teams: Eastern lost to Washington 98-72 on Nov. 16 and 86-57 to Gonzaga on Nov. 30 in EWU's most recent games against nationally-ranked teams. Washington was ranked 17th by Associated Press and 15th in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll, and Gonzaga was 24th by the coaches.
Last year, the Eagles fell 94-52 to Gonzaga on Dec. 28, 2009, in EWU's most recent game against a nationally-ranked foe. The Bulldogs were ranked 22nd by ESPN/USA Today, but were just out of the top 25 at No. 26 by Associated Press. 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 1-17 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.
11/30/10 vs. #24 (ESPN/USA Today) Gonzaga - L, 57-86
11/16/10 vs. #17 Washington - L, 72-98
12/28/09 vs. #22 (ESPN/USA Today) Gonzaga - L, 52-94
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