Eastern Tries to Continue Perfection in Game at Montana Saturday
The Eagles and head coach Jim Hayford have embraced the challenge of continuing historic run of five-straight victories this year over men’s basketball and football teams from the state of Montana
Saturday, Feb. 8 - Dahlberg Arena
(7,322) - Missoula, Mont.
6:05 p.m. Pacific - Eastern Washington (10-12/5-6) at Montana (11-9/6-5)
Thursday, Feb. 13 - Reese Court (5,000)
- Cheney, Wash.
6:05 p.m. Pacific - Eastern Washington vs. Sacramento State
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) or ewustats.com (mobile phones/EWU Home Games); www.gogriz.com/ot/mont-gametracker.html (Montana).
The Eagles are one game away from a season of perfection, and standing in the way of that milestone are the Montana Grizzlies.
With men’s basketball head coach Jim Hayford and his team embracing the challenge of going a perfect 6-of-6 this school year against the state of Montana in football and men’s hoops, EWU faces the Grizzlies on Saturday (Feb. 8) at Dahlberg Arena in Missoula. The game begins at 6:05 p.m. Pacific time and will be carried live on ESPN 700-AM and www.watchbigsky.com.
The Eagles are coming off a 79-50 rout of Montana State, making Eastern a perfect 5-for-5 in football and men’s basketball games against the Bobcats and Grizzlies during the 2013-14 school year. Eastern has never won more than four of the six meetings in any previous season, and the only time EWU has gone 4-0 against UM and MSU on the court came in 1990.
Earlier this season, the Eagles beat Montana 69-62 and Montana State 77-72 at home, setting the stage for this week’s challenge.
“It started with our football team, then we beat them both at home,” said Hayford. “The challenge was issued this week by (Eastern athletic director) Bill Chaves that maybe this could be the year we could go 6-0. What a great opportunity to go to Missoula and try to see if we can make history against the state of Montana.”
Eastern’s 29-point win Thursday was EWU’s most lopsided victory ever in Bozeman, and the second-best overall. Eastern had won nine previous times there (seven since EWU moved to NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season), and the best margin of victory was 16 on Dec. 28, 2011, in Hayford’s first Big Sky Conference game as EWU’s head coach. The most lopsided Eastern victory all-time was 34 on Feb. 25, 2006, in an 87-53 win in Cheney.
The 50 points allowed also equaled EWU’s best defensive performance against the Bobcats since allowing 49 in a 49-45 loss to MSU on Dec. 13, 1946, in Bozeman. Eastern had entered the game allowing the most points in the Big Sky Conference at 76.8 overall and 78.8 in league play.
Eastern has now won two games in a row and is 5-6 in the Big Sky and 10-12 overall. Overall, the Eagles are 1-10 on opponent home courts after the victory in Bozeman, having not won on the road since beating Idaho State in Pocatello 87-73 on March 7, 2013. Eastern is 7-2 at home and 2-0 on neutral courts this season.
The Grizzlies defeated Portland State 82-76 in overtime on Thursday in Missoula, and are now 11-9 overall and 6-5 in the league. Just four games separate first place from 10th place, and EWU is only one game out of third. Four teams are tied for third at 6-5, and four are currently 5-6. Weber State (9-2) and Northern Colorado (7-4) hold down the top two spots.
Eastern has used three different starting lineups in the last three games – and four in its last six – for match-up purposes. Montana has also juggled its lineup recently, and the result is a league-best three-game winning streak.
“It’s going to be our size against the other team’s speed,” explained Hayford. “Montana is shooting the three a lot offensively, and look a lot like we have in the past. As we build and grow as a program, we have a backcourt where both players are 6-4 and we have a 6-10 center. The pressure by smaller teams has bothered us, but as we get more and more comfortable with that, it is going to be to our advantage. Size is good.”
A year ago when the Eagles failed to qualify for the Big Sky Conference Tournament, EWU was 6-16 overall after 22 games and 3-8 after 11 league games. The top seven league teams advance to the postseason tourney, which takes place March 13-15 at the site of the regular season champion.
“We are a little bit ahead of where we were last year,” said Hayford, whose team’s next home game is Feb. 13 versus Sacramento State. “We just have to keep hunting them out one at a time.”
Eastern’s Martin Seiferth and/or Venky Jois could both surpass the school record for career blocked shots on Saturday. Seiferth’s 98 blocks ranks second in school history, just one behind the school record of 99 (Paul Butorac 2004-07). Jois is right behind with 97.
Harvey continues to lead the Big Sky Conference in scoring both overall (21.0) and in league games only (22.8), and ranks in the top 16 nationally in three categories. He had 19 points to go along with career highs of eight assists and four steals in EWU’s win at MSU. He equaled the sixth-most points in school history one game earlier with a career-high 38 versus UNC, just two days after scoring a season-low seven in a 73-61 loss to North Dakota. He made 10-of-15 3-pointers against the Bears, equaling the school record of 10 originally set by Kevin Winford against New Hope on Dec. 4, 2010. He already has 81 this season and is on pace to finish the regular season with 114 and break the school record of 103.
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* Twice in school history, EWU has now defeated Montana and Montana State in football, then followed with a home sweep of the Grizzlies and Bobcats in men’s basketball. Besides this year, the other time it happened was in 1992-93. This is the first time Eastern has won a combined five football/men’s basketball meetings with the Bobcats and Grizzlies, but had recorded four wins several times.
* In EWU’s 79-50 win at Montana State on Feb. 6, all nine Eagles who played scored in the game and eight had at least one rebound. The only defensive performance this season that was better was holding Walla Walla to 44 points, and the previous best versus a DI opponent was 62 versus Montana in January. Eastern entered the game allowing a league-worst 76.8 points per game. Eastern had a 38-22 rebounding advantage, its best against a NCAA Division I opponent this season. The previous best was 12 against Boston back on Nov. 22. The Eagles had a rebounding advantage in only four of their last 16 games entering Thursday. Eastern, the second-best team in the Big Sky in 3-point shooting defense (.342 entering the game), held MSU to 24 percent (4-of-17) from beyond the arc while the Eagles made 11-of-21 for 52 percent.
* The Eagles are leading the Big Sky Conference in scoring offense (75.1), 3-pointers made per game (8.3) and rebounds (36.5); are second in blocked shots (4.2), defensive 3-point field goal percentage (.337) and assists (13.5); and are third in offensive rebounds (10.8). Eastern is now fifth in rebounding margin with a plus 0.4 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 are last in scoring defense (75.6), but allowed just 50 to Montana State on Feb. 6.
* In league games only, EWU leads the Big Sky in 3-pointers made per game (8.2) and 3-point field goal percentage defense (.330). The Eagles are also second in scoring (74.6), and blocked shots (4.4), but are last in points allowed (76.2).
* In NCAA Division I statistics through games of Feb. 6, Eastern is ranked 27th among 345 schools with an average of 8.3 3-pointers made per game, 79th in 3-point field goal percentage (37.0 percent) and 83rd in scoring offense (75.1). Montana ranks 47th in 3-pointers per game with a 7.8 average and 32nd in 3-point field goal percentage (38.9 percent).
* 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 9-0 when it has a better shooting percentage than its opponents and 1-12 when it doesn’t. Also, the Eagles are 10-1 when making at least 45.0 percent of their shots, and 0-11 when they are under that mark. In addition, EWU is 7-1 when it holds opponents to 44.4 percent or less from the field, and 3-11 when opponents shoot better than that mark. Eastern is 9-3 when scoring 71 or more points, and 6-1 when allowing 70 or fewer.
* Finding consistency at home and on the road is of prime importance for the Eagles at this juncture of the season. At home or on neutral courts this season, EWU is 9-2 and has averaged 80.5 points per game on 49.1 percent shooting from the field (41.5 percent from the 3-point line), while allowing 69.5 points per game on 43.3 percent shooting (32.3). But on opponent home courts where EWU is 1-10, the Eagles are averaging 69.8 points on 40.5 percent shooting (33.0), while opponents are scoring at an 81.6 clip and making 47.3 percent from the field (35.6). “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. 3, Eastern is 250th with the 212th-toughest strength of schedule in the nation. December opponents Connecticut (29th), Saint Mary’s (55th), Seton Hall (82nd) and UC Irvine (101st) are all ranked among the nation’s leaders. Weber State is the top Big Sky team at 174th, with Northern Colorado right behind at 188th. Montana is 209th.
* Through games of Feb. 3, the Eagles are fifth in the Big Sky Conference and 255th in NCAA Division I (345 schools) in RPI. Northern Colorado is currently the top Big Sky school in the RPI at 180th, followed by Weber State at 188th and Montana at 224th. Montana State is seventh in the league with a national ranking of 267.
Eagle Player Notes
* The combined NCAA Division I 3-point shooting rankings (through games of Feb. 6) of Tyler Harvey add up to 15 (5th in average made at 3.68 and 10th in percentage at 45.8), ranking him second nationally. The national leader is Ethan Wragge of Creighton with a total ranking of six (2nd 49.7, 4th 3.71).
* 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 13.2 average on 51.9 percent shooting from the field. He is also averaging a team-leading 8.1 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 50-game career (48 as a starter). He is averaging 12.7 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.9 blocked shots per game in his career.
* For the second time in four weeks, sophomore guard Tyler Harvey was selected as the College Sports Madness Big Sky Conference Player of the Week after yet another record-breaking effort. Breaking a school record and eclipsing 36 points for the second time in four games, Harvey made a school-record 10 3-pointers and totaling 38 points as the Eagles defeated Northern Colorado 94-90 in overtime Feb. 1 at Reese Court. Harvey made a 3-pointer that helped send the game into overtime, then made his record-tying 10th trey to open the extra period and give EWU the lead for good. He tied the record of 10 by Kevin Winford against New Hope on Dec. 4, 2010 and his 38 points equaled current Detroit Piston Rodney Stuckey for the sixth-most in school history. Harvey finished 10-of-15 from the 3-point stripe after going just 1-of-8 from outside the arc and finishing with just seven points in his last outing against North Dakota. He scored 36 points versus Southern Utah on Jan. 23 when he made 20-of-20 free throws to break school and Big Sky records for accuracy and total makes. Harvey, who followed that with 19 points and career highs of eight assists and four steals at Montana State, continues to lead the Big Sky Conference in scoring both overall (21.0) and in league games only (22.8). He was also honored by College Sports Madness on Jan. 13 after he scored 25 points in a 69-62 win over Montana and 19 in a 77-72 triumph against Montana State.
* Junior point guard Drew Brandon, a transfer from Sierra College in California, had a double double-double last week for the Eagles. He had 11 points and 13 rebounds versus North Dakota, 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. He ranks among the league leaders in four categories, with averages of 10.5 points (27th), 7.0 rebounds (sixth), 5.4 assists (first) and 1.1 steals per game (14th) after his first 22 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 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.
* Junior Parker Kelly a starter EWU’s first 20 games this season and 17 in his sophomore season, has come off the bench EWU’s last two games. After scoring just a combined total of eight points in his previous two games, he scored 17 on 6-of-9 shooting from the field with a trio of 3-pointers in a 94-90 overtime win over Northern Colorado. He also had six rebounds, two assists and a pair of blocked shots. He followed that with 11 points, three 3-pointers, five rebounds and a pair of steals in a 79-50 romp at Montana State. He is averaging 10.3 points and 35.5 minutes per game this season.
* Individually, Tyler Harvey continues to lead the Big Sky in scoring (21.0), ahead of North Dakota’s Troy Huff (19.5) and Montana’s Kareem Jamar (19.4). Venky Jois is 13th (13.2), Drew Brandon is 27th (10.5) and Parker Kelly is 28th (10.3). Harvey and Jois are both sophomores, and no other sophomores or freshmen rank in the top 23. Harvey also leads in 3-pointers made per game (3.7), and is third in free throw percentage (.873) and fourth in 3-point field goal percentage (.458). Kelly is second in free throw percentage (.898). Brandon leads in assists (5.4), is third in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (+2.0) and ranks sixth in rebounding (7.0). Jois is third in blocked shots (1.4), third in rebounding (8.1) and 10th in field goal percentage (.519) and Martin Seiferth is fourth in blocked shots (1.4) and 17th in rebounding (4.5).
* In league only statistics, Tyler Harvey leads in scoring (22.8) and 3-pointers made per game (3.8), and ranks fourth in free throw percentage (.882). Drew Brandon is leading in assists (5.2) and is sixth in rebounding (7.1). Venky Jois is fourth in rebounds (8.3) and fourth in blocked shots (1.3), Martin Seiferth is third in blocked shots (1.5) and Parker Kelly is third in free throw percentage (.882).
* In NCAA Division I statistics through games of Feb. 6, Tyler Harvey is fifth in 3-pointers made per game (3.68), 10th in 3-point percentage (45.8 percent), 16th in scoring (21.0) and 35th in free throw percentage (.873). Drew Brandon is 41st in assists (5.4) and Venky Jois is 57th with seven double-doubles and 78th in rebounding (8.1).
* 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 at this time, 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 28 of EWU’s last 30 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 ranks third in the Big Sky in games overall (.873) and fourth in league play (.882). He has made 58-of-64 (.906) in his last six outings, including 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 and 8-of-8 in a 38-point effort versus Northern Colorado on Feb. 1. “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 30th-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 9.5 points and 3.8 rebounds in an average of 19.4 minutes per game.
* Sophomore Tyler Harvey has now averaged 19.8 points per game in his last 30 games as an Eagle after averaging 1.3 points in his first 13 outings. In fact, his improvement by roughly 14 points per game ranks among the top 10 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 14.2
Eagle Records Watch
* Martin Seiferth is nearing a school record with Venky Jois close behind, as four young Eagles are already ranked among Eastern’s career leaders. Seiferth’s 98 blocks ranks second in school history, only one behind the school record of 99 (Paul Butorac 2004-07). Jois has 97 blocked shots to rank third. Seiferth would rank first in career field goal percentage (.641, ranking just ahead of Ron Cox at .629 from 1974-77) but he doesn’t have enough attempts to qualify (he has 259 and would need 265). Tyler Harvey is currently second in 3-point field goal percentage (45.2 percent) and 10th in 3-pointers made (104), and Parker Kelly is 11th in 3-point percentage (38.9 percent) and seventh in 3-pointers made (128). Kelly’s 84.6 percent shooting from the free throw line in his career would rank second in school history (the record is 84.9) if he had enough attempts to qualify (he has 143 and needs 166).
* With 81 3-pointers in 22 games, Harvey already ranks third in school history, and needs only seven to move into second (88, Collin Chiverton, 2011-12). His average of 3.68 per game is on pace to finish with 114 (31 games) and break the record of 103 set by Shannon Taylor in 1999.
* En route to what is now the 10th-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. Previously, Harvey opened league play with a 30-point effort against Weber State (1/2/14) when he equaled what is now the 41st-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, the Eagles opened up an early double-digit lead and dominated in all facets of the game to win for the first time in 11 tries on an opponent home court with a 79-50 romp past Montana State Thursday (Feb. 6) at Worthington Arena in Bozeman, Mont. Eastern had its best defensive performance – by 12 points -- against a NCAA Division I opponent this season. Big Sky scoring leader Tyler Harvey had 19 points, and career highs of eight assists and four steals to lead Eastern’s all-around team effort. Venky Jois had 15 points, six rebounds, four assists and a pair of steals, and Martin Seiferth finished with 12 points and nine boards. Parker Kelly came off the bench and chipped in 11 points and five rebounds. All nine Eagles who played scored in the game and eight had at least one rebound. The only defensive performance this season that was better was holding Walla Walla to 44 points, and the previous best versus a DI opponent was 62 versus Montana in January. Eastern entered the game allowing a league-worst 76.8 points per game. Eastern had a 38-22 rebounding advantage, its best against a NCAA Division I opponent this season. The previous best was 12 against Boston back on Nov. 22. The Eagles had a rebounding advantage in only four of their last 16 games entering Thursday. The Eagles also made 53 percent of their shots from the field, compared to only 39 percent for the Bobcats. Eastern, the second-best team in the Big Sky in 3-point shooting defense (.342), held MSU to 24 percent (4-of-17) from beyond the arc.
Quoting Coach Hayford
On Parker Kelly’s New Role Off the Bench: “Parker brings us scoring, intensity and great defense. When he’s doing those things consistently it makes us a lot better. He’s finding more rebounds off the bench, so we like it. Parker is the ultimate team player – he doesn’t care if he starts, he just wants to win. I think that helps a lot.”
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 three.
* 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.
EWU vs. Montana Series Notes
* Eastern is 18-46 against the Grizzlies since 1983-84, including a 7-25 record in Missoula, 11-19 in Cheney and 0-2 on neutral courts versus the Grizzlies. Eastern’s 69-62 win earlier this season snapped UM’s 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.
* Earlier this season, six-foot-10 junior Martin Seiferth came to the party with 21 points and 12 rebounds as the Eagles opened their Big Sky home schedule Jan. 9 with a 69-62 victory over two-time defending champion Montana at Reese Court. The win was Eastern’s first victory since Nov. 29, as the Eagles snapped a six-game losing streak—including five games on the road. It also 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. 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. Tyler 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 and four assists. Venky 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 14th of his career. Point guard Drew Brandon chipped in four points, eight rebounds and five assists for the Eagles. And Parker 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 has lost 12 of the last 15 meetings and 18 of the last 22, including both games last year and all three meetings in the 2011-12 season. 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.