Big Sky Conference leaders take on Portland State at 2:05 p.m. in a game televised regionally by SWX
Saturday, February 14 -Reese Court (5,000) - Cheney, Wash.
2:05 p.m. Pacific - Eastern Washington (19-5/10-1 Big Sky) versus Portland State (11-11/5-7)
TV: PSU game televised live regionally by SWX.
Webcast: 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 22nd 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: ewustats.com (EWU home games).
In a season full of heart-thumping milestones, the Eastern Washington University men's basketball team can hit a big one on Valentine's Day.
Fresh off a win that put them back on top of the Big Sky Conference standings, the Eagles will go for a record 20th victory when they host Portland State on Saturday (Feb. 14) at 2:05 p.m. in a game televised regionally by SWX. It will be a rematch of a 92-85 Eagle win in Portland on Jan. 15.
The Eagles are now 19-5 overall and 10-1 in the Big Sky Conference following a 64-61 victory over Sacramento State on Thursday (Feb. 12). A win Saturday will equal EWU's most victories since becoming a NCAA Division I member in the 1983-84 season. Eastern has now been a DI member for 32 seasons, and the high-water mark was a 20-8 record as an independent in the 1985-86 season.
Unbeaten at Reese Court with a 12-0 record, Eastern enters Saturday's game with 11 victories in its last 12 games and a six-game winning streak. The Vikings are 11-11 overall and 5-7 in the Big Sky.
Portland State has lost four of its last five games, including an 87-76 loss at Idaho on Thursday. But Eastern head coach Jim Hayford knows the Vikings are more than capable of knocking off EWU, which was swept by PSU a year ago.
"Portland State is a real dangerous team -- they can really score and they swept us last year," said Hayford. "Our theme since we got left out of the Big Sky Tournament last year was 'leave no doubt.' Right on top of that list of teams that might have gotten in the way of us having the season we wanted last year was Portland State. So I know the guys will be ready."
The Eagles have won their last three games without the services of the nation's leading scorer, Tyler Harvey, who suffered a quadriceps contusion on Jan. 31 versus Idaho. Eastern played the previous game versus Sacramento State – EWU's only conference loss -- without its second-leading scorer, Venky Jois, who missed three games and parts of two others with a sprained ankle.
The league schedule continues through early March, with the top eight teams qualifying for the Big Sky Conference Tournament on March 12-14 at the site of the regular season champion. Last year, the Eagles were 15-16 overall and missed the Big Sky Conference Tournament with a 10-10 league mark.
EWU vs. Portland State Series Notes
* Since Eastern became a member of NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season, the Eagles are now 19-20 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 12-7 in Cheney and 7-12 against PSU in Portland (0-1 on neutral courts) since then. The Vikings have a 23-20 edge in the overall series.
* With junior Venky Jois suffering an ankle injury nine minutes into the game and Tyler Harvey getting just five shots in the first 20 minutes, Eastern was still able to garner a 42-29 halftime lead and turn it into a 92-85 victory on Jan. 15 in Portland, Ore. The Eagles led from start to finish versus the Vikings, and made 7-of-10 free throws in the final 1:46 to close out the win. The victory snapped a seven-game losing streak in Portland against the Vikings, with EWU's last win at the Stott Center coming in the Rodney Stuckey era with an 88-70 victory on Jan. 3, 2007. Harvey, after scoring just five points on 2-of-5 shooting in the first half, exploded for 18 points in the second half to lead four Eagles in double figures with 23. True freshman Bogdan Bliznyuk helped make up for the absence of Jois with a team-high 10 first-half points and finished with a season-high 18 for the game. Senior Parker Kelly had six 3-pointers and finished with a season-high 19 points, and 6-foot-7 Ognjen Miljkovic helped fill in for the absence of Jois with 14 points and a career-high eight rebounds in 32 minutes of action. Senior point guard Drew Brandon had nine assists, eight rebounds, four points and two steals for the Eagles, and senior Garrett Moon played 12 minutes off the bench and had eight points, three rebounds and a steal. Eastern was solid at the free throw line, making 15-of-18 for 83 percent, and had just eight turnovers. A quick 8-1 start helped EWU lead the entire first half, as the Eagles made 50 percent of their shots from the field and had just one turnover. Eastern held PSU to 33 percent shooting and led by as many as 15 in the first half at 42-27 on a 3-pointer by Kelly. After leading 42-29 at halftime, a 3-pointer by Kelly and a pair of treys by Harvey helped EWU open a 54-37 lead with 16:13 to play. The Vikings rallied to pull within six on five occasions, and eventually to five with 1:08 remaining before EWU closed out the win at the free throw line. Eastern used a 9-1 run to regain an 85-71 advantage with 2:45 left. Bliznyuk scored four of the points in the run, as PSU went 4:56 without a field goal. Portland State had four players in double figures, including 25 by Gary Winston and 20 by Tim Douglas, as they combined for 18-of-28 shooting from the field and 7-of-12 3-pointers. A year ago in Portland, the Eagles led 40-30 at halftime but allowed 62 second-half points in a 92-83 loss.
* Junior guard Tyler Harvey, the leading scorer in NCAA Division I, has missed the last three games with a quadriceps contusion, so Eastern has used defense to help it to a trio of victories. In those three games, the Eagles have allowed an average of just 60.3 points per game on sub-40 percent shooting from the field. Opponents have made 63-of-160 (39.4 percent), and are 31-of-71 from the 3-point stripe (43.7 percent). Eastern has also forced an average of 16.7 turnovers per game, scoring 35 points off a total of 50 miscues.
* Eastern's 10-1 start in the league equals the school's best after 11 games in EWU's 28-year history as a member of the Big Sky Conference, and EWU will try to be 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 also 6-1, then lost a pair of games en route to an 11-5 finish. Eastern's school record for league wins in a season was set in 1999-00 when the Eagles were 12-4, which included a 5-2 start followed by six-straight victories.
* In NCAA Division I statistics through games of Feb. 12, the Eagles are ranked fifth in scoring offense (81.3 per game), fifth in 3-pointers made per game (10.1) and 20th in blocked shots (5.3 per game). Eastern leads the league in all three categories. The Eagles are also 14th nationally and third in the Big Sky in field goal percentage (48.8 percent), third/second in 3-point field goal percentage (41.9 percent), 42nd/fifth in the league in free throw percentage (73.0 percent), 49th/3rd in assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.24 per game) and are 35th/2nd in fewest turnovers per game (11.0).
* Eastern has been ranked a season-high 12th in the last two Collegeinsider.com mid-major polls (Feb. 9 and Feb. 2). EWU was 13th on Jan. 26, 14th on Jan. 19 and 13th on Jan. 12, and in the three previous weeks (Jan. 6, Dec. 29 and Dec. 22) was 19th. The next poll will be announced the afternoon of Feb. 16.
* Eastern's 19 victories have already exceeded the total of 15 the Eagles had all of last season and are their most in 28 seasons as a member of the Big Sky Conference. Eastern has now been a DI member for 32 seasons, and the high-water mark was a 20-8 record as an independent in the 1985-86 season. The Eagles also won 18 during EWU's NIT season in 2002-03. The Eagles won their 10th game this season on Jan. 1, the fastest the school has hit that mark since the 1945-46 season when that Eastern Hall of Fame team finished 31-4. In the 1985-86 season, the Eagles recorded their 10th win on Jan. 6 against Western Illinois (their 19 was on Feb. 19 and their 20th and final victory was on Feb. 25). By comparison, last year's team won its 10th game on Feb. 6 and in 2012-13 the Eagles won their 10th and final game on March 7.
* The Eagles are a perfect 12-0 at Reese Court and have won those games by a combined 206 points (17.2 per game). Eastern opened the season with a pair of impressive victories over NCAA Division I teams who participated in the postseason a year ago. The Eagles beat NCAA Tourney team Texas Southern (86-62) before defeating NIT participant Utah Valley (75-50), then romped past Walla Walla 95-34. The fourth victory at Reese Court was a 21-point victory over Northern Kentucky (81-60) and the fifth was a 104-87 win over Eastern Oregon. The sixth was an 87-81 victory against Lewis-Clark State, which rallied late after falling behind by 20 in the second half. In league play, Eastern defeated defending Big Sky Champion and preseason favorite Weber State (84-78) and Idaho State (65-57) at home, then knocked off Northern Colorado 95-85 after building a 31-point lead. The team's 10th home win was a 102-80 victory over North Dakota in which the Eagles scored 67 second-half points. The 11th was a 98-95 overtime win over Idaho after the Eagles rallied from 17 down in the second half and 11 with 1:13 to play, with a driving layin at the buzzer by Drew Brandon sending it to overtime. The Eagles won their 12th at Reese Court on Feb. 12, leading by as many as 16 in the second half against Sacramento State before prevailing 64-61.
* Eastern's marksmanship in league play from the free throw line has been impressive, with a current league-leading percentage of .767. Among those with enough attempts to qualify, Drew Brandon (85.4) and Bogdan Bliznyuk (78.4) are ranked second and 12th in the league, respectively, and Tyler Harvey (93.1 percent) would rank No. 1 if he played enough games to qualify. Overall, Eastern is fifth in the league and 42nd in NCAA Division I at 73.0 percent, with Harvey ranking 32nd nationally and ranking second in the league (86.1). Brandon (fourth, 84.3), Bliznyuk (80.4), Sir Washington (81.8) and Parker Kelly (77.8) also have impressive season percentages.
* Eastern is now 17-0 when it has a better shooting percentage than its opponent, 16-1 when making at least 45 percent of its shots and 10-0 when holding the opponent to less than 45 percent. The Eagles are also 10-1 when they out-rebound or equal opponents, 12-0 when they have at least 36 rebounds and 12-1 when they hold opponents to 35 or less. In addition, Eastern is 12-2 when forcing more/equal turnovers and 11-1 when it has 10 or less turnovers. The Eagles are also 16-2 when scoring 71 points or more and 8-0 when allowing 70 or less.
* Favorable results Saturday can help EWU wrap up the 2014-15 Dam Cup competition. The five-sport series between Eastern and Portland State celebrates the friendly rivalry between the states of Oregon and Washington within the Big Sky Conference. 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. Eastern currently leads the competition 8-5, with both the men's and women's basketball games Saturday counting two points each. Based on a point system with varying points that may be earned, here are the results thus far:
The 2014-15 Dam Cup Series: Soccer - Oct. 3 - @ PSU 3, EWU 1 - PSU leads 3-0; Volleyball - Oct. 11 - @ PSU 3, EWU 0 - PSU leads 5-0; Football - Nov. 21 - EWU 56, @ PSU 34 - PSU leads 5-4; Women's Basketball - Jan. 15 @ EWU 101, PSU 54 - EWU leads 6-5; Men's Basketball - Jan. 15 - EWU 92, @ PSU 85 - EWU leads 8-5; Women's Basketball - Feb. 14 @ PSU; Men's Basketball - Feb. 14 @ EWU.
Previous Dam Cup Champions: 2010-11: PSU 9-8; 2011-12: PSU 15-2; 2012-13: EWU 10-7; 2013-14: PSU 13-8.
Eagle Player Notes
* Bit by injuries this season and still managing to win 19 of 24 games, the latest loss for the Eagles is freshman guard Sir Washington, who will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. He was averaging 10.1 minutes and 2.5 points off the bench for the Eagles.
* Senior point guard Drew Brandon has had double-doubles in four of his last six games – including two near triple-doubles. As a result, he earned back-to-back Big Sky Conference Player of the Week honors in the Big Sky, and has a total of six double-doubles on the season and 11 in his career. Brandon has the second-best assist average in school history, a mark of 5.2 that trails the 8.4 average of Ed Waters (1974-77).
* On the watch list for the Lou Henson Award given to the nation's top mid-major player, junior Tyler Harvey suffered a quadriceps contusion in the first half against Idaho on Jan. 31 and sat out the three games after that. He had a season-low 13 points in 28 minutes versus Idaho after missing the last 7:31 of regulation and overtime in the 98-95 come-from-behind Eagle win. In EWU's first two games of its 3-0 home stand, Harvey scored 61 points to earn co-Big Sky Conference Player of the Week honors from the league office, as well as the same honor by himself from Collegeinsider.com. His performances included a 35-point outing against Northern Colorado on Jan. 22, which was his fourth of at least 30 this season and 10th of his career (three versus UNC). In late January, Harvey was also picked as the "deadliest 3-point assassin" in the nation by bleacherreport.com, and he and the Eagles have also been featured this winter by Yahoo! Sports, Slam! Magazine and SB Nation.
* In NCAA statistics through Feb. 12, Tyler Harvey leads NCAA Division I in both scoring offense (23.4 points per game) and 3-pointers per game (4.33). The junior guard is also third in 3-point shooting percentage (47.6 percent) and 32nd in free throw percentage (.861). Venky Jois, who has missed three full games and parts of two others with a sprained ankle, is 110th in per game scoring (16.4), 13th in field goal percentage (59.0 percent) and 29th in blocked shots per game (2.60). Drew Brandon is 42nd in assists (5.2) and 30th in assist-to-turnover ratio (+2.59 per game).
* Three Eagles – all underclassmen -- are averaging at least 11.2 points per game this season, paced by the 23.4 average of junior guard Tyler Harvey and the 16.4 average of junior forward Venky Jois. Jois is also averaging 7.1 rebounds, 2.6 blocked shots, 2.3 assists and 1.4 steals per game, and sophomore forward Ognjen Miljkovic is averaging 11.2 points and 3.4 rebounds. Also, senior point guard Drew Brandon is averaging 10.0 points, 5.2 assists and 7.2 rebounds per outing while battling a broken finger and a season-long bout with back spasms, and has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 119-to-46. Harvey is averaging 18.1 points, 2.4 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game in his 73-game career thus far (56 as a starter), making 223-of-496 3-point attempts for 45.0 percent. Jois now has 21 double-doubles in his 80-game career (78 as a starter), and is averaging 13.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.1 blocked shots per game in his career. Brandon is averaging 5.2 assists, 10.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game in his 53-game career (52 as a starter) with 11 career double-doubles thus far.
* Senior Parker Kelly is the top 3-point shooter in EWU history not named Tyler Harvey. Kelly has 197 triples in his career, more than the 184 by former record holder Marc Axton (2002-05), who was passed by Harvey earlier this season. Kelly could set the school record for games played when his four-year career ends later this season (the record is 121). In his 115-game career (69 as a starter), he is averaging 8.2 points on 41.3 percent shooting from the 3-point stripe and an impressive free throw percentage of .837. Also EWU's top defender, he averaged 10.0 points and 34.5 minutes per game in the 2013-14 season and is averaging 8.5 points and 32.9 minutes this year while battling nagging foot and groin injuries.
Eagle Records Watch
* Parker Kelly is now just 61 points from becoming the 19th player in EWU history – and third this season – to go over the 1,000-point mark in his career. With 939 career points, he is eighth in school history in 3-point percentage (41.3 percent), second in 3-pointers made (197) and third in attempts (477). Kelly could set the school record for games played when his four-year career ends later this season (he has 115 to rank fifth in school history and the record is 121). Kelly's 83.7 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 196 and needs 230).
* Junior Venky Jois became the 18th player in EWU history to go over the 1,000-point mark in his career (versus Lewis-Clark State on Dec. 22), and has a current total of 1,105 to rank 14th. He continues to add to his career record for blocked shots, and now has 169 in his career to rank sixth all-time in the Big Sky Conference. He owns three of the top five single season performances in school history, with 54 blocks this season (third), 49 last season (fifth) and 66 as a freshman (second). His 13.80 scoring average is currently 13th and his 8.1 rebounding average is eighth. Jois has had 12 performances in his career with at least 20 points and two with at least 30.
Recent Game Recaps
* Eastern held off Sacramento State down the stretch to take over first place in the Big Sky Conference Standings with a 64-61 victory Thursday (Feb. 12) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash. A crowd of 3,114 was on hand, Eastern's best attendance total since Jan. 28, 2012 versus Montana State (3,617). The Eagles avenged a 90-77 loss to the Hornets in Sacramento, Calif., on Jan. 17 when Sac State made a blistering 63 percent of its shots in the game and 73 percent in the second half. This time, the Eagles held the Hornets to 41 percent shooting from the field, as the Eagles had a season-high 13 blocked shots – just three away from the school record. Eastern, however, helped keep the Hornets in the game with its second-most turnovers of the season with 17. For the third-straight game, the leading scorer in NCAA Division I – Tyler Harvey – did not play because of a quadriceps contusion. But Eastern had three players score in double figures, including Drew Brandon, who sank two free throws with three seconds to play to provide the final margin. Brandon finished with 13 points, five rebounds and three assists, and ended the game with a steal on Sac State's final length-of-the-court pass. Sophomore Ognjen Miljkovic led the Eagles with 16 points, and also had four rebounds a pair of blocks. Senior Parker Kelly made 5-of-8 3-pointers and finished the game with 15 points, six rebounds, two blocks and two assists. Junior Venky Jois chipped in seven points, six rebounds, a team-high five assists and two blocked shots. The Eagles sank 12-of-23 3-pointers in the game, compared to an 8-of-18 performance by the Hornets. Both teams finished with 22 total field goals, and Sac State sank one more free throw. After Sacramento State cut Eastern's seven-point halftime lead to five early in the second half, Eastern went on an 8-0 run that ended with a three-point play by Drew Brandon with 15:19 left. The Eagles took a 16-point lead with 7:01 remaining on a basket by Venky Jois, then held on after that. The Hornets used its pressing, trapping defense to out-score Eastern 19-6 the rest of the game. Eastern had only two field goals in the last seven minutes, with baskets by Bogdan Bliznyuk with 4:49 left and a layin by Garrett Moon with 1:16 to play.
Quoting Coach Hayford
On Sac State Win: "We were saved by the three-point shot. We had a lot more turnovers than we wanted and poor free throw shooting when we wanted it, but we shot the ball real well from outside. Sacramento State is a really solid team. When you think about these two teams on top of the Big Sky standings right now, there is no one on Brian's roster or my roster that had a scholarship offer from another Division I school. You have to evaluate right and you have to develop your players, and so I really respect everything he has done with his program. I am really proud of my team getting their 19th win here tonight."
On Defense Versus Sac State: "Because we have been a high-scoring team all year, our defense has been called into question and now this is three-straight games where our defense has helped us win games. We held them to 10 percent under what they are normally shooting on the year and forced 14 turnovers. I think it was a real good performance."
On Track for Big Sky Title: "It's still too early to think about it, we still have four Big Sky road games left. Anything can happen on the road in the Big Sky -- it's crazy -- it is the Wild West. Our whole mindset with the guys is, 'who are we playing. Let's put them behind us in the standings.' I think the guys have took it a little personal that Sacramento State had been making such a big deal about being in first place when we were equal in the loss column -- they just played more games. That kind of went with our theme of let's just take the next team and put them behind us."
On Parker Kelly Versus Sac State: "We moved him to a different spot he has never played in the press break to kind of calm down the craziness. Parker is the third fourth-year senior in the last 10 years at Eastern, and he is my first four-year senior. He did everything you would want out of a veteran. I think he kind of calmed the storm, just his presence. He told me walking down here that he thought he had the dagger on the last three he missed. He thought he had the dagger and I am glad he saved that for latter in the season."
On Tyler Harvey: "He probably could have gone (against Sacramento State), but when you are in the Big Sky you need to be your best in the Big Sky Tournament. I don't want this injury to get aggravated, so it is something he has taken with him the whole month. He is like, 'hey coach I am playing Saturday'. So we will see how he responds after yesterday's practice, but I am going to err on the side of patience with such a special player. When we really need him is if we are fortunate enough to play those three games in March."