Stretch Run to Big Sky Playoff Berth Starts in Utah
With four wins in last five games, Eagles have climbed
into a fifth-place tie in the Big Sky Conference standings
Saturday, Feb. 22 - Centrum (5,300) -
Cedar City, Utah
6:05 p.m. Pacific - Eastern Washington (12-13/7-7 Big Sky) at Southern Utah (1-22/0-14 Big Sky)
Monday, Feb. 24 - Reese Court (5,000) -
6:05 p.m. Pacific - Eastern Washington vs. Portland State (11-12/6-8 - at SUU on 2/20)
Shows take place at the Swinging Doors in Spokane at 6 p.m.
Mondays Jan. 13 to March 10 (no show 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
Webcast: EWU home games and all Big Sky games are carried at http://www.watchbigsky.com and via the new iphone/android app "Watch Big Sky"
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/SUU) or ewustats.com (mobile phones/EWU Home Games/SUU).
The challenging stretch run for the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team goes through the states of Utah, North Dakota and Colorado.
With four victories in its last five outings – including a much-needed home sweep last weekend – the Eagles continue their pursuit of a Big Sky Conference postseason berth when they play at Southern Utah Saturday (Feb. 22). The Eagles then host Portland State on Monday (Feb. 24), with both games starting at 6:05 p.m. Pacific time and carried live on ESPN 700-AM and www.watchbigsky.com.
Last weekend’s sweep included an 85-72 victory over Sacramento State and an 84-65 romp past previously second-place Northern Arizona. As a result, the Eagles moved from ninth to what is now a five-way tie for fifth in the league standings at 7-7. Eastern is tied with Montana, Montana State, Sacramento State and Idaho State, and is just two games away from second place Northern Colorado (9-5) and only one game clear of 10th-place Portland State (6-8).
At 12-13 overall, Eastern is already two victories better than last season (10-21) and with as many league wins as a year ago (7-13). In hopes of garnering one of seven berths in the Big Sky Conference Tournament in March, EWU is ahead of last year’s marks of 5-9 and 8-17 at the same juncture a year ago when EWU failed to qualify.
“Our whole goal this year was to move this program forward,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. “Our total wins are higher, our home wins are higher and our conference wins are higher. It just indicates that we are moving in the right direction. There is an asterisk next to all of this because we don’t have any seniors. We will keep growing as a team, and as each individual keeps committing to a consistency in their performance, I think we have the program headed in the right direction.”
Earlier this season, the Eagles defeated Southern Utah at home (90-83) but lost on the road to Portland State (92-83). Southern Utah enters its home game Thursday versus Portland State with an 0-14 league record and 1-22 overall mark. The Thunderbirds haven’t been victorious since winning their opener on Nov. 8 against Arizona Christian (85-78).
Sensational sophomore guard Tyler Harvey joined junior point guard Drew Brandon as award winners this week after leading the Eagles to the important home sweep. Brandon was named by College Sports Madness as not only its Big Sky Conference Player of the Week, but its Mid-Major Player of the Week as well after a weekend highlighted by 18 assists with only two turnovers in 75 minutes of action. Harvey scored 53 points with 12 3-pointers in the sweep and was selected by the Big Sky Conference as its Player of the Week for the second time this season.
Harvey continues his scoring onslaught, and now has had performances of 36, 37 and 38 since Jan. 23. Now with three of the top 17 scoring performances in school history, Harvey scored 36 in the first meeting with Southern Utah, had 38 versus Northern Colorado on Feb. 1 and then had 37 against Northern Arizona on Feb. 15. All three of those meetings came at home.
Now with 540 points on the year, Harvey already ranks seventh in school history. He continues to lead the Big Sky Conference in scoring both overall (21.6) and in league games only (23.4), and ranks in the top 11 nationally in three categories. His 94 3-pointers this season are on pace to finish the regular season with 116 and break the school record of 103 set by Shannon Taylor in 1999. He’s already eighth in Big Sky history, with the record 124.
Overall, the Eagles are now 9-2 at home, including a 6-1 mark during Big Sky play. The Eagles are 1-11 on opponent home courts, with the lone victory a 79-50 romp in Bozeman on Feb. 6. Last season, EWU was 7-7 at home, including just 5-5 in league games.
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
Story on EWU Basketball Program at Collegeinsider.com -- http://vimeo.com/85124429
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
* With 213 3-pointers on the season, EWU is just 70 from the school record of 283 EWU had in Jim Hayford’s first season as EWU’s head coach in 2012. The Eagles are on pace to finish the regular season with 264. The Big Sky record is 317 set by Portland State in 2009. Eastern’s record for attempts is 793 in 2012, and the Eagles currently have 566 (on pace to finish with 701).
* The Eagles have had only 27 turnovers in their last three games – equaling EWU’s best three-game stretch of the season. Point guard Drew Brandon had only one turnover and nine assists in 39 minutes of action against Sacramento State when EWU had just eight miscues as a team. He then duplicated that effort versus Northern Arizona when EWU finished with 12 turnovers. Although just 6-4 when having 10 or less turnovers, the Eagles are 6-2 when they have fewer turnovers than their opponent. “We are taking good care of the ball and we are showing a lot more offensive patience,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford.
* The Eagles are leading the Big Sky Conference in scoring offense (76.0), 3-pointers made per game (8.5), defensive 3-point field goal percentage (.342) and rebounds (36.6); are second in blocked shots (4.2), assists (13.7) and defensive field goal percentage (.448); and are third in offensive rebounds (10.9) and assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.1). The Eagles are last in scoring defense (75.3), but allowed just 50 to Montana State on Feb. 6.
* Two of the greatest strides the Eagles have made this season are in rebounding margin and free throw percentage. Eastern is now fifth in rebounding margin with a plus 1.0 for the season thus far. A year ago, Eastern was 10th out of 11 teams with a minus margin of 4.2 per game. The Eagles were 11th and last in the Big Sky in free throw percentage last year at 65.5 percent, but this year have improved that to 68.3 percent to rank ninth in the Big Sky. The Eagles are shooting at a 71.4 percent clip in conference play (sixth).
* In league games only this season, EWU leads the Big Sky in 3-pointers made per game (8.6), 3-point field goal percentage defense (.340) and assists (13.9). The Eagles are also second in scoring (76.2) and blocked shots (4.3), but are last in points allowed (75.5).
* In NCAA Division I statistics through games of Feb. 16, Eastern is ranked 16th among 345 schools with an average of 8.5 3-pointers made per game, 58th in 3-point field goal percentage (37.6 percent) and 63rd in scoring offense (76.0).
* Win-loss trends continue to show the importance of field goal shooting and field goal shooting defense in EWU’s win-loss record. Eastern is 11-0 when it has a better shooting percentage than its opponents and 1-13 when it doesn’t. Also, the Eagles are 12-1 when making at least 45.0 percent of their shots, and 0-12 when they are under that mark. In addition, EWU is 9-1 when it holds opponents to 44.4 percent or less from the field, and 3-12 when opponents shoot better than that mark. Eastern is 11-4 when scoring 71 or more points, and 7-1 when allowing 70 or fewer.
* Finding consistency at home and on the road continues to be of prime importance for the Eagles at this juncture of the season. At home or on neutral courts this season, EWU is 11-2 and has averaged 81.1 points per game on 49.3 percent shooting from the field (43.1 percent from the 3-point line), while allowing 69.4 points per game on 42.8 percent shooting (32.5). But on opponent home courts where EWU is 1-11, the Eagles are averaging 70.4 points on 40.3 percent shooting (32.2), while opponents are scoring at an 81.7 clip and making 47.1 percent from the field (36.3). “It is a growing process to develop a team and get consistency of performance,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. “We will be working on execution and a strong mindset, so that home or away, our shot selection and execution does not vary. The answer is very clear -- we need to put the ball in the basket with consistency. At the same time, we cannot have our mindset be that we will outscore teams. We need to first take a mindset of defensively stopping our opponent. We need to be better on defense.”
* In the Sagarin computer ratings through games of Feb. 17, Eastern is 226th with the 231st-toughest strength of schedule in the nation. December opponents Connecticut (20th), Saint Mary’s (59th), UC Irvine (98th) and Seton Hall (104th) and are all ranked among the nation’s leaders. Weber State is the top Big Sky team at 167th, followed by Northern Colorado at 190th and Montana at 205th. Eastern is No. 4 in the Big Sky, and SUU is 11th in the league and 350th overall (out of 351 teams ranked). Portland State is 10th in the Big Sky and 284th overall.
* Through games of Feb. 16, the Eagles are fourth in the Big Sky Conference and 223rd in NCAA Division I (349 schools) in RPI. Weber State is currently the top Big Sky school in the RPI at 158th, followed by Northern Colorado at 166th and Montana at 196th. Southern Utah is 11th in the league and fifth from the last in NCAA Division I at 345th. Portland State is 10th at 299th nationally.
* Ron Cox, who earned All-America recognition all four seasons he played basketball for Eastern, will have his No. 30 jersey retired in ceremonies taking place March 8 at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash. The ceremony in his honor will take place at halftime of EWU’s home game versus Weber State, which starts at 2:05 p.m. Pacific time. Current Detroit Piston Rodney Stuckey is the only other Eastern player to have his jersey retired, and Cox’s No. 30 will now hang next to No. 3. Formerly from nearby Coulee City, Wash., Cox played four seasons for the Eagles from 1973-77. He had record totals of 1,741 points and 1,273 rebounds in leading Eastern to a 77-30 record and three Evergreen Conference titles. In his first two years playing for head coach Jerry Krause, the Eagles played in Memorial Fieldhouse along the East side of Washington Street. But the Special Events Center opened across the street in fall of 1975, and his final two seasons were played in the new facility (later additionally named Reese Court). In his senior season, in which the Eagles finished 25-4, Cox helped Eastern start a school-record 31-game home winning streak, which would continue until Dec. 8, 1978. Cox received his bachelor’s degree at Eastern in 1978 and his master’s degree in 1995. Drafted in the sixth round of the 1977 NBA draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers, a foot injury ended his professional career before it even started. Cox went on to a highly-successful high school coaching career which included 388 victories in 26 seasons. He was inducted into the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame in 1998, and in 2011 was admitted to the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association Hall of Fame.
Eagle Player Notes
* Sharp-shooting sophomore guard Tyler Harvey hit nine 3-pointers en route to a 37-point outing in EWU’s 84-65 win over Northern Arizona on Feb. 15, to go along with performances of 36 and 38 he’s had since Jan. 23. Now with three of the top 17 performances in school history, only Rodney Stuckey (45, 38, 36, 36) and David Peed (44, 37, 37) have accomplished that feat. Harvey’s nine 3-pointers against NAU were one from the school record he tied on Feb. 1 in his 38-point effort versus Northern Colorado. “They went to a box and one on Tyler, but Tyler just had another special day,” said Hayford of Harvey’s 37-piont effort. “He is an outstanding player, and I am really pleased with his performance.”
* Now just nine 3-pointers from the school record of 103, Tyler Harvey is climbing the Big Sky list as well. His 94 are tied for eighth with two players, including current Portland Trailblazer Damian Lillard of Weber State (2012). Former BSC record holder Shannon Taylor from Eastern is third on the list with 103 in 1999, and the league record is 124 set by Stephen Sir of NAU in 2007.
* Eastern is 5-1 in the six games this season junior Martin Seiferth has scored in double figures, and 5-1 when he’s had at least nine rebounds. He has scored in double figures in four of EWU’s last five outings, including a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds against Sacramento State on Feb. 13. In his last five games, he is averaging 10.4 points and 8.8 rebounds while making 66.7 percent of his shots from the field (24-of-36). For the season, he is averaging 6.8 points and 5.1 rebounds on 65.0 percent shooting. As a result, he is currently the school record holder for career field goal percentage at 63.5 percent, just ahead of Ron Cox (1974-77) at 62.9 percent. In his 56-game EWU career (52 as a starter), the Oregon transfer is averaging 7.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocked shots per game.
* Junior Parker Kelly, a starter in EWU’s first 20 games this season and 17 in his sophomore season, came off the bench in three-straight games before starting again on Feb. 13 in an 85-72 win versus Sacramento State. He responded with a game-high 18 points, including 15 in the first half on 6-of-10 shooting in helping EWU open a 21-point lead. He then had 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the 3-point stripe in EWU’s 84-65 win over Northern Arizona on Feb. 15. He is averaging 10.4 points and 35.2 minutes per game this season, and 8.0 points with 137 career 3-pointers (fifth in school history) in his 86-game career (40 as a starter).
* The combined NCAA Division I 3-point shooting rankings (through games of Feb. 16) of Tyler Harvey add up to 13 (4th in average made at 3.76 and ninth in percentage at 45.6), ranking him second nationally. The national leader is Ethan Wragge of Creighton with a total ranking of 12th (9th 3.32, 3rd 48.3). Karvel Anderson from Robert Morris has a total ranking of 18 (13th 3.22, 5th 47.0).
* Venky Jois, the Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year in the 2012-13 season, was recently selected by collegehoopsdaily.com to its All-Big Sky team for the first three months of the season. He is EWU’s second-leading scorer with a 12.6 average on 51.1 percent shooting from the field. He is also averaging a team-leading 7.9 rebounds, as well as 2.4 assists and 1.4 blocks per game. So far he has seven double-doubles this season. He had nine double-doubles as a freshman to rank among the leaders in NCAA Division I, and now has 16 in his 53-game career (51 as a starter). He is averaging 12.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.9 blocked shots per game in his career.
* Junior point guard Drew Brandon had 18 assists and just two turnovers in 75 minutes in EWU’s home sweep over Sacramento State and Northern Arizona – including performances of nine assists and one turnover in each game. The transfer from Sierra College in California also had 26 points and 13 rebounds in the two games, and made 14-of-15 free throws. He ranks among the league leaders in four categories. He has averages of 11.1 points (23rd), 6.9 rebounds (sixth), 5.6 assists (first) and an assist-to-turnover ratio of +2.3 (first) after his first 25 games in NCAA Division I. He already has five double-doubles, including a near-miss of a triple-double with 15 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds versus Montana State in a 77-72 win. He had a double double-double during one homestand this season -- he had 11 points and 13 rebounds versus North Dakota on Jan. 30, then had 15 points and 12 assists in a 94-90 overtime victory over Northern Colorado on Feb. 1. His 12 assists were a career high, and rank as the fourth-most in school history (the record is 18). He followed that with his fifth double figure rebounding game with 10 at Montana State on Feb. 6, then had a career-high 19 points at Montana two nights later. He equaled what is now the 16th-most assists in school history with 10 assists against Walla Walla and MSU. He finished with 13 points, 14 rebounds and six assists versus Washington on Nov. 17 in just his second D-I game. He was the lone newcomer to EWU’s opening night starting lineup.
* In NCAA Division I statistics through games of Feb. 16, Tyler Harvey is fourth in 3-pointers made per game (3.76), ninth in 3-point percentage (45.6 percent), 11th in scoring (21.6) and 25th in free throw percentage (.882). Drew Brandon is 31st in assists (5.6) and Venky Jois is 72nd with seven double-doubles and 94th in rebounding (7.9).
* Individually, Tyler Harvey continues to lead the Big Sky in scoring (21.6), ahead of North Dakota’s Troy Huff (19.6), Montana’s Kareem Jamar (19.6) and Weber State’s Davion Berry (19.2). Venky Jois is 16th (12.8), Drew Brandon is 24th (11.1) and Parker Kelly is 28th (10.4). Harvey and Jois are both sophomores, and no other sophomores or freshmen rank in the top 24. Harvey also leads in 3-pointers made per game (3.8) and free throw percentage (.882), and is fifth in 3-point field goal percentage (.456). Kelly is second in free throw percentage (.869). Brandon leads in assists (5.6) and assist-to-turnover ratio (+2.3) and ranks sixth in rebounding (6.6). Jois is third in blocked shots (1.4), fourth in rebounding (7.9) and ninth in field goal percentage (.511) and Martin Seiferth is first in field goal percentage (.650), fourth in blocked shots (1.3) and 12th in rebounding (5.1).
* In league only statistics, Tyler Harvey leads in scoring (23.4), 3-pointers made per game (3.9) and free throw percentage (.892). Drew Brandon is leading in assists (5.6), assist-to-turnover ratio (+2.2) and is sixth in rebounding (7.0). Venky Jois is fifth in rebounds (7.9) and fourth in blocked shots (1.3), Martin Seiferth is first in field goal percentage (.692), third in blocked shots (1.4) and Parker Kelly is seventh in free throw percentage (.833).
* Not only is he the Big Sky’s leading scorer, but Eastern’s Tyler Harvey has become a dead-eye free throw shooter for the Eagles. A year ago in early February, Harvey was barely seeing the court for the Eagles. But he earned playing time at the end of the season, and has scored in double figures in 31 of EWU’s last 33 games, with a streak of 23 snapped versus North Dakota on Jan. 30. The sophomore made only 43.5 percent of his free throws as a freshman, but this season is leading the Big Sky in games overall (.882) and leads in league play (.892). He has made 74-of-81 (.913) in his last nine outings, a 13-of-13 effort at Northern Arizona on Jan. 16, a Big Sky and EWU record 20-of-20 versus Southern Utah on Jan. 23, an 8-of-8 in a 38-point effort versus Northern Colorado on Feb. 1 and an 11-of-11 effort at Montana on Feb. 8. “He had all the individual workout records for making free throws (last year), so we couldn’t figure out what it was,” recalled Hayford. “He really disciplined himself all year through the offseason to work on his foul shooting.”
* After missing six-straight games with an ankle injury, Ognjen Miljkovic averaged 19.7 points in his first three games back. He had 13 points and seven rebounds against Southern Utah (1/23/14) in his first career start, then had 32 points four days later against Portland State (1/27/14) to equal what is now the 31st-best performance in EWU history. He scored 10 of his points after halftime against SUU, including a go-ahead 3-pointer to start the second half that gave the Eagles the lead for good. He scored 17 in the first half versus PSU and made 11-of-13 shots from the field with four 3-pointers. He then scored 14 against North Dakota on Jan. 30. Miljkovic hadn’t played since scoring 15 points against Connecticut on Nov. 28. He is now averaging 8.8 points and 3.5 rebounds in an average of 18.3 minutes per game.
* Sophomore Tyler Harvey has now averaged 20.4 points per game in his last 33 games as an Eagle after averaging 1.3 points in his first 13 outings. In fact, his one-year improvement by 13.3 points per game ranks fifth in the nation. A year ago in EWU’s last eight games, 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 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. He currently has a 15.0 career scoring average in 46 games (29 as a starter).
Eagle Records Watch
* Venky Jois and Martin Seiferth are both tied for the school record for career blocked shots with 101. They both surpassed the former record of 99 set by Paul Butorac (2004-07).
* Martin Seiferth ranks first in school history in career field goal percentage (.635, ranking just ahead of Ron Cox at .629 from 1974-77). Tyler Harvey is currently second in 3-point field goal percentage (45.2 percent) and eighth in 3-pointers made (117), and Parker Kelly is 10th in 3-point percentage (39.5 percent) and fifth in 3-pointers made (137). Kelly’s 83.4 percent shooting from the free throw line in his career would rank third in school history (the record is 84.9) if he had enough attempts to qualify (he has 145 and needs 172).
* With 94 3-pointers in 25 games, Tyler Harvey already ranks second in school history, and needs only nine to break the school record. His average of 3.76 per game is on pace to finish with 116 (31 games) and break the record of 103 set by Shannon Taylor in 1999. Harvey has already scored 540 points to rank seventh in school history, and his 21.0 average currently is third behind only the averages of 24.6 and 24.2 that Rodney Stuckey had in the 2007 and 2006 seasons, respectively.
* En route to what is now the 11th-best scoring night in school history with 36 points, sophomore Tyler Harvey finished a perfect 20-of-20 from the free throw line in EWU’s 90-83 win over Southern Utah (1/23/14). He broke the previous school and conference record of 16-of-16 by set by Jason Lewis against Weber State on Jan. 27, 2001. The NCAA record is 24-of-24. In addition, Harvey’s 20 charity shots tied the Big Sky record and broke the school mark of 17 set by Matt Piper against Humboldt State on Dec. 28, 1982. His free throw attempts were one shy of Piper’s 21 in that game. He also scored 38 against Northern Colorado (Feb. 1) and 37 versus Northern Arizona (Feb. 15) to rank sixth and eighth, respectively, in school history. Previously, Harvey opened league play with a 30-point effort against Weber State (1/2/14) when he equaled what is now the 42nd-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 victory on Nov. 29 versus Seattle.
* Eastern set a pair of school records for free throws by finishing 38-of-49 in a 90-83 win over Southern Utah (1/23/14). The previous team record for made free throws was 34 set against Sacramento State (1/19/95) and Whitman (11/17/09), and the old mark for attempts was 48 versus Sacramento State (1/19/95).
Recent Game Recap
* In EWU’s most recent game, Eastern had a season high 16 3-pointers – including nine by Tyler Harvey on his way to a 37-point outing – as the Eagles completed a weekend home sweep with an 84-65 victory over second-place Northern Arizona on Feb. 15. Junior Parker Kelly had four of the 3-pointers and finished with 12 points. Junior point guard Drew Brandon also finished with 12 points, and had nine assists, seven rebounds and two steals. Sophomore Venky Jois chipped in nine points and seven rebounds. The Eagles finished 16-of-30 from the 3-point line versus NAU, coming just two made treys from the record of 18 set against New Hope on Dec. 4, 2010. The 53 percent shooting night from the 3-point arc exceeded EWU’s shooting everywhere else on the court -- Eastern made only 11-of-28 (39 percent) from 2-point range, and was also only 14-of-23 (61 percent) from the free throw line. Eastern also had a 41-33 rebounding advantage over the Lumberjacks and finished with just 12 turnovers. Brandon had a 9-to-1 assist to turnover ratio for the second-straight game.
* Also last week, Parker Kelly and Martin Seiferth started like gangbusters Feb. 13 against Sacramento State, helping the Eagles open a 21-point lead in the first half en route to an 85-72 victory over the Hornets at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash. The Eagles led from start to finish, but had to withstand a second-half rally by the Hornets. Eastern closed out the game by making 9-of-10 free throws in the final two minutes. All five starters scored in double figures, led by Kelly’s 18 points and a double-double for Seiferth of 16 points and 11 rebounds. They combined for 25 first-half points as the Eagles opened an early 37-16 advantage. Point guard Drew Brandon finished with 14 points, nine assists, six rebounds and just one turnover, and Venky Jois had 12 points, nine rebounds and a career-high seven assists. Big Sky Conference leading scorer Tyler Harvey added 16 points, including 11 in the second half, as he eclipsed the 500-point mark for the season. The Eagles had their third-best shooting night of the season and best in conference play, making 55.8 percent of their shots. Eastern also had just eight turnovers.
Quoting Coach Hayford
On Honors Won Feb. 17 by Drew Brandon & Tyler Harvey: “Drew is playing complete games. He’s a defender, a rebounder, he runs our offense and he takes care of the ball. He is coming into his own. Tyler is being recognized for his great individual play that is leading to team success. I am very happy for him. He works hard and deserves the honor.”
On Home Sweep: “We needed to defend our home court this weekend, and we did that. It is a very gratifying feeling as a coach. What we are starting to see from our team is more consistency in the performance from each individual, and as we get that we are going to be more competitive in every game.”
On 3-Point Shooting: “We recruit to shoot. If players are three-point shooters, they want to come here. We let it fly and we are among the nation’s leaders in that. What we need to recognize is when they take away the three we need to balance that with attacking the rim. I think our guys are starting to find that balance. If they are going to let us shoot it, we’ll shoot it because we have some guys who are really good shooters.”
On Sacramento State Win: “I thought we had a great week of preparation for this game and put together a really solid plan for how we could be successful. We really studied what happened in the game at Sacramento, and we had everybody on the same page. I thought that was what we saw in the first half.”
On Montana State Win: “We played a really complete game, especially on defense and on the boards. We shared the ball very well on offense. They were really keying on Tyler and he was able to run offense that got other guys baskets off the pressure they were putting on him. And he had only one turnover. He did a really good job of not forcing things. He did what he needed to do. We wanted to exert our will, and make it a game of our size over their speed. We established Martin early in the first half with 10 points, and he played really big. We followed a game plan for 40 minutes.”
On Northern Colorado Win After Losing 14-Point Lead: “Our guys stepped up and took victory out of the jaws of defeat instead of snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory. That is something we need to keep learning, so it was an important step for our program. We made it harder on ourselves than we had to, but maybe that is going to be good for us in the long run. The other thing is that we haven’t been in the situation enough where we have been up ten. The other team is going to throw everything at you. They are going to grab, fight, pull and kick. They are like a desperate person, and that is a big wave of energy coming at you. We have not had that many opportunities to understand that. Honestly, we failed it, but we regrouped in the last two minutes and got it done.”
On Tyler Harvey’s Performance Versus UNC: “To go 10-of-15 after going 1-of-8 on Thursday night shows that Tyler doesn’t lack any confidence. He believes in his game, and he believes in his teammates. He understands when he has a great shot it is his role to take it. There are a lot of players that would have come off of Thursday night and said, ‘Oh, I am not going to shoot it.’ He understands what his role is.”
On Tyler Harvey’s 36 Points Against Southern Utah: “Our game plan was to put the ball in his hands because he is making plays. The defense kept fouling him, and Tyler kept making the free throws. It is where we need to be in every part of our program. He made a commitment to developing that area of his game. He went from a really poor free throw percentage last year to setting the Big Sky and school record. I couldn’t be more pleased. He is a good player, he’s a great young man and he is only a sophomore.”
On Home Sweep Over Montana Schools: “We’re building a program and we’re doing it with players who are doing it together. It’s interesting to think about where we were against Montana last year, and their roster and our roster this season only changed by a couple of players. To see how that played out just showed me that we are gaining ground. Montana State is a mature team – they have as many seniors and upperclassmen as anybody. For us to compete with them shows me that as a program we are moving in the right direction. The games themselves were both won on defense. We took care of the ball really well against Montana and not so much against Montana State. But in both games we found a way to win, and the result could have gone either way with four minutes to play. I think that shows maturity because there were a number of games last year in which we were right there with four minutes to go, but weren’t finding ways to win. Being a year older, our players are finding a way to win and that is what has me encouraged.”
On Venky Jois: “It’s neat when you feel like you have one of the premier frontcourt players in the Big Sky Conference and he’s playing that way. I only expect more and more from him each night out as he continues growing. He’s had lots of playing time, so he has the minutes of a junior with sophomore eligibility. He’s a leader and we count on him.”
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.”
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 four.
* 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.
* Portland State and Eastern are in the fourth year of a five-sport rivalry cup called “The Dam Cup.” With a 92-83 victory over the Eagles on Jan. 27, the Vikings wrapped up the title with a current 11-4 lead. The so-named rivalry refers to the four dams linking Oregon and Washington that one passes on the 339-mile drive from the Portland State campus to the Eastern Washington campus. Located along the Columbia River, they are Bonneville Dam, The Dalles Dam, The John Day Dam and the McNary Dam. The winner of the Dam Cup will possess The Dam Trophy acknowledging the achievement for the following year. Eastern Washington captured the cup last year, but PSU won the inaugural Dam Cup in 2010-11 and again in 2011-12. The annual football game is worth four points, the women's soccer match is worth one point, each women's volleyball match is worth two points for a total of four points possible, and each men's and women's basketball game is worth two points for a total of four points possible in each of those sports. The total points possible are 21, which means even if EWU wins the final two games (men’s BB on 2/24, and women’s BB on 2/24), plus win the two-point fan challenge at www.damcup.com to defend its title, EWU would fall short 11-10.
EWU vs. Southern Utah Series Notes
* The Eagles are 3-4 all-time against Southern Utah (3-1 in Cheney, 0-3 in Cedar City). Earlier this season, the Eagles won 90-83 at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.
* Last season, Eastern triumphed at Reese Court 85-72 on Feb. 16, 2013. When Eastern lost 69-55 at Southern Utah on Jan. 26, 2013, it marked the first Big Sky Conference meeting between the two schools. It was also the first meeting overall since Jan. 10, 1994, when Eastern lost at home, 69-65. The Eagles lost the previous three meetings against the Thunderbirds -- Eastern lost in Cedar City 87-67 on Feb. 17, 1993, 70-68 in Cheney on Dec. 21, 1993 and 71-50 in Cedar City on Dec. 28, 1993.
* Earlier this season, sophomore guard Tyler Harvey made a school and Big Sky Conference record 20-of-20 free throws and finished with a career-high 36 points as Eastern held off the Thunderbirds 90-83 on Jan. 23 at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash. The Eagles finished with school records of 38 free throws made and 49 attempts. An 8-2 run to open the second half gave Eastern the lead for good. Sophomore Venky Jois added 19 points and nine rebounds, freshman Ognjen Miljkovic had 13 points and seven boards in his first career start and junior Parker Kelly chipped in 12 points in the win. Point guard Drew Brandon, who was one of five Eagle starters to log at least 31 minutes, had five assists, six points and five rebounds.
EWU vs. Portland State Series Notes
* Since Eastern became a member of NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season, the Eagles are now 18-19 versus the Vikings. All of the meetings have come since the 1996-97 school year when PSU joined the Big Sky Conference, and Eastern is 12-6 in Cheney and 6-12 against PSU in Portland (0-1 on neutral courts) since then. Earlier this season, the Eagles fell 92-83 in Portland. A year ago, Eastern won 76-65 at home then lost 89-80 on the road.
* The Vikings, who won 78-76 in overtime in the 2011-12 season in Cheney and 69-64 in Portland, have a 22-19 edge in the overall series. Eastern owns a 13-7 record in Cheney and 6-14 mark in Portland (0-1 on neutral courts) against the Vikings.
* Despite losing 10 of the last 12 meetings, the Eagles have still won 16 of the last 30 meetings. With a 65-61 home victory on Jan. 27, 2011, Eastern snapped a six-game losing streak to the Vikings. Before that, the last Eastern win in the series was a 58-57 home win over the Vikings on Dec. 22, 2007. Prior to that, Eastern had won five of the last six meetings and 11 of 14.
* Earlier this season, despite 70 percent shooting and a double-digit lead in the first 20 minutes, Portland State rallied to score 62 points in the second half and knocked off Eastern 92-83 on Jan. 27 in Portland, Ore. Freshman Ognjen Miljkovic had 17 of his career-high 32 points in the first half to help EWU to a 10-point halftime lead, but the Eagles went nearly five minutes without a field goal to open the second half and let the Vikings back in the game. Thanks to 66 percent shooting in the second half by PSU and another more than four-minute stretch without a field goal by the Eagles, the Vikings pulled away for their seventh-straight victory in Portland over EWU. The Vikings closed out the win by making 14-of-16 free throws in the last 2:22 of the game, and EWU finished with a season-high 19 turnovers leading to a 35-11 PSU advantage in points off turnovers. Eastern finished at 49 percent for the game and lost for the first time in nine games when making at least 45 percent of its shots. Sophomore Tyler Harvey, the leading scorer in the Big Sky Conference with an average of 21.2 points per game entering the game, scored 18 for the Eagles. He made 4-of-9 3-point attempts, but was just 1-of-7 from inside the arc. Sophomore Venky Jois chipped in 11 points and 10 rebounds, giving him his seventh double-double of the season and 16th in his career. Junior point guard Drew Brandon finished with eight assists, eight points and seven rebounds.