Eagle trio of Seiferth, Harvey and Jois combine for 60 of EWU’s 69 points in first victory since Nov. 29
The Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team received its usual offensive production from Tyler Harvey and Venky Jois, and stellar defensive play from Parker Kelly.
But six-foot-10 junior Martin Seiferth came to the party with 21 points and 12 rebounds as the Eagles opened their Big Sky Conference home schedule Thursday (Jan. 9) with a 69-62 victory over two-time defending champion Montana at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.
It was Eastern’s first victory since Nov. 29, as the Eagles snapped a six-game losing streak—including five games on the road.
“I am certainly very proud of our guys,” Eastern head coach Jim Hayford said. “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.”
The Eagles now have a 6-8 record overall, including a 1-2 mark in the Big Sky after road losses to Weber State (74-67) and Idaho State (83-72) last weekend. Montana is 1-2 and had a home split last week in losing to Northern Arizona (73-65) and defeating Sacramento State (82-70). The Grizzlies are 6-6 overall.
The victory 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.
“We played a very difficult schedule, and we played it away from home,” said Hayford. “These guys kept their chin up, and they believed. That is why we got this win over the defending champion in our gym.”
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. He scored 25 against Walla Walla earlier this season, but his previous best versus a D-I opponent this year was 12 against LIU Brooklyn on Nov. 23.
“I am really proud of Martin,” praised Hayford. “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.”
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. Harvey entered the game ranked second in the league and 32nd in NCAA Division I with an average of 20.1 points per game, and was also sixth nationally in 3-pointers per game (3.69 with a total of 48).
“Tyler came up and had a great second half -- he wasn’t happy with his numbers at halftime,” said Hayford. “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.”
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 14 of his career. Point guard Drew Brandon chipped in four points, eight rebounds and five assists for the Eagles.
And 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.
Eastern, which was coming off a four-game road stretch, returns to Reese Court Saturday (Jan. 11) to host league unbeaten Montana State at 2:05 p.m. Pacific time. 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 improved to 3-0 in the league with a 79-76 win at Portland State. The Bobcats are now 8-6 overall.
The Eagles opened the Montana game with seven-straight points, including a three-point play by Jois that put the EWU up 7-0. Later, Seiferth scored six points and Harvey had a 3-pointer in a 9-0 run that gave EWU a 21-9 advantage with 12:33 to play.
Montana gradually cut into the lead, but another 6-0 run gave EWU an eight-point edge at the 4:02 mark on a dunk by Seiferth. But that would turn out to be EWU’s last points in the half and Eastern held a slim one-point lead at intermission.
The Grizzlies took a one-point lead to open the second half, but a pair of 3-pointers by Harvey gave EWU the lead for good. Eventually, a layup by Garrett Moon with 9:18 left gave EWU a 53-45 advantage.
Montana cut it to three with 7:06 left, but EWU followed with a 6-0 run to go up by nine. Seiferth’s two dunks closed out the run as the closest Montana could get the rest of the way was five.
Eastern held Montana to just six points in the final 4:26 of the game.