Season Begins with Matchup Against Mississippi State

Season Begins with Matchup Against Mississippi State

Eagles take on the Bulldogs from the Southeastern Conference, then return for home openers against George Fox on Nov. 15 and Seattle on Nov. 17

Complete Release in .PDF Format

Upcoming Games

Friday, Nov. 13 - Humphrey Coliseum  (10,575) - Starkville, Mississippi
6 p.m. Pacific - Eastern Washington vs. Mississippi State  

Sunday, Nov. 15 - Reese Court (5,000) - Cheney, Washington
approx. 3:30 p.m. - Eastern Washington vs. George Fox (follows EWU's women's game versus Air Force) 

Tuesday, Nov. 17 - Reese Court (5,000) - Cheney, Washington
6 p.m. Pacific - Eastern Washington vs. Seattle


Coverage

TV: The Mississippi State game is televised live nationally on the SEC Network.
Webcast:
All Eastern home games and non-conference Big Sky Conference road games are carried at http://www.watchbigsky.com
Radio: All Eastern games are on 700-AM ESPN in Spokane. Larry Weir returns for his 23rd season calling the play-by-play, starting 30 minutes prior to tipoff (Sean Widmer will handle play-by-play for the EWU-Mississippi State game).
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: http://www.hailstate.com/liveStats/liveStats.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=16800 for Mississippi State game; ewustats.com for EWU home games.


There’s nothing like jumping headfirst into a busy November schedule.

The Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team opens the 2015-16 season with three games in five nights, starting on Friday (Nov. 13) versus Mississippi State of the Southeastern Conference.

That game tips off at 6 p.m. Pacific time and is televised live on the SEC Network. Fans can also listen to the game on 700-AM ESPN and via the web at www.700espn.com, with pre-game coverage starting a half-hour prior to tipoff. Sean Widmer will call the play-by-play in place of Larry Weir, who will be in Missoula, Mont., for the EWU-Montana football game the next day.

Following a return trip to Cheney, the Eagles open their home schedule by facing George Fox and Seattle in a pair of games at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash. The game versus George Fox takes place at about 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 15, right after the EWU women’s game against Air Force. Eastern hosts Seattle on Tuesday, Nov. 17 at 6:05 p.m.

Mississippi State finished 13-19 overall last year and 6-12 in the SEC. The Bulldogs return a trio of players who averaged at least 9.1 points per game – all three are seniors. Their first-year head coach is Ben Howland, a former head coach at EWU’s fellow Big Sky Conference member Northern Arizona, as well as UCLA and Pittsburgh.

“They are playing Alabama in football the next day, and they are anticipating a sellout in the basketball game against us,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford, whose team has a slew of newcomers joining five returning letterwinners. “This game has all the great ingredients for making our team tougher, better and tested.”

George Fox, a member of NCAA Division III, was 5-20 a year ago and 3-13 in the Northwest Conference. The afternoon matinee will feature the presentation of championship rings to the 2014-15 squad and unveiling of Big Sky championship and NCAA Tournament banners at Reese Court.

“We’ll shake the travel off and play our home season opener against George Fox,” said Hayford. “This is the biggest game on their schedule, so we’ll take their best punch.”

Two days later, in the first of back-to-back games against Seattle, Eastern takes on a Redhawks team that was 18-16 overall and 7-7 in the Western Athletic Conference last season. Seattle advanced to the semifinals of the College Basketball Insider (CBI) Tournament, falling to Loyola Chicago 63-48. The Redhawks, who host the Eagles Nov. 23 in Seattle, lost to New Mexico State in the championship game of the WAC Tournament.

“We’ve been fortunate enough to beat Seattle the last two times we played,” said Hayford of the yearly rivalry that resumed in 2009. “I’m sure they will want a piece of us. We have our work cut out for us, but at the same time, it’s great preparation for Big Sky Conference play.”

The Eagles are coming off their best season as a member of NCAA Division I, closing the 2014-15 season 26-9 after finishing 14-4 in the Big Sky Conference to share the regular season title with Montana. Eastern swept through three games in the Big Sky Conference Tournament to garner the school’s second NCAA Tournament appearance in school history. The Eagles finished with program bests for victories overall (26), in the Big Sky (14), on the road (11) and in non-conference play (9) in 32 seasons as a member of NCAA Division I.

Eastern’s national resume featured the 25th-most wins in NCAA Division I and 28th in winning percentage at .743, the fourth-most victories in the 50+ year history of the Big Sky Conference, a marquee win at Indiana and the nation’s leading scorer in Tyler Harvey.

 
 

Link to Fact Book

The complete version of the 2015-16 EWU men’s basketball fact book may be found at:
http://goeags.com/trads/ewas-factbooks.html

 

More Eagle Basketball Links

Eastern Basketball -- http://goeags.com/sports/m-baskbl/index
2015-16 Season Outlook -- http://goeags.com/sports/m-baskbl/2015-16/releases/16mbSEASONOUTLOOK.docx

Link to Ticket Information -- http://www.goeags.com/tickets
Spokesman-Review EWU Basketball Page -- http://www.spokesman.com/ewuhoops
Story on Eagle Head Coach Jim Hayford -- http://www.inlander.com/spokane/the-man-in-the-red-blazer/Content?oid=2603878

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
Tyler Harvey NBA D-League Page -- http://dleague.nba.com/player/tyler-harvey/

Rodney Stuckey NBA Page -- http://www.nba.com/playerfile/rodney_stuckey/index.html
More Information and Links are Available at: HTTP://WWW.GOEAGS.COM

 

Opponent/Series Notes 

* The Eagles have never played Mississippi State or George Fox, and only once previously have played a current member of the Southeastern Conference. That was an 81-68 loss at Missouri on Dec. 16, 1988.

* Eastern is 12-8 all-time against Seattle in a series that has included at least one game annually since 2009. Eastern won last season in Seattle 87-75, and the year before triumphed in Cheney 82-75. Before renewing their rivalry in 2009, the last meeting came on Nov. 22, 1985, when Eastern won 83-64 at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash. Until 2009, that was the lone game played between the two schools since EWU moved to NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season. The first four meetings came in the 1945-46 season, and Eastern won all four of those games, as well as a pair the following season. A split followed in 1948-49, and Seattle swept a pair in the 1951-52 season. Seattle was in NCAA Division I from 1944-1980, with such star players as Elgin Baylor, John O'Brien, Clint Richardson and Frank Oleynick on its rosters. Baylor, in fact, led Seattle to the championship game of the NCAA Tournament where it lost 84-72 to Kentucky. Formerly known as the Chieftains, from 1980-2002 they were affiliated with NAIA and from 2002-2007 were a member of NCAA Division II.

* In last year’s meeting with Seattle, junior forward Venky Jois had his second-straight 38-point performance to lead the Eagles to an 87-75 victory at Key Arena on Dec. 6 in Seattle, Wash. The Eagles used a 16-5 run in the first half to help open a 19-point halftime lead, and led by as many as 21 in the second half. After falling behind by seven, Eastern held the Redhawks to 4-of-19 shooting from the field the rest of the half. The Eagles, meanwhile, made 12-of-16 2-point shots in the first 20 minutes of action. Jois scored 15 points in the first half, then poured in 23 after intermission. He sank 25 shots on 33 attempts – 13-of-18 field goals and 12-of-15 free throws. He added seven rebounds and three blocked shots. Senior point guard Drew Brandon had a double-double with 11 assists and 12 rebounds, and also had five points and only two turnovers in 36 minutes of action. Tyler Harvey finished with 18 points, making 5-of-14 field goals including 3-of-10 from the 3-point stripe. The Eagles made 21-of-27 free throws versus the Redhawks for 78 percent, and was also hot from the field with a 50-percent night.

* In an 82-75 Eastern victory in the 2013-14 season, Tyler Harvey poured in 30 points for the Eagles, Venky Jois had a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds, and Drew Brandon finished with 12 points and seven assists. Eastern took the lead for good on a 3-pointer by Harvey 4:56 to play. 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.

 
 

Game Notes 

* Fresh off its best season in the school’s NCAA Division I history, Eastern will play teams from 11 different conferences in the 2015-16 season. The Eagles will play nine games versus six teams who appeared in national postseason tournaments a year ago.

* In what could again be a tightly-contested race in the Big Sky Conference, the defending champion Eastern men’s basketball team has been picked to finish third by both the coaches and media in preseason polls released Oct. 1 by the league. Eastern had 99 points in the coaches poll to trail preseason favorites Weber State (114) and Montana (113). Both the Wildcats and Grizzlies received six first-place votes. With 183 points in the media poll, EWU trailed preseason favorite Montana (220) and WSU (194). Montana captured 14 of the 19 first-place votes, with the Eagles receiving one and the Wildcats two.

* The Eagles closed a monumental 2014-15 campaign with a 26-9 record overall after finishing 14-4 in the Big Sky Conference to share the regular season title with Montana. Eastern swept through three games in the Big Sky Conference Tournament to garner the school's second NCAA Tournament appearance in school history. The Eagles finished with program bests for victories overall (26), in the Big Sky (14), on the road (11) and in non-conference play (9) in 32 seasons as a member of NCAA Division I.

* Entering the 2015-16 season, head coach Jim Hayford was selected by College Sports Madness as its preseason Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year. Additionally, Sam Vecenie of CBS Sports rated him as one of the top 21 offensive coaches in all of NCAA Division I.

* Head coach Jim Hayford – the 2014-15 Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year -- took over an Eastern team four years ago that had been to the Big Sky Conference Tournament just once in five seasons, but in the 2014-15 season he took the Eagles to new heights. The Eagles have 66 victories overall, 39 league wins and four Big Sky Tournament game triumphs under Hayford, and the 26 victories last season are the fourth-most in the more than 50-year history of the league. In fact, a local newspaper dubbed Hayford the “Wizard in Cheney” in a feature article in November 2015. On July 8, 2015, Hayford signed a new five-year agreement which extends his contract at EWU through the 2019-20 season. The new five-year agreement replaced the contract he signed a year prior.

* Eastern’s triumphs in 2014-15 included victories over six different NCAA Division I conferences, including road wins at Indiana, San Francisco and Seattle. Eastern was ranked as high as 12th in the national mid-major poll, and as high as 50th in the RPI. The Eagles concluded their home schedule with a crowd of 4,621 against Montana to rank as the fourth-most in school history and the most in 15 years.

* For the second year in a row, EWU was honored with the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Team Academic Excellence Award. Eastern’s 3.27 team grade point average was the best in the Big Sky Conference in the 2014-15 season, and .20 better than the team’s 3.07 average of a year ago.

* The Eagles continue to be a part of the C.H.A.M.P.S (College Headed and Making Progress) program at Whitman Elementary School in Spokane. Eastern student-athletes spend part of their time at Whitman with the entire student body, but a majority of their time is spent one-on-one with a fifth-grade student. The unique program follows each Whitman student for eight years through middle school and high school. Once an EWU student-athlete graduates, an incoming player will begin mentoring their student.

* Active within the last year in the pro ranks are 14 former Eagles, including Tyler Harvey and Drew Brandon from last year’s Eagle team. Harvey is now with the Erie Bay Hawks of the NBA’s Developmental League after getting drafted in the second round (51st overall) by the Orlando Magic in the 2015 NBA Draft. Harvey averaged 10.6 points, 2.0 assists and 1.4 rebounds for the Magic’s “Blue” summer squad. Brandon is in his first year with the Bayer Giants in the Germany ProA League. Eastern’s professional players are headlined by NBA veteran Rodney Stuckey, who is in his second season with Indiana after seven seasons with the Detroit Pistons. In 2014-15 – his eighth season as a pro and first with the Indiana Pacers – Stuckey averaged 12.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 0.8 steals per game in 71 games (36 starts). He made a career-best 39.0 percent of his 3-point attempts, sinking 55-of-141. Stuckey signed a new 3-year, $21 million contract with the Pacers on July 21, 2015.

 
 

Player Notes 

* As many as six Eagles could be making their college basketball debuts this season, including redshirt freshmen Bear Henderson, Will Ferris and Cody Benzel, as well as true freshmen Ty Gibson, Michael Wearne and Jesse Hunt. Making his NCAA Division I debut will be Rico Nuno, and making their Eagle debuts will be senior graduate transfer Austin McBroom and junior transfer Julian Harrell. Three Eagles – transfer Geremy McKay, transfer Mario Soto and freshman Grant Gibb – will redshirt.

* Two major cogs in Eastern’s roll to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament last season – Venky Jois and Bogdan Bliznyuk -- have been selected to the preseason All-Big Sky Conference team as selected by a panel of sportswriters, broadcasters and sports information directors in the league. Jois, a senior 6-foot-8 forward, is EWU’s lone returning starter this season and was selected as the league’s preseason MVP. A year ago, Eastern’s Tyler Harvey won the award and went on to lead NCAA Division I in scoring and was eventually drafted in the second round of the NBA Draft by Orlando. Besides Jois, Bliznyuk was also selected to the seven-player team and was the only underclassmen chosen. The others honored included Montana’s Martin Breunig, Montana State’s Marcus Colbert, Northern Arizona’s Kris Yanku and Weber State’s Joel Bolomboy and Jeremy Senglin.

* Senior Venky Jois was on the All-Big Sky Conference first team as a junior in the 2014-15 season, and then was named to the Big Sky Conference All-Tournament team. He was the Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year in the 2013-14 season, and earned honorable mention All-Big Sky accolades as a freshman and sophomore. Jois averaged 16.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.2 blocked shots per game last year, and enters his senior season with a school-record 184 career blocked shots, as well as 1,278 total points (10th) and 737 rebounds (fourth). Jois is from Boronia, Australia, and has a 3.51 grade point average as an interdisciplinary studies major (biology/pre-med emphasis). He is a three-time member of the Big Sky All-Academic team and was a member of the NABC Honors Court as a junior.

* Sophomore Bogdan Bliznyuk was the Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year after coming off the bench to average 8.7 points and 4.0 rebounds for the Eagles. It’s an honor now won six times in the past 14 seasons by Eastern players, including current Eagle Venky Jois in the 2012-13 season. Bliznyuk, who also earned Big Sky All-Academic honors, averaged 12.0 points in league play to rank 24th in the Big Sky -- tops among all freshmen. He was also fifth in field goal shooting (58.0 percent) and 12th in rebounding (5.6) while also averaging 24.3 minutes and 1.4 assists. He made 58.0 percent of his shots (80-of-138) in those 18 league games and converted 39-of-51 free throws (76.6 percent). Bliznyuk is formerly from Lutsk, Ukraine, but graduated from Todd Beamer High School in Federal Way, Wash., in 2014. He was less than 2 years old when his father, a truck driver, died in an accident. Their mother moved them to Federal Way five years later to be closer to family. Born with a gap in his upper jaw, he has had multiple surgeries after moving to the United States, included transferring bone from his hip.

* Eastern’s other three returning letterwinners are Felix Von Hofe, Sir Washington and Kyle Reid. Von Hofe and Washington will possibly join Jois and Bliznyuk in the starting lineup, as well as graduate transfer Austin McBroom.

 
 

Quoting Coach Hayford

On Playing SEC & Ben Howland-Coached Bulldogs: “What a great opportunity for a Big Sky Conference school to play a school from the SEC – that is one of the premier conferences in America. I’ve known Coach Howland a long time, even before he was a Big Sky coach some 20-some years ago. He’s coached in final fours and its his first game at Mississippi State, so I know they’ll be very well-coached.”

On Mississippi’s State’s Experience Versus EWU’s Newcomers: “What concerns me the most are the five returning seniors they have on their roster. We are going to go there with some young players, and when we go to the bench we are going to go to players who haven’t played in a Division I basketball game. That’s quite a debut to play on national television in a sold-out gym against a possible Hall of Fame coach. Bring it on – here we go.”

On Howland Taking Over Mississippi State: “We are playing a good team, and sometimes when you have a coaching change, players respond because of the new voice they are hearing. They might be some of the same things they were hearing from the voice before, but it’s a fresh start. If we are going to come out of there with a win, we are going to have to play really, really well.”

On Jois & Bliznyuk Earning Preseason Honors: “Preseason honors set up expectations. We are comfortable with that, as our team has great expectations for the upcoming season. On preseason lists that I’ve seen, Venky is listed as one of the top 20 forwards in college basketball. It’s pretty special to lose the nation’s leading scorer, but you still welcome back one of the top forwards in college basketball.”

On Venky Jois: “Venky is a threat to have a double-double every night out. He plays with great passion and energy, and is a captain of our team. Venky has been a foundation in the building of our program -- he is an outstanding student, a great leader, and committed to developing into the best basketball player he can be. I join all Eagle fans in anticipating a great senior year for Venky. ” 

On Bogdan Bliznyuk: “Bogdan had a great freshman year and has a great career ahead of him. He’s a very coachable player and he plays hard. He has a great drive game and rebounds with tenacity. He is efficient as a player and has great shot selection. I think he has a great career ahead of him because of his determination to be the best that he can be.”

On Being Picked Third in Big Sky Preseason Poll: “Being picked in the top third of the conference is a good place to be,” said Hayford. “That shows we are earning the respect of our peers. This year there are many great players returning in the Big Sky Conference and the league has so many great coaches. We have our work cut out for us.”

On NCAA Tournament Opportunity: “It was a pleasure for our university to be part of the most prestigious athletic event in the country – March Madness. It wasn’t an overnight success story – we worked hard to bring this team together, starting with a tough 10-21 record (in 2012-13). I love our players, we have great brotherhood and they play with confidence.”

On Growth of EWU: “The attention our school received was a great thing because EWU is the fastest-growing university in our state. We have an outstanding football team and our women’s basketball team advanced to the WNIT. Anything that brings attention to the school is a good thing and Eastern Washington is on a great path.”

On 2015 Big Sky Championship Victory: “It was an improbable comeback, but it just shows the character of this team. We were down 11 and looked dead in the water. We called timeout, but we’ve been there before. I said, ‘let’s do this – let’s play to win. Let’s put the pressure on them and put the pressure on them to maybe start playing not to lose.’ That energy (at the end of the game) helped give us some more offensive efficiency and the ball started going in.”

On 2015 Big Sky Regular Season Championship: “It just feels great to be Big Sky champs. It’s everything that sports should be about. It’s neat for our players to feel this joy of accomplishment. I’m extremely, extremely happy and proud of our players.

On 2014-15 Individual Milestones & Records: “As our players developed these last three years, we knew there was promise and hope. Now we are seeing these players get 1,000 points in career scoring and set all-time records for blocked shots and 3-point shooting. Most importantly, it’s just neat to see these players realizing their potential. We often say the dirtiest word in athletics is potential because that means you haven’t gotten there yet. As these players reach these milestones, it’s a significant accomplishment in recognizing their development as players. What I love best about them is that they are all hungry for more, and what they are focused on more than anything else is team success.”

On Indiana Win: “I told our team this is what the accomplishment of hard work feels like. It wasn’t just this week or last summer – we’ve been working toward this since we got our guys through a 10-21 year as freshmen. It’s been a lot of hard work to get to this point and come into this building and snap the nation’s third-longest non-conference home winning streak. I’m just really happy for our team and anybody associated with Eastern Washington. We’re the little engine that can, and I love that. This is a huge win, and obviously the biggest in my time at Eastern. I’m really, really proud of our guys. I told our players this is when the flower comes out of the ground. All the hard work has been going on subterraneous. I knew it was going to be a hard game to close out in the last minute – I knew there would be some drama down the stretch. We missed a few free throws and they hit some big baskets. But we got through it all.”

 
 

EWU’s 2014-15 Postseason Notes

* Eastern joined the 2003-04 EWU squad in advancing to the NCAA Tournament. The 2002-03 team advanced to the NIT for EWU’s only other national postseason appearance in 32 seasons as a member of NCAA Division I. Eastern lost to Wyoming 78-71 in the first round of the NIT in 2003, and lost 75-56 to Oklahoma State in the NCAA Tournament a year later.

* In beating Montana 69-65 in the Big Sky Conference Tournament Championship game, Eastern won the title game for the first time since 2004. It was EWU’s sixth appearance in the championship game overall with a record of 2-4. It was the fifth time the Eagles have played the Grizzlies in the tournament, with EWU losing the first four meetings. The two teams met in the championship game in 2002, which was won by UM 70-66. Eastern advanced to the title game with a pair of 91-83 victories – against Idaho in the quarterfinals and Sacramento State in the semifinals.

* Junior Tyler Harvey was selected as the MVP of the Big Sky Conference Tournament after averaging 23.0 points, 2.7 assists and 2.0 steals per game in three games while making 10-of-24 3-point shots (41.7 percent) and 22-of-43 overall (51.2 percent). Junior Venky Jois was also selected to the all-tournament team after averaging 12.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per outing while making 16-of-24 shots from the field for 66.7 percent.

* Eastern head coach Jim Hayford coached in his seventh NCAA Tournament in the 2014-15 season, including six (2003, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011) at NCAA Division III Whitworth. He is now 6-7 in tourney games, including an Elite Eight appearance in his final season. Whitworth is located in nearby Spokane, Wash., which is also home to perennial NCAA Tournament participant Gonzaga. Hayford was selected as the 2014-15 Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year by the league’s head coaches, and received the same honor from College Hoops Daily. A 104-87 victory over Eastern Oregon on Nov. 30 gave Hayford an even 300 victories in 16 seasons as a collegiate head coach. He enters the 2015-16 season  320-147 in 16 seasons as a head coach for a .685 winning percentage. He is 66-63 in four seasons at EWU, was 217-57 at Whitworth and was 37-27 in two seasons at Sioux Falls.

* In equaling the Big Sky Tournament record with 42 points against Idaho, junior Tyler Harvey had his fifth game of the season and 11th of his career with at least 30 points, and his 40th-straight game scoring in double figures (snapped when he scored nine versus Sacramento State the next night). His 42 ranks third in school history behind the 45 of Rodney Stuckey (versus Northern Arizona on 1/5/06) and 44 of David Peed (versus UC Irvine on 12/13/88). His 42 points tied the tourney record of 42 set by Anthony Johnson of Montana in 2010, and passed the 38 Stuckey had versus Portland State in 2006, which now ranks fourth all-time.

* The Big Sky Conference is now 17-59 in the NCAA Tournament, with the last victory coming in 2006 when No. 12 seed Montana beat Nevada in Salt Lake City. In 1995, Weber State lost to Georgetown 53-51 on a last-second shot to advance to the Sweet 16.

* The Eagles finished 26-9 overall, their most victories since becoming a NCAA Division I member in the 1983-84 season and fourth overall. Eastern has now been a DI member for 32 seasons, and the previous high-water mark was a 20-8 record as an independent in the 1985-86 season. All-time, the 26 victories ranks fourth. After completing its 107th season of basketball in the 2014-15 season, Eastern has had 14 additional 20-victory seasons as a member of the NAIA, but only four times did EWU exceed 23 wins (25 in 1976-77, 27 in 1944-45 and 1942-43 and a school-record 31 in 1945-46).

* Eastern set a school record with 2,820 points scored, breaking the previous mark of 2,610 set in 1972. Eastern’s 344 3-pointers in 860 attempts also broke the records of 283 makes and 793 attempts in 2012. The team’s .400 percentage was also a new school record, breaking the previous mark of .385 set by the 1987 and 2002 teams. Eastern also set school records for fewest turnovers (10.7) and personal fouls (17.8) per game.

* In three of Eastern’s last 11 victories, the Eagles used stirring comebacks to register victories. In the Big Sky Conference Tournament championship game, EWU trailed at Montana by 11 with six minutes left, but out-scored the Grizzlies 21-6 the rest of the way for a 69-65 victory on UM’s home court. On March 7 to help wrap-up a share of the Big Sky regular season title, the Eagles trailed Weber State by 15 with 13:29 to play before rallying for a 79-71 overtime win. Tyler Harvey made a trio of 3-pointers and scored 11 points during EWU’s 13-2 run that cut the lead to four, then knotted the score at 59, 64, 66 and 69 – with Harvey providing the tying points the last two times. The Eagles scored the last 10 points in overtime. Against Idaho on Jan. 31, the Eagles rallied from 11 points down in the final 1:33 of the game to defeat Idaho 98-95 in overtime. With Harvey out with a quadriceps contusion, Drew Brandon had a steal with 1:11 left that resulted in a basket that cut Idaho’s lead to five, and also made a pair of free throws down the stretch before his game-tying basket at the buzzer to send the game to OT. Bogdan Bliznyuk rebounded a missed Idaho free throw with 42 seconds to play in overtime, then made a driving layin with 12 seconds left to provide the final margin. Eastern also opened the league season with a comeback from an eight-point deficit with inside of six minutes to play, using a game-ending 21-7 run to upend league favorite Weber State 84-78.

* The Eagles finished 4-0 in the 2014-15 season in Missoula, having defeated Montana 75-69 on Feb. 5. Before going 3-0 in the 2015 Big Sky Conference Tournament, EWU was previously 0-3 in the tourney in Missoula, including its last appearance in the 2012 semifinals when the No. 4 seeded Eagles lost 74-66 to the top-seeded Grizzlies. One of the other losses in Missoula was to Northern Arizona in 2000 when EWU shared the regular season title with Montana and lost the tiebreaker to host the tourney – just like in the 2014-15 season.

* In sharing the league title with Montana, Eastern has now won three regular season league titles in 28 years as a member of the Big Sky Conference. The Eagles shared the regular season title with Montana in 1999-2000, but lost the tiebreaker to host the league tournament. Eastern won both regular season and tournament titles in 2003-04. The Eagles finished 15-12 overall and 12-4 in the Big Sky in 1999-00, and were 17-13 overall and 11-3 in the league in the 2003-04 season. This is the first time EWU has won a Big Sky title in men’s basketball and football in the same school year.

* The Eagles were a Big Sky best 11-6 on the road in the 2014-15 season (2-1 on neutral courts) – its most wins and best percentage (.647) in 32 seasons as a member of NCAA Division I. The 1989-90 team was 8-8 and the Eagles in 1999-2007 were 7-7. Eastern capped the regular season with a 79-71 overtime win at Weber State, just EWU’s fifth victory in 34 tries in Ogden, Utah. Coupled with an 85-81 win at Idaho State, the Eagles completed their second Big Sky road sweep of the season after having not accomplished that feat since 2004. Earlier in the year with a 75-69 triumph at Montana and a 61-51 victory at Montana State, Eastern had its first Big Sky Conference road sweep since 2004 when the Eagles also swept the Grizzlies and Bobcats. Also, that was only the fourth time in 28 seasons as a member of the Big Sky Conference the Eagles swept UM-MSU on the road. Besides 2015, the only such sweeps came in 1990, 2002 and 2004, which was the last time the Eagles had defeated Montana in Missoula. Only 10 times – of a possible 56 weekends of action – has EWU swept the Montana schools home or away. Besides a league-best 7-2 road record during conference play, Eastern also registered road wins in the 2014-15 season at Indiana, San Francisco and Seattle.

* In NCAA Division I statistics, the Eagles were ranked third in scoring offense (80.6 per game), fifth in 3-pointers made per game (9.8) and 36th in blocked shots (4.8 per game). Eastern led the league in all three categories. The Eagles were 21st nationally and second in the Big Sky in field goal percentage (47.8 percent), eighth/third in 3-point field goal percentage (40.0 percent), 56th/fifth in the league in free throw percentage (72.6 percent), 62nd/2nd in assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.21 per game) and were 32nd/2nd in fewest turnovers per game (10.7).

* Eastern finished 21-0 when it had a better shooting percentage than its opponent, 20-2 when making at least 45 percent of its shots and 12-1 when holding the opponent to less than 45 percent. The Eagles were also 16-2 when they out-rebounded or equaled opponents, 15-0 when they had at least 36 rebounds and 17-3 when they held opponents to 35 or less. In addition, Eastern was 17-6 when forcing more/equal turnovers and 15-4 when it had 10 or less turnovers. The Eagles were also 22-4 when scoring 71 points or more and 10-1 when allowing 70 or less.

* The Eagles used the same starting lineup for 15 of their first 17 games in the 2014-15 season, and was 11-4 in those 15 games. However, after injuries to its two leading scorers -- Venky Jois (ankle sprain) and Tyler Harvey (quadriceps contusion) – EWU was forced to use five different lineups in the next eight games. Eastern lost two of those games, with Jois missing both. The Eagles returned to their normal lineup on Feb. 19 versus Southern Utah, and the 78-75 victory made the grouping of Jois, Harvey, Drew Brandon, Parker Kelly and Ognjen Miljkovic 12-4 in the 2014-season before finishing the year 19-7.

* The 14-4 league mark for EWU exceeded the school record for Big Sky wins in a season, breaking the previous mark set in 1999-00 when the Eagles were 12-4. Eastern’s 10-1 start in the league in the 2014-15 season equaled the school’s best after 11 games in EWU’s 28-year history as a member of the Big Sky Conference, but EWU came a win shy of becoming just the second to improve to 11-1. The 2003-04 team – EWU’s only squad to advance to the NCAA Tournament -- lost its league opener, then won 11 straight before finishing 11-3. The 1989-90 squad was 6-1, then lost a pair of games en route to an 11-5 finish.

* With EWU’s Big Sky Championship football team setting school and league records in scoring at “The Inferno” at Roos Field in the fall of 2014, the hoops team was just as prolific on offense. The Eagles averaged 80.6 points per game to lead the league and rank third in NCAA Division I, led by the nation’s top individual scorer in junior Tyler Harvey (23.1 per game). Eastern’s season average is just off the school’s Division I record of 84.2 set in the 2006-07 season, and quite a ways from the all-time mark of 90.2 set in 1971-72.

* Ranked for the 13th-straight week, Eastern was 14th in the Collegeinsider.com mid-major poll on March 17. EWU was ranked 18th on March 9, 20th on March 2, 18th on Feb. 23, 14th on Feb. 16, and prior to that was a season-high 12th for two weeks (Feb. 9 and Feb. 2). Eastern was 13th on Jan. 26, 14th on Jan. 19 and 13th on Jan. 12. In the three previous weeks (Jan. 6, Dec. 29 and Dec. 22) the Eagles were 19th.

* Coming three points from an unbeaten home season, Eastern finished the regular season 13-2 at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash. The 13 victories were its most at home since the 1985-86 season when the Eagles were 15-1. Only four total times since the facility opened in the 1975-76 season has Eastern won more than 12 games (15 in 1985-86, 1977-78 and 1976-77, and 13 in 1979-80). The Eagles began the year a perfect 12-0 at Reese Court, and won those games by a combined 206 points (17.2 per game.

* The Eagles won games against teams from six different NCAA Division I conferences. In the preseason, Eastern won six games versus D-I opponents from the Big Ten, ­­West Coast, Western Athletic, Atlantic Sun and Southwestern conferences.

* Eastern clinched its third Big Sky regular season title in 28 seasons as a Big Sky member when it rallied from 19 points down to beat Weber State 79-71 in overtime on March 7. Because EWU and Montana split their season series, the tiebreaker for the No. 1 seed and host status of the tournament was won by UM by virtue of a better collective record against the two teams who tied for third. The Grizzlies were 1-1 against Sacramento State and Northern Arizona, while the Eagles were 1-2 against those same teams.

* Eastern finished the non-conference portion of its schedule with a 9-4 record, a .692 winning percentage that is EWU’s best in 28 seasons as a member of the Big Sky Conference. Eastern bettered the 6-4 mark (60.0 percent) by the 1997-98 team, which finished the year 16-11 and 10-6 in the Big Sky. The only other three times EWU has had a winning record in non-conference play have come in 1990-91 (6-5, finished 11-16 and 5-11 in the Big Sky), 2002-03 (8-6, finished 18-13 and second in the Big Sky at 9-5 to advance to the NIT) and the latest in 2006-07 (7-6, finished 15-14 and fifth in the Big Sky at 8-8). In the 2002-03 season when EWU advanced to its only NCAA Tournament, the Eagles were 4-9 in the pre-season before finishing 17-13 overall and first in the Big Sky with an 11-3 record).

* Eastern’s heart-stopping 88-86 victory at Big Ten Conference member Indiana Nov. 24 will go down as one of the greatest victories in school history after the Eagles snapped the nation’s third-longest non-conference home court winning streak at 43 in front of 11,636 Hoosier fans at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind. It was the first-ever win for the Eagles in 14 tries against a Big Ten Conference opponent, was the first Big Sky win on a Big Ten home court and was the first time in 21 games Eastern has won in front of a crowd in excess of 10,000. A crowd of 11,636 attended the game at legendary Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind. This is the 115th season of basketball for Indiana, which has won five NCAA Championships (1940, 1953, 1976, 1981, 1987), with 62 total tourney victories in 38 appearances. The Hoosiers also have advanced to eight Final Fours, have won 21 Big Ten titles, have had 44 All-Americans and have had 74 NBA draft picks.  Senior point guard Drew Brandon led the charge with a career-high 27 points, to go along with eight rebounds, five steals and four assists. Venky Jois had a double-double with 20 points and 14 boards and Tyler Harvey scored 25.

* Junior guard Tyler Harvey and junior forward Venky Jois were honored as first team All-Big Sky Conference selections as chosen by the league’s head coaches on March 9. In addition, Bogdan Bliznyuk was recognized as the Freshman of the Year and point guard Drew Brandon was an honorable mention selection. Head coach Jim Hayford was chosen as the league’s co-Coach of the Year. Harvey was a repeat selection on the first team, while Jois was honored for the third-straight season after earning honorable mention each of the past two seasons. Jois was also the 2013 Freshman of the Year. Also, Harvey and Jois earned first team All-Big Sky honors from College Hoops Daily, and Hayford was its choice as the league’s Coach of the Year.

*  In final NCAA statistics, Tyler Harvey led NCAA Division I in scoring offense (23.1 points per game) and 3-pointers per game (4.00), and was 14th 3-point shooting percentage (43.1 percent) and 43rd in free throw percentage (.852). Venky Jois, who missed four full games and parts of two others with a sprained ankle, was 93rd in per game scoring (16.7), sixth in field goal percentage (61.0 percent), 38th in blocked shots per game (2.23) and 96th in rebounding (7.7). Drew Brandon was 58th in assists (4.7), 32nd in assist-to-turnover ratio (+2.58 per game), 69th in steals (1.79) and 172nd in rebounding (6.9).

* A year after not having a “Senior Day” because the Eagles were senior-less, Eastern honored three Eagles playing in their final regular season home game of the season on Feb. 28 versus Montana. The trio of Parker Kelly, Drew Brandon and Garrett Moon combined for 247 games of experience (145 starts) for EWU, with Kelly playing four seasons and Brandon and Moon transferring from junior colleges.

* Achieving a first in Eastern men’s basketball history, Tyler Harvey was selected on Feb. 26 as a first team selection on the 2014-15 Capital One Academic All-America® team for NCAA Division I as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). Harvey was one of five players to be named to the first team, and is EWU’s initial first team selection in school history. The guard from Torrance, Calif. (Bishop Montgomery HS ’11) has a 3.60 grade point average as a communications studies major. Eastern has had just three other Academic All-America selections since moving from the NAIA to the NCAA in the early 1980’s. Rodney Stuckey, now playing for the Indiana Pacers in the NBA, was a third team selection in 2007 as EWU’s first-ever selection as a member of Division I. Dave Henley, a graduate of Shadle Park High School in Spokane, earned second team accolades in 1982 and was a third team pick in 1981 when EWU was in NCAA Division II. On Feb. 25, Harvey was the recipient of a "Keeper of the Dream" award from EWU's Africana Studies department.

* Five Eagles averaged at least 8.7 points per game in the 2014-15 season, paced by the 23.1 average of junior guard Tyler Harvey and the 16.6 average of junior forward Venky Jois. Jois also averaged 7.7 rebounds, 2.2 blocked shots, 2.0 assists and 1.2 steals per game, and sophomore forward Ognjen Miljkovic averaged 9.7 points and 3.1 rebounds, with 55 3-pointers made on the season. Senior Drew Brandan averaged 9.7 points to go along with 6.9 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.8 steals per game, and true freshman Bogdan Bliznyuk pitched in 8.7 points and 4.0 rebounds per outing.

* Bit by injuries in the 2014-15 season, the latest loss for the Eagles was freshman guard Sir Washington. He was thought to be out for the season with a nagging knee injury, but the injury was found to be a bruise and not a fractured patella. He was cleared to play the week of the Big Sky Conference Tournament but didn’t see action. He scored six points and had a pair of rebounds in five minutes against Georgetown on March 19, but hadn’t played since Feb. 7. He finished the season averaging 9.9 minutes and 2.6 points off the bench for the Eagles.

 

 
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