Tyler Harvey adds 26 points as Eastern wins for fifth time in last six games with win at Southern Utah
Venky Jois was due.
The sophomore forward had a career-high 29 points and 13 rebounds for his eighth double-double of the season – and first since Jan. 27 – to lead the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team to an 85-74 victory at Southern Utah Saturday (Feb. 22) in Cedar City, Utah.
Sophomore Tyler Harvey added 26 points for the Eagles, who have now won five of their last six games to improve to 8-7 in the Big Sky Conference and 13-13 overall. Currently sixth in the league standings, Eastern returns home to host Portland State on Monday (Feb. 24), at 6:05 p.m. Pacific time in a game televised regionally on SWX, and also carried live on ESPN 700-AM and www.watchbigsky.com.
The Eagles led for all but 32 seconds of the game, and used runs of 11-0 and 9-0 in the second half en route to the team’s second road win in the last three outings. Eastern closed out the victory by making 12 free throws in the final 2:32 of a game that included 60 fouls and 79 free throw attempts between the two teams.
And the Eagles did it by attempting only 12 3-pointers – making four – after entering the game with averages of 8.5 makes and 22.6 attempts per game. The Eagles had a dominating 36-20 advantage in points in the paint.
“We showed offensive patience and good execution,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. “For us to shoot only six threes in each have shows we are maturing. We had great shots on our possessions and it resulted in a really good win.”
Jois made 10-of-16 shots from the field and 9-of-16 free throws as he eclipsed his previous career high of 22 set on two previous occasions. The Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year last season, Jois now has 17 double-doubles in his career, but had gone his last six games without one after finishing with 11 points and 10 rebounds at PSU on Jan. 27.
“Venky obviously had an outstanding night,” praised Hayford. “We thought we had an advantage at his position (four). And with Martin Seiferth being in foul trouble, Venky gave us a quickness advantage on some of their fives. He had a really good night.”
Harvey, the Big Sky’s leading scorer and ranked 11th in NCAA Division I with an average of 21.6 per game, made 6-of-13 shots from the field and 13-of-16 free throws. He made just 1-of-3 3-pointers after entering the game with a league-leading average of 3.76 makes per game, which ranked fourth nationally. He also had five assists.
Junior point guard Drew Brandon chipped in 16 points, five rebounds and a pair of assists. He made 8-of-10 free throws, and the Eagles finished 33-of-46 (72 percent) as a team. Eastern made 50.0 percent from the field, out-rebounded SUU 37-30 and had only 10 turnovers.
“They wanted to foul late and we got the ball in the hands of Drew and Tyler,” said Hayford. “And they had great nights at the free throw line. We’ll take it.”
Eastern made eight of its first nine shots and 12 of its first 18 to open leads of 19-5 and 27-12. But a string of nine-straight misses and six-straight makes for the Thunderbirds resulted in a 15-5 SUU run and cut the lead to five.
The Eagles led 38-34 at halftime, but Southern Utah scored the first six points of the game to take its only lead of the game. But Harvey’s 3-pointer ignited an 11-0 Eastern run to put EWU back up for good at 49-40 with 15:55 to play.
Later a 9-0 run featuring three points by Jois and four by Harvey put the Eagles ahead 67-55 with 4:59 remaining. A 3-pointer by Parker Kelly opened a 13-point lead at the 3:16 mark and started the parade of free throws by the Eagles.
“We hit two big threes in the second half,” said Hayford. “Tyler had his after they took the lead, and then Parker’s was a dagger and got us some separation.”
Earlier this season, the Eagles defeated Southern Utah at home (90-83) but lost on the road to Portland State (92-83). Southern Utah is now 0-16 in the league and 1-24 overall, while PSU enters Monday’s game 7-8 in the Big Sky and 12-12 on the season. The Vikings won at Southern Utah on Thursday by an 86-79 score.
“They are really young – I think I was told they are the 10th-youngest team in America,” added Hayford of the Thunderbirds. “We went through that last year and were 7-13, but I can’t imagine what 1-24 feels like. But they play hard all the way to the very last second, so we’re very, very grateful for the win against a team playing very hard and playing with great character. I tip my hat to Southern Utah.”