Eagles Head to UC Santa Barbara Feb. 17

Jan. 30, 2007

Eastern Washington University's second venture in the O'Reilly ESPNU BracketBusters is much like the first.

The Eagles will head for UC Santa Barbara on Feb. 17 to face the Gauchos from the Big West Conference, it was announced Tuesday (Jan. 30).

Tipoff is 7 p.m. at the 6,000-seat Thunderdome in Santa Barbara, which is 92 miles north of Los Angeles. Cal State Fullerton, another Big West school who was EWU's opponent in the BracketBuster debut for the Eagles last season, is about 20 miles from L.A. The Eagles were thumped by the Titans last season 89-63.

The Gauchos are currently 13-6 overall and 5-2 in the Big West, and are 5-0 against common opponents with the Eagles thus far. UCSB won road games at Montana State 88-56, UNLV 79-76, Portland 75-67 and Cal State Northridge 67-57, and picked up an 84-76 home win over Cal State Fullerton.

Eastern is 2-3 against those same teams, including a 110-100 home shootout win over Cal State Fullerton. The game against the Titans was the return game as part of the agreement to host a BracketBusters game, thus, the Gauchos are required to make a trip to Cheney, Wash., next season.

Besides the win over Cal State Fullerton, Eastern has lost at UNLV 82-79 and Cal State Northridge 102-98, and lost at home to Montana State 82-79. Eastern won at Portland 87-66.

Eastern will play four games between now and Feb. 17, including this Thursday's (Feb. 1) road game at Montana State. The Gauchos will also play four games in that span.

The Gauchos are led by 6-foot-6 junior guard Alex Harris, who is averaging 21.2 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. He has made 50 percent of his shots from the field, including 42-of-97 three-point shots for 45 percent, and 102-of-133 free throws for 76.7 percent.

Harris, ranked 13th in NCAA Division I in scoring, will provide an intriguing match-up with EWU sophomore Rodney Stuckey. Stuckey is averaging 24.0 points per game to rank seventh nationally, and is also averaging 5.5 assists, 2.6 steals and 4.7 rebounds per outing. He has made 45 percent from the field and 27 percent from three-point range (36-of-132), and has also gone to the free throw line a whopping 181 times (8.2 per game) where he has made 152 for 84.0 percent.

Besides Harris, 6-8 Chris Devine averages 15.2 points and 6.8 rebounds on 54.2 percent shooting from the field. Eastern counters with 6-10 Paul Butorac, who averages 14.1 points and 6.8 rebounds.

EWU is third in the nation in scoring (85.9 points per game), and eighth in field-goal percentage (49.8). UCSB averages 72.6 points per game and is 31st in the nation in field goal percentage (48.1)

The all-time series between the Eagles and Gauchos is tied 2-2, with Eastern winning the first two meetings (68-66 on Dec. 17, 1983 and 51-50 on Dec. 17, 1985) and UC Santa Barbara winning the last two (88-67 on Dec. 7, 1986 and 72-67 on Dec. 17, 1989). The meetings in 1985 and 1989 were in Santa Barbara, the 1986 game was in Cheney and the 1983 match-up was in Lafayette, La., as Eastern captured third place in the Bayou Classic.

Eastern also played in Santa Barbara on Dec. 4-5, 1992, in the Gaucho Classic. Eastern lost to Stephen F. Austin 72-60 before beating Cal State Northridge 61-60 to capture third place.

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