League Unbeaten Montana State Visits Reese Court Saturday

Coming off a much-needed 69-62 win against Montana, Eastern seeks Big Sky Conference home sweep Saturday at 2:05 p.m.

Complete Release in .PDF Format

Upcoming Games

Saturday, Jan. 11 - Reese Court (5,000) - Cheney, Wash.
2:05 p.m. Pacific - Eastern Washington (6-8, 1-2) versus Montana State (8-6, 3-0)


Coaches Show

Remaining shows take place at the Swinging Doors in Spokane at 6 p.m. Mondays Jan. 13 to March 10 (no shows Jan. 27 and Feb. 24), and feature head coach Jim Hayford and host Larry Weir. The Swinging Doors is located at W. 1018 Francis in Spokane. Shows are broadcast on 700-AM ESPN, www.700espn.com & via iphone app. (search for “Spokane Radio” and download app).


TV: Televised live regionally by SWX digital 6.2 in Spokane/Cheney/Sandpoint/Lewiston, 23.3 in Yakima and 25.3 in the Tri-Cities; also via Comcast 306 (Spokane); Davis Cable 514/81.2/12 (Cheney); Time Warner 306 (Coeur d’Alene & Pullman/Moscow); Charter 287 (Tri-Cities/Yakima), Cable One 466 (Lewiston) and Northland Cable 115 (Moses Lake & Sandpoint)..
EWU home games and all Big Sky games are carried at http://www.watchbigsky.com
All Eastern games are on 700-AM ESPN in Spokane. Larry Weir returns for his 21st season calling the play-by-play, starting 20 minutes prior to tipoff.
Internet Radio:
www.700espn.com or www.tunein.com
Radio iPhone App:
Search for “Spokane Radio” and download app. An app is also available for tunein radio.
Live Stats: ewulive.statb.us (web/all EWU home Games) or ewustats.com (mobile phones/EWU Home Games)


They only get bigger as the season progresses.

The Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team took a huge step toward being a Big Sky Conference contender with a 69-62 victory over Montana, and now faces another challenge in league unbeaten Montana State Saturday at 2:05 p.m. at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.

The game will be carried live on ESPN 700-AM and www.watchbigsky.com, and televised regionally by SWX.

Montana State swept the Hornets (70-55) and Lumberjacks (68-66) last week, and on Thursday (Jan. 9) improved to 3-0 in the league with a 79-76 win at Portland State. The Bobcats are now 8-6 overall. Eastern is 6-8 overall and 2-1 in the Big Sky.

The win Thursday against the Griz was Eastern’s first victory since Nov. 29, as the Eagles snapped a six-game losing streak—including five games on the road. It also snapped EWU’s five-game losing skid against the Grizzlies, and was EWU’s first victory over UM since winning 59-55 in overtime on Feb. 26, 2011. Montana has played in four straight Big Sky Championship games and has posted four consecutive 20-win seasons, but led just once – at 33-32 to open the second half -- against EWU.

On Saturday, Eastern plays a MSU team it has battled tooth-and-nail with in recent years. The last 10 meetings – including six Eagle victories -- have featured seven games decided by six points or less. Eastern won last year 72-68 at home and fell 70-68 on the road.

Eastern head coach Jim Hayford is excited for his team to protect its home court on Saturday, but even more thrilled that his team didn’t find itself in a 0-3 hole heading into the visit from the Bobcats. After Saturday’s game, Eastern plays at Northern Arizona against the Lumberjacks, who are currently 2-1 in the league.

 “What needs to happen is you need to defend your home court,” he explained. “If we hadn’t done that (against Montana) we would be looking at 0-3 and we would be like some of the other teams that lost home games. It is hard to say any one game is super important because it is a 20-game conference schedule.

“We play the longest duration of games of any conference in Division I,” he continued. “You have to keep your guys playing steady for 20 games. To come back Saturday 0-3 would have been really, really hard. I believe in the character of our players, but I am sure glad that didn’t happen.”

In recent weeks, Eastern has battled injuries (Ognjen Miljkovic has missed the last three games with a sprained ankle), flu (all but three players were impacted last weekend) and a diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease (Thomas Reuter). As a result, four Eagles logged at least 37 minutes versus Montana, and Tyler Harvey (25), Martin Seiferth (21) and Venky Jois (14) combined for 60 of EWU’s 69 points.

“We are not real deep right now,” admitted Hayford. “Thomas, bless his heart, is playing, but he doesn’t know if he is going to be able to get out of his bed because of his stomach. We don’t have OG with his ankle, but we got some pretty good minutes from Garrett Moon (against Montana). It is what it is. I think each one of our players would say whatever the amount of minutes they have to play to win, that is what they are going to do. The mind quits before the body so we just have to keep a real strong mind.”

Montana was picked to finish second in the league by the media and third by the coaches. The Bobcats were picked fifth by the media and sixth by the coaches, and the Eagles were picked to finish fifth by the coaches and sixth by the media.


PDF Link to Fact Book

The complete version of the 2013-14 EWU men’s basketball fact book may be found at:


More Eagle Basketball Links

Eastern Basketball -- http://goeags.com/sports/m-baskbl/index
Link to Ticket Information: http://www.goeags.com/tickets
Spokesman-Review EWU Basketball Page: http://www.spokesman.com/ewuhoops
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


Eagle Tip-Ins 

* Early-season trends show the importance of field goal shooting and field goal shooting defense in EWU’s win-loss record. Eastern is 6-0 when it has a better shooting percentage than its opponents and 0-8 when it doesn’t. Also, the Eagles are 6-0 when making at least 45.0 percent of their shots, and 0-8 when they are under that mark. In addition, EWU is 5-1 when it holds opponents to 44.4 percent or less from the field, and 1-7 when opponents shoot better than that mark. Eastern is 5-2 when scoring 71 or more points, and 5-1 when allowing 70 or fewer.

* At home or on neutral courts this season, EWU is 6-1 and has averaged 80.4 points per game on 50.2 shooting from the field, while allowing 63.9 points per game on 41.0 percent shooting. But on opponent home courts where EWU is 0-7, the Eagles are averaging 68.1 points on 39.1 percent shooting, while opponents are scoring at an 85.3 clip and making 47.1 percent from the field. No Eastern games have been decided by six points or less, and only four by 10 or less.

* In NCAA Division I statistics through games of Jan. 9, Eastern is ranked 31st among 345 schools with an average of 8.2 3-pointers made per game, 112th in 3-point field goal percentage (35.8 percent) and 78th in fewest turnovers per game (11.5). Individually, Tyler Harvey is sixth in 3-pointers made per game (3.7), 28th in 3-point percentage (44.4 percent) and 27th in scoring (20.4), with Drew Brandon 52nd in assists (5.1) and 62nd in assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.1).  Montana State is 69th in 3-pointers per game (7.6) and 56th in 3-point field goal percentage (38.1 percent), and is also 73rd in steals per game (7.4).

* The Eagles are leading the Big Sky Conference thus far in 3-pointers made per game (8.2) and rebounds (37.0), and are second in blocked shots (4.1), second in scoring offense (74.3), third in defensive field goal percentage (.441), third in defensive 3-point field goal percentage (.340), third in offensive rebounds (11.4), third in assists (13.0) and third in assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.1). Eastern is now sixth in rebounding margin with a minus 0.1 for the season thus far. A year ago, Eastern was 10th out of 11 teams with a minus margin of 4.2 per game.

* Individually, Tyler Harvey is second in the Big Sky in scoring (20.4), Venky Jois is 16th (12.9), Drew Brandon is 26th (10.9) and Parker Kelly is just out of the top 30 (9.9). Harvey and Jois are both sophomores, and no other sophomores or freshmen rank in the top 20. Harvey also leads in 3-pointers made per game (3.7) and is sixth in 3-point field goal percentage (.444). Kelly is leading in free throw percentage (.903) and Harvey is 10th (.826). Brandon is leading the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (+2.5) and assists (5.1), and ranks ninth in rebounding (6.6). Martin Seiferth is second in field goal percentage (.627), second in blocked shots (1.4) and 15th in rebounding (4.9), and Jois is fourth in blocked shots (1.4), third in rebounding (8.0) and fourth in offensive rebounds (2.9).

* Sophomore Tyler Harvey is the second-leading scorer in the Big Sky with a 20.4 average and is leading in conference games only (24.7). He has scored 74 points in his last three games, including 25 versus Montana when he made seven of his last eight shots to finish 10-of-21 from the field. He also had a 30-point effort against Weber State on Jan. 2 when he equaled the 39th-best performance in school history. He scored 21 in the first half alone en route to equaling the career high of 30 he set in EWU’s last victory on Nov. 29 versus Seattle. He finished 10-of-17 from the field, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range and 6-of-6 from the free throw line.

* Martin Seiferth is nearing a school record with Venky Jois close behind, as four young Eagles are already ranked among Eastern’s career leaders. Seiferth’s 88 blocks ranks second in school history, only 11 behind the school record of 99 (Paul Butorac 2004-07). Jois has 85 blocked shots to rank fourth, just two behind Brandon Moore (2007-10) with 87. Seiferth also currently ranks No. 2 in career field goal percentage (.624), ranking just behind Ron Cox (.629 from 1974-77). Tyler Harvey is currently third in 3-point field goal percentage (44.1 percent), with the school record of 50.3 percent held by Marco Quinto (1999-02). Parker Kelly is 10th in 3-point percentage (39.5 percent) and ninth in 3-pointers made with 113.

* If the schedule and travel wasn’t difficult enough, Eastern has had to battle a recent rash of illness and injuries. Head coach Jim Hayford said all but three of his players fought through flu-like symptoms while they were in Utah and Idaho, including a missed game versus Weber State for backup point guard Daniel Hill. Also, key reserve Ognjen Miljkovic has now missed three-straight games with an ankle sprain and Thomas Reuter continues to battle the effects of Crohn’s Disease diagnosed during Eastern’s week-long trip to play Seton Hall and Connecticut. Reuter became ill after the team’s first day on the East Coast and missed both games. Said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford: “We came to New York and had a great practice; two hours later he was in the hospital and was in there for most of five days. The good thing is they found out what was wrong with him. It’s something he’s going to have to manage with medication and good medical help the rest of his life. It was a really, really hard week for Thomas, so my heart hurts for him.”

* In the Sagarin computer ratings through games of Jan. 9, Eastern is 222nd with the 62nd-toughest strength of schedule in the nation. December opponents Connecticut (39th), Saint Mary’s (55th), UC Irvine (102nd) and Seton Hall (110th) are all ranked in the top 110. Montana is 211th and MSU is 265th, and Northern Colorado is the top Big Sky team at 128th.

* Through games of Jan. 5, the Eagles are third in the Big Sky Conference and 227th in NCAA Division I (345 schools) in RPI. North Dakota is currently the top Big Sky school in the RPI at 107th, and has the 13th-toughest schedule in the nation. The Big Sky’s team RPI rating is 27th among 33 conferences. Among this week’s opponents, Montana is 225th overall and seventh in the Big Sky, and Montana State is 298th nationally and ninth in the league.

* Venky Jois, the Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year in the 2012-13 season, is EWU’s second-leading scorer with a 12.9 average. He is also averaging a team-leading 8.0 rebounds, as well as 2.5 assists and 1.4 blocks per game. So far he has four double-doubles this season (22 points and 11 rebounds against Pacific; 19 points and 10 rebounds versus Seattle; 11 points and 11 rebounds at Seton Hall; and 15 points and 10 rebounds at Idaho State). He had nine double-doubles as a freshman to rank among the leaders in NCAA Division I, and now has 13 in his 42-game career.

* Point guard Drew Brandon, a transfer from Sierra College in California, is averaging 10.9 points, 6.6 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.1 steals per game after his first 14 games in NCAA Division I. He already has a pair of double-doubles, including 15 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists against Boston University. He equaled the 15th-most assists in school history with 10 assists against Walla Walla, becoming the 28th Eastern player to finish in double figures in assists in a game. He also had nine rebounds, four steals and three points, just two nights after finishing with 13 points, 14 rebounds and six assists versus Washington. He is the lone newcomer to EWU’s starting lineup.

* Sophomore guard Tyler Harvey has now averaged 19.0 points per game in his last 22 games as an Eagle after averaging 1.3 points in his first 13 outings. A year ago, he scored 132 points (16.5 average) on 55 percent shooting from the field (52-of-94, including 20-of-44 3-point attempts) in EWU’s last eight games. In the first 13 games he played in the 2012-13 season, Harvey scored just 17 points (by contrast, in the first 13 games this season he scored 261 with an average of 20.1 per game). In his freshman season, he played in 21 of EWU’s 31 games and averaged 14.0 minutes and 7.1 points per game, compared to averages of 36.0 minutes and 20.1 points per game this season.

* In EWU’s most recent outing, six-foot-10 junior Martin Seiferth came to the party with 21 points and 12 rebounds as the Eagles opened their Big Sky home schedule Jan. 9 with a 69-62 victory over two-time defending champion Montana at Reese Court. The win was Eastern’s first victory since Nov. 29, as the Eagles snapped a six-game losing streak—including five games on the road. It also snapped EWU’s five-game losing skid against the Grizzlies, and was EWU’s first victory over UM since winning 59-55 in overtime on Feb. 26, 2011. Montana has played in four straight Big Sky Championship games and has posted four consecutive 20-win seasons. Seiferth had his most productive game against a NCAA Division I opponent this season by making 10-of-13 shots from the field with five dunks and four blocked shots. Tyler Harvey at one point in the game was just 3-of-13 from the field, but made seven of his last eight shots to finish with a game-high 25 points and four assists. Venky Jois had 14 points, seven rebounds, five assists and a blocked shot as he came three boards from his fifth double-double of the season and 14th of his career. Point guard Drew Brandon chipped in four points, eight rebounds and five assists for the Eagles. And Parker Kelly did a superb job guarding Montana’s Kareem Jamar, who entered the game ranked third in the Big Sky and 49th nationally at 19.3 points per game. Jamar, an honorable mention All-America selection a year ago after winning Big Sky Conference regular season and tournament MVP honors, finished with only 10 points on 3-of-9 shooting from the field, as Kelly finished with three steals and three points.


Other Season Notes

* Eastern is tied with Maine and Nicholls State for the most foreign players in NCAA Division I with seven (3 from Australia, 3 from Germany, 1 from Serbia).

* A year ago, mainly because of injuries, Eastern used 14 different starting lineups. Thus far, Eastern has used one.

* Eastern has been picked to finish fifth by the coaches and sixth by the media in preseason polls announced by the Big Sky Conference on Oct. 17.  EWU was picked to finish behind preseason pick Weber State, North Dakota, Montana and Northern Colorado in the coaches’ poll. The media picked Montana State to finish in fifth just ahead of the Eagles. Weber State was picked to win the league in both polls.

* Eastern will be trying for its third Big Sky Conference Tournament berth in the last four years in 2013-14, and its 13th in 27 years as a member of the league. Eastern has 12 previous appearances (1990, 98, 99, 2000, 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 11, 12).

* The Big Sky Conference Tournament will take place March 13-15 at the site of the regular season champion. For the second-straight year, it will now include seven teams, with the regular season champion receiving a first-round bye. The tournament will include a quarterfinal round with six of the teams playing, followed by semifinals and the championship game.

* Eastern sophomore forward Venky Jois from Boronia, Australia, was named to ESPN’s "All-Aussie" team selected by analyst Fran Fraschilla. The squad was revealed by Fraschilla during the New Mexico/Kansas game on Dec. 14. In addition, Jois was selected by College Hoops Daily to its All-Big Sky Conference Team for the month of November and its All-Big Sky Conference Team during non-conference play. Jois helped lead EWU to a 5-2 record in November -- the school's best start to a season in five years.

* Eastern guard Tyler Harvey was selected as the Big Sky Conference Player of the Week on Dec. 3 after his 30-point performance against Seattle in an 82-75 victory on Nov. 29. In recording the 49th performance of 30 points or more in school history (currently tied with nine others for 39th), Harvey sank four crucial free throws in the final three minutes to help Eastern improve to 5-2 on the season -- the best start in five seasons for EWU, which was 6-2 to start the 2008-09 season. Harvey made 9-of-15 shots from the field, including 6-of-9 3-point attempts, and also sank all six of his free throws. “Tyler obviously had a tremendous game,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. “He is an extremely talented offensive player, and he has improved in every level of his game.”

* In defeating Seattle 82-75 on Nov. 29, Eastern improved to 5-2 on the season for the first time since 2008-09 when EWU started 6-2. At the time, the Eagles were 3-0 at home, 0-2 on the road and 2-0 on neutral courts, and nearly two full months ahead of last year’s win total. The Eagles, who were 10-21 a year ago, picked up their fifth victory on Jan. 28, 2013, with a 76-65 victory over Portland State and their sixth victory three nights later.

* The Eagles played three games in three nights on Nov. 22-24 in Irvine, Calif., as part of the of the 2K Sports Classic benefitting the Wounded Warrior Project. They came away with a 2-1 record, beating Boston University 80-68 and LIU Brooklyn 102-70 before bowing to host UC Irvine 81-58 in the finale. In Eastern’s 80-68 win over Boston University, four players scored in double figures on a hot-shooting night against the team picked to win the Patriot League title. Eastern made 54 percent of its shots while holding the Terriers to 38 percent. Six players scored in double figures the next night in a 102-100 victory over LIU Brooklyn, as Eastern had five 3-pointers in the first seven minutes to open a 28-1 lead. The 102 points Eastern scored was its most against a NCAA Division I opponent since beating Cal State Fullerton 110-70 on Nov. 27, 2006. Eastern finished the game making 11-of-17 3-pointers for 65 percent, and sank 64 percent of its shots overall. Eastern held the Blackbirds to 35 percent shooting and dominated rebounding by a 40-29 margin. The Eagles led 54-29 at halftime and led by as many as 37 in the second half. The third night, in an 81-58 loss to UC Irvine, Eastern fell behind by 21 points at halftime. UC Irvine made 11-of-19 3-point shots (58 percent) and 40 percent overall in the game, while Eastern made only 26 percent and was 4-of-21 from 3-point range.

* Sophomore Tyler Harvey was named to the All-Tournament team at the 2K Sports Classic in Irvine, Calif., where EWU went 2-1. Harvey led the Eagles in scoring against Boston University and UC Irvine with 21 points in each game, and also led EWU in rebounding with eight versus LIU Brooklyn. He followed that performance with a career-high nine boards against the Anteaters. He averaged 18.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.3 steals per game in the tourney while making 52.8 percent of his shots from the field including 7-of-15 from the 3-point stripe, as well as 11-of-13 free throws for 84.6 percent.

* Sophomore Venky Jois, the Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year a year ago, joined Harvey on the All-Tournament team at the 2K Sports Classic. He averaged 15.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game while making 56.3 percent of his shots from the field.

* Six-foot-10 junior Martin Seiferth finished with 24 points and 18 rebounds against Walla Walla, as he equaled the fifth-best rebounding performance in school history. He came close to his career highs of 27 points and 21 rebounds set in separate games last season. The last time EWU had a 20-20 performance was Paul Butorac against Lewis-Clark State College on Nov. 18, 2006.

* Eastern returns four starters and seven total letterwinners from last year’s team, which finished 10-21 overall and 7-13 in the 11-team Big Sky under head coach Jim Hayford, who is in his third year at the helm of a squad with no seniors. A year ago, Eastern finished with four wins in its last eight outings, but came up short in qualifying for the seven-team Big Sky Conference Tournament. However, three of those late losses included an overtime loss to UNC, a four-point setback to North Dakota and an eight-point loss at Weber State.

* In all, Eastern’s 2013-14 schedule includes 10 games versus six schools who participated in national postseason tournaments a year ago. Eastern will play six games against those opponents on the road, and four games at home. Three appeared in the NCAA Tournament – LIU Brooklyn (Nov. 23 in Irvine), Saint Mary’s (Dec. 8 on the road) and Montana (Jan. 9 at home and Feb. 8 on the road). UC Irvine (Dec. 15 at home and Nov. 24 in Irvine) played in the College Basketball Invitational Tournament, and won a game before falling in the quarterfinals. The other three postseason opponents on EWU’s schedule were also in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT). Weber State (Jan. 2 on the road and March 8 at home) won four games to advance to the championship, where it lost to East Carolina 77-74. North Dakota (Jan. 30 at home and March 1 on the road) played in the first round, as did Boston University (Nov. 22 at UC Irvine Tournament).

* The schedule also featured a trip to the East Coast to play Connecticut and Seton Hall. Connecticut finished 20-10 overall and 10-8 in the Big East Conference last season, while Seton Hall was 15-18 overall and 3-15 in the league. However, Seton Hall and six other teams in the so-called “Catholic 7” broke off from the league, but have retained the Big East tag. The remaining Big East teams, plus others in the expanded conference, are now named the American Athletic Conference.

* The Eagles hope a more experienced team will translate to winning more of the close games they lost in the 2012-13 season. Nine of EWU’s losses were one-possession games with less than four minutes remaining, and the Eagles finished 6-10 in games decided by 10 points or less.

* Hayford won for the 279th time in his 400th game as a collegiate coach on March 7 when the Eagles beat Idaho State 87-73. He entered the 2013-14 season with a 279-122 (69.6 percent) record in 14 seasons as a head coach, including a 25-38 mark at Eastern. He was 217-57 (79.2 percent) in 10 seasons at Whitworth (2001-2011), and before that was 37-27 in two seasons at the University of Sioux Falls (S.D.).


Quoting Coach Hayford

On Martin Seiferth and Tyler Harvey: “I am really proud of Martin. He has been struggling, but he kept bringing great effort. For him to have his signature game and have it be against Montana, I am just really happy for him. Tyler came up and had a great second half -- he wasn’t happy with his numbers at halftime. I knew he was going to put the ball in the basket. We had two threes for him on the inbounds play on the zone. I thought that made the basket a little bit bigger for him. Again, I want to go on the record saying I love the character of our players.”

On Offense and Defense Against Montana: “It was a textbook example of how you defend your home court, except our foul shooting wasn’t good enough. We need to shoot better, but we hit that magic number. We are undefeated when we shoot 45 percent and we were right on the nose with that against Montana. It was a defensive battle, and it was a defensive win. There were some matchup things we had to go through to get baskets, but at the end of the day this was about grinding it out on defense. Montana has some toughness, but they are not pushing us around in our gym. I thought we responded saying they are not going to do that to us, and they are not going to do it to us here. I thought our defense tightened up the last 10 minutes.”

On Montana Win: “I am certainly very proud of our guys. This was a game that you had to have toughness, and you had to have grit. Our players showed that. To show that while not winning a game since Nov. 29 shows amazing character. They didn’t start doubting, and they kept confidence in themselves, their teammates and their coaching. They kept focusing on getting better. We played a very difficult schedule, and we played it away from home. These guys kept their chin up, and they believed. That is why we got this win over the defending champion in our gym.”

On Defense: “When we are not making shots, we can’t let that affect our confidence and our energy. If you want to be a tough team you have to hang your hat on defense, so that even when you are not making shots you can stay in the game. We’ll teach them and we’ll grow from that.”

On Seattle Victory: “It is a very satisfying win. I remembered at the end of my last year at Whitworth being told your team is 50-2 in your last 52 games. I told myself it is just as satisfying to get our team to 5-2 against Seattle because these guys have been through so much. They have matured, and they had a great offseason. I am just a very proud coach.”

On Drew Brandon and Rebounding: “He’s a really good player. He went to the same junior college that Craig Fortier played at, so that’s how Craig knew about him. What I like about him is he is really unaffected – he’s going to play at his own speed and he plays hard. He’s one of the best rebounding guards I’ve ever coached. Drew is obviously a great addition to our program. We had all these pieces coming back, but we needed to go find a point guard. He certainly is meeting our expectations. Rebounding is something we better improve on from last year, or we will have the same results. Drew really helps us. He really helps us on the boards, and he knows how to run the offense. As he gets more comfortable, we are going to get better and better.”

On Team Identity: “Our identity is that as we are going to play smart and hard basketball, and we are going to do it together. You are going to see an unselfish team that lays it out on the court every night and plays like the band of brothers they are. The biggest difference (from last season) is our players are all a little bit older. We were Eagles that were barely out of the nest last year, and now we can fly a little bit.”

On This Year’s Eagle Team: “We have a great chemistry – they really like each other. A year ago they didn’t know one another. They have been living life together and they do a lot of things as a group. They enjoy spending time with one another, and I think that will spill over into on-court success.”

On Big Sky Conference Race: “I think the Big Sky Conference is going to be more difficult -- there are many teams returning solid rosters. We have a very challenging preseason that will prepare us for a great conference season.”

On Competitiveness of Big Sky: “There were a number of close games. That is part of being in a competitive conference. The hard part about experience is getting it. Hopefully we got it, and we will win more than our fair share of those close games this year. I do like that our guys found ways to win some of those last year.”

On Playing Difficult Schedule: “You cannot be afraid of a tough schedule playing these bigger schools regardless of the outcome. You just focus on it making you better and better. I think we have a non-conference schedule that will put us in the fire. It will refine us, make us stronger and prepare us for Big Sky play. That is what this year’s schedule is, so we embrace it.”


EWU vs. Montana State Series Notes

* Eastern has won three of the last four meetings against MSU, including a split last season. Since Eastern became a member of NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season, the Eagles are 25-35 against Montana State (includes two MSU forfeits in the 1993-94 season). Since 1983-84, Eastern is 7-23 in Bozeman and 18-12 in Cheney against the Bobcats. EWU trails in the all-time series 32-43 (20-12 in Cheney, 9-28 in Bozeman, 3-3 neutral).

* A year ago, Eastern was edged by MSU in Bozeman 70-68 and then won in Cheney 72-68. A year earlier Eastern recorded a huge 82-66 road victory over the Bobcats in the first Big Sky Conference game in the head coaching career of Jim Hayford, then later in the year won in Cheney 69-52.

* Eastern has won 15 of the last 28 after winning just once in the previous 13 games (not counting two MSU forfeits). However, Eastern is just 7-10 against the Bobcats in the last 17 meetings, including losses in Bozeman in seven of the last nine 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.

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