Eagles improve to 5-2 on the season – their best start since 2008-09 -- with nine 3-pointers against Western Athletic Conference foe
His first 26 points were impressive, his last four were clutch.
Sophomore Tyler Harvey scored a career-high 30 points, including four crucial free throws in the final three minutes, and the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team defeated Seattle 82-75 Friday (Nov. 29) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.
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. He led a 9-of-19 performance from three for the Eagles, who improved to 5-2 on the season for the first time since 2008-09 when EWU started 6-2. The Redhawks, a member of the Western Athletic Conference, fell to 3-3.
“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. For him to come and get 30 points tonight shows that he is a great guy to coach, and he is a great person.
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.
“Venky came out of this with a double-double and just played really tough,” Hayford said of the contributions of Jois and Harvey. “These guys are sophomores, and it is really fun when you are coaching guys that play really hard and are smart.”
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.
“Our team had to play hard and smart, and for about three minutes in the second half we played a really smart game,” said Hayford, whose team only had 10 turnovers. “It is fun to coach because our guys are executing and doing things we spend all week preparing for.”
Eastern used an early 12-0 run to open a 19-8 lead with 14:06 left in the first half. Jois scored six of his eight first-half points in the run, with Harvey and Parker Kelly contributing 3-pointers. Seattle went 3:33 without scoring in that stretch.
The Redhawks gradually cut into the lead, and trailed by three at halftime 38-35. Harvey had 15 points at intermission for the Eagles, who made 6-of-13 from the 3-point arc.
A 10-0 run by the Redhawks gave them a 47-42 lead early in the second half as EWU went 2:43 without scoring. But a 6-0 Eastern run tied the game at 52 with 12:13 to play and started a series of ties and lead changes over the next seven minutes.
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. Brandon entered the game ranked 20th in NCAA Division I in assists (6.3 per game), as well as averages of 11.2 points, a team-leading 9.0 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game after his first six games in NCAA Division I.
Eastern is 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.
“It is a very satisfying win,” added Hayford. “When I woke up this morning, 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 tonight because these guys have been through so much. They have matured, and they had a great offseason. I am just a very proud coach.”
West Coach Conference powerhouse Saint Mary’s will usher in an equally difficult month of December for the Eagles. Eastern travels to Moraga, Calif., on Dec. 8. to play the Gaels, who were 28-7 overall and 14-2 in the WCC in 2008.