Eagles Finally Back at Reese Court to Open Home League Slate
Eastern seeks first Big Sky Conference win of the
season when it hosts two-time defending champion Montana on
Thursday, followed by a visit from Montana State on Saturday
Thursday, Jan. 9 - Reese Court (5,000)
- Cheney, Wash.
6:05 p.m. Pacific - Eastern Washington (5-8, 0-2) versus Montana Weber State (6-5, 1-1)
Saturday, Jan. 11 - Reese Court (5,000)
- Cheney, Wash.
2:05 p.m. Pacific - Eastern Washington versus Montana State (7-6, 2-0 entering 1/9 game)
Shows take place at the Swinging Doors in Spokane at 6 p.m.
Tuesdays from Nov. 26 to Jan. 7 (no shows Dec. 24 and Dec. 31) and
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: None for Montana game; Saturday's game
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 &
Webcast: EWU home games and all Big Sky games are carried at http://www.watchbigsky.com
Radio: 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)
The Eastern Washington University men’s basketball is overjoyed to be back home, regardless of the opposition.
After a four-game road stretch that challenged the Eagles on and off the court, EWU opens its Big Sky Conference home schedule on Thursday (Jan. 9) when two-time defending champion Montana visits Reese Court in Cheney, Wash. Tipoff is 6:05 p.m. Pacific time, followed by a home game Saturday (Jan. 11) against Montana State at 2:05 p.m. Pacific time.
The Eagles enter Thursday’s game with a 5-8 record, including a 0-2 mark in the Big Sky after road losses to Weber State (74-67) and Idaho State (83-72) last weekend. Montana had a home split last week in losing to Northern Arizona (73-65) and defeating Sacramento State (82-70), while Montana State swept the Hornets (70-55) and Lumberjacks (68-66). The Grizzlies are 6-5 overall while the Bobcats enter their game Thursday at Portland State with a 7-6 mark.
Both games will be carried live on ESPN 700-AM and www.watchbigsky.com, and Saturday’s game will be televised regionally by SWX.
“I look forward to it,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford of taking on Montana, which has played in four straight Big Sky Championship games and has posted four consecutive 20-win seasons. “It’s great to play in a conference where every opponent is going to be really good every game you play.”
Eastern has battled injuries, flu and a diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease in recent weeks. Hayford hopes overcoming those setbacks, as well as playing talented opponents in four different states – New Jersey, Connecticut, Utah and Idaho – will help the Eagles build toughness that will translate to wins.
“Montana has to go on the road and we just have to be tough at home,” Hayford said. “Our team has a lot of heart and they showed it against Idaho State by coming back in the second half. We are going to keep improving and we will be fun to watch. Maybe our schedule hurt the confidence of our players by not winning, but we played tough. All this toughness will pay off -- and I believe it will pay off this season.”
Thursday’s game features two of the Big Sky’s top three scorers in Eastern’s Tyler Harvey and Montana’s Kareem Jamar. Harvey is ranked second in the league and 32nd in NCAA Division I with an average of 20.1 points per game, and is also sixth nationally in 3-pointers per game (3.69 with a total of 48). Jamar is third in the Big Sky and 49th nationally at 19.3 points per game, and is also averaging 6.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists.
Hayford said junior Parker Kelly will get the assignment guarding Jamar, who was an honorable mention All-America selection a year ago after winning Big Sky Conference regular season and tournament MVP honors.
“He’ll be a handful,” said Hayford. “I thought Parker did a great job defensively this past weekend, and he keeps drawing a tough assignment.”
After a 5-2 start in November, Eastern has gone winless in six games since – five of them on the road -- and is looking for its first victory since beating Seattle 82-75 on Nov. 29. 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.
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. 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.
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
* Early-season trends show the importance of field goal shooting and field goal shooting defense in EWU’s win-loss record. Eastern is 5-0 when it has a better shooting percentage than its opponents and 0-8 when it doesn’t. Also, the Eagles are 5-0 when making at least 45.0 percent of their shots, and 0-8 when they are under that mark. In addition, EWU is 4-1 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 4-1 when allowing 70 or fewer.
* At home or on neutral courts this season, EWU is 5-1 and has averaged 82.3 points per game on 51.1 shooting from the field, while allowing 64.2 points per game on 40.5 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 three by 10 or less.
* Sophomore Tyler Harvey, the second-leading scorer in the Big Sky with a 20.3 average, is coming off a 49-point weekend. Included was 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.
* 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 missed his second-straight game 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.”
* 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.
* In the Sagarin computer ratings, Eastern is 230th with the 38th-toughest strength of schedule. December opponents Saint Mary’s (45th), Connecticut (47th), Seton Hall (101st) and UC Irvine (108th) are all ranked in the top 108. Montana is 201st and MSU is 273rd.
* The Eagles are leading the Big Sky Conference thus far in 3-pointers made per game (8.5) and rebounds (37.1), and are second in blocked shots (3.9) and third in assists (13.0). Eastern is now seventh in rebounding margin with a minus 0.2 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 (20.1), Venky Jois is 16th (12.8), Drew Brandon is 24th (11.4) and Parker Kelly is 30th (10.5). Harvey also leads in 3-pointers made per game (3.7) and is third in 3-point field goal percentage (.449). Kelly is leading in free throw percentage (.931) and Harvey is seventh (.860). Brandon is second in the league in assists (5.2), is third in assist-to-turnover ratio (+2.3) and ranks eighth in rebounding (6.5). Martin Seiferth is fourth in blocked shots (1.2), and Jois is third in blocked shots (1.4), fourth in rebounding (8.1) and third in offensive rebounds (2.9).
* Venky Jois, the Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year in the 2012-13 season, is EWU’s second-leading scorer with a 12.8 average. He is also averaging a team-leading 8.1 rebounds, as well as 2.3 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 41-game career.
* Point guard Drew Brandon, a transfer from Sierra College in California, is averaging 11.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.2 steals per game after his first 13 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 18.7 points per game in his last 21 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 NCAA Division I statistics through games of Jan. 5, Eastern is ranked 21st among 345 schools with an average of 8.5 3-pointers made per game, 88th in 3-point field goal percentage (36.6 percent) and 95th in fewest turnovers per game (11.8). Individually, Tyler Harvey is sixth in 3-pointers made per game (3.7), 24th in 3-point percentage (44.9 percent) and 32nd in scoring (20.1), with Drew Brandon 52nd in assists (5.2).
* Four Eagles are already ranked among Eastern’s career leaders, including shot-blockers Martin Seiferth and Venky Jois. Jois’ 84 blocks ranks third in school history, three behind Brandon Moore (2007-10) with 87 and 15 behind the school record of 99 (Paul Butorac 2004-07). Seiferth has 84 to also rank third. Seiferth also currently ranks No. 2 in career field goal percentage (.616), ranking just behind Ron Cox (.629 from 1974-77). Tyler Harvey is currently third in 3-point field goal percentage (44.9 percent), with the school record of 50.3 percent held by Marco Quinto (1999-02). Kelly is ninth in 3-point percentage (39.9 percent) and ninth in 3-pointers made with 113.
* In EWU’s most recent outing, Idaho State jumped out to a 17-point lead in the first half and held off the Eagles after halftime for an 83-72 victory Jan. 4 at Holt Arena in Pocatello, Idaho. Eastern made only three of its first 15 shots of the game to put the Eagles in a hole they could never get out of. Led by the 19 points of sophomore Tyler Harvey, four Eagles scored in double figures as they combined for all but eight of EWU’s points. Eastern sophomore Venky Jois finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds for the 13th double-double of his 41-game career, and fourth this season. Junior Parker Kelly had 16 points and made four 3-pointers, and Drew Brandon also had four treys to finish with 14 points. Brandon contributed six rebounds and three assists, but played sparingly in the second half before fouling out with 4:35 to play. He scored 11 of EWU’s 32 points in the first half. Eastern missed its first seven 3-point attempts against ISU, but finished with a season-high 14 treys on 38 attempts. Eastern finished at 39 percent shooting from the field overall, while ISU was significantly better at 48 percent.
* In Eastern’s league opener, sophomore Tyler Harvey got off to a hot start in Big Sky Conference play but so did Weber State in EWU’s 74-67 loss on Jan. 2. Harvey scored 30 points – including 21 of EWU’s 33 points in the first half – to fuel EWU’s upset bid in Ogden, where EWU is now 4-29 all-time. The Eagles jumped out to a 10-0 lead, but foul trouble for Eastern in the first half helped Weber State make eight of its last nine shots to lead 37-33 at intermission. The Wildcats had a similar outburst early in the second half, making 8-of-10 shots during a stretch in which they opened an 11-point lead. EWU came within three late in the game, but Weber State closed out the victory by making 4-of-5 free throws in the final 48 seconds while EWU missed its last three shots. Weber State made 48 percent of its shots in the game compared to 44 percent for the Eagles, but 11 Wildcat offensive rebounds led to an 18-7 advantage in second chance points. Weber has now won 19-straight Big Sky home games. Sophomore Venky Jois scored all 15 of his points in the second half after playing just six minutes because of foul trouble, and also had a team-high seven rebounds. Point guard Drew Brandon chipped in eight points, four rebounds and a pair of assists.
* In Eastern’s most recent victory, sophomore Tyler Harvey scored a career-high 30 points to lead Eastern past Seattle of the Western Athletic Conference 82-75 on Nov. 29 at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash. Sophomore Venky Jois had a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds, and also added three blocked shots, a pair of assists and two steals. Junior point guard Drew Brandon chipped in 12 points and seven assists, and Ognjen Miljkovic came off the bench to score 10. The Eagles led by as many as 11 in the first half, but fell behind by six in the second half. There were eight ties and six lead changes in the second half alone, and 10 and nine in the game, respectively. Eastern eventually took the lead for good on a 3-pointer by Harvey with 5:25 left to play, then he gave Eastern a 3-point advantage with another trey at the 4:56 mark. He closed his scoring with free throws – two at the 3:00 mark that gave EWU a 72-69 lead, and two more with 14 seconds to play to give EWU a five-point bulge. Jois closed out the scoring with a pair of free throws with three seconds left, and Brandon and Miljkovic also made big baskets down the stretch.
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. Jois helped lead EWU to a 5-2 record in the month -- 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 This Week’s Games: “We have to play the defending champion. It’s a long season and we would have liked to come back home 1-1. We’ve faced a lot of adversity, and I hope we don’t face anything tougher than fighting through the sickness issues. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter. That’s just something we have to push through.”
On ISU Game: “We didn’t play good defense against Idaho State in an 11-point loss, yet it’s a six-point game in the second half. We didn’t have our guys bought into the kind of defense they needed to play to be successful against Idaho State.”
On Effort at Weber State: “If we continue to do this on the road, we are going to get a lot of conference wins. Weber State is a really good, tough team at home. There is never consolation in a loss, but we have to keep focused on two things – first, whether our players are giving us energy, determination and grit. I thought they did that. And are we playing smart enough and staying with the scouting report? I think we did that.”
On Preseason Heading Into League Play: “There are plenty of positives for us to build on. We just need to keep developing the team, trust the process and keep getting better. Big Sky play is not going to be a slouch. Idaho State is playing really well and Weber State is hard to beat at home. Then, when we get back at home, we play a Montana team that has lots of pride and has won a lot of Big Sky games the last two years. And take nothing away from Montana State, they went and got a big road win at Portland. You want your team to represent themselves, the players who have worn Eastern uniforms before you and your community with pride. Toward the end of the Seton Hall when the game kind of got away from us, our players didn’t fight through it. I was most proud that our team played 40 minutes against UConn playing with pride, with heart and competing.”
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 Series Notes
* Eastern is 17-46 against the Grizzlies since 1983-84, including a 7-25 record in Missoula, 10-19 in Cheney and 0-2 on neutral courts versus the Grizzlies. Montana has a five-game winning streak against EWU, and leads the series overall 63-38.
* A year ago the Eagles lost at home 65-46 and on the road 81-66.
* Eastern has lost 12 of the last 14 meetings and 18 of the last 21, including both games last year and all three meetings in the 2011-12 season. The lone victories in that 21-game stretch came on Dec. 30, 2006, in Cheney when the Eagles beat the Grizzlies 74-71; Feb. 14, 2010, when the Eagles prevailed 69-68 at Reese Court; and on Feb. 26, 2011, when EWU upset the Grizzlies 59-55 in overtime in Cheney. Eastern’s 2011 victory over Montana helped clinch a postseason berth for the Eagles and, in the process, kept the Grizzlies from clinching at least a share of the league title.
* In the 2005-06 season, Eastern lost 73-71 in overtime in the Big Sky Conference Tournament in Flagstaff, Ariz. 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 to 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 1999-2000 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.
EWU vs. Montana State 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.