Vikings Win 68-66 at Reese Court to Keep Eastern From Coveted 20th Victory

Vikings Win 68-66 at Reese Court to Keep Eastern From Coveted 20th Victory

Portland State makes a blistering 70 percent from the field in the second half, while EWU makes just 7-of-25 3-pointers in EWU's first home loss of the season

Rhythm and flow – the Vikings had it and the Eagles did not.

The league-leading Eastern Washington University men's basketball team was outscored 42-34 in the second half by Portland State and fell to the Vikings 68-66 Saturday (Feb. 14) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.

The Vikings made 69.6 percent of their shots in the second half to finish at 52.9 percent for the game, while the Eagles could manage just a 38.2 percent performance on their home floor. In losing for the first time at home in 13 games this season, EWU had its worst shooting outing of the season at Reese, where EWU had made 53 percent of its shots in its first 12 games there.

Eastern sank just 7-of-25 (28 percent) 3-pointers in the game after entering ranked third in NCAA Division I in percentage (.419) and fifth in treys per game (10.1). An EWU scoreless stretch of 5:45 in the second half turned the game around for the Vikings, who trailed by as many as 12 in the first half.

After missing three games with a quadriceps contusion, junior Tyler Harvey led EWU with 22 points, but suffered through a 5-of-15 performance shooting the ball. The Eagles played without Venky Jois, who aggravated a previous ankle injury. In fact, both of EWU's league losses have come with Jois on the bench.

"We had a hard time for about eight or nine minutes in the second half offensively where we just didn't have the rhythm and flow, and teamwork, that I would have liked to see," said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. "I think that our injuries and not having people practicing together probably caught up with us a little bit today. But I am really proud of how our guys battled back to get it to a one possession game there at the end. At the end of the day, Portland State was just a little too good for us."

The Eagles are now 19-6 overall, and the Vikings kept EWU's from equaling its 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.


Won-Lost Records . . .  

* The Eagles are now 10-2 in the Big Sky and 19-6 on the season – one away from the school record for NCAA Division I victories – and were ranked a season-high 12th in this week's mid-major poll. Eastern had entered Saturday's game with 11 victories in its last 12 games and a six-game winning streak.

* The Vikings are now 12-11 overall and 6-7 in the Big Sky. Portland State had lost four of its last five games entering the EWU game, including an 87-76 loss at Idaho on Thursday. The Vikings lost earlier this season at home to the Eagles, 92-85.

* Since Eastern became a member of NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season, the Eagles are now 19-21 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 12-8 in Cheney and 7-12 against PSU in Portland (0-1 on neutral courts) since then. The Vikings have a 24-20 edge in the overall series.


What It Means . . .

* The victory keeps alive the Big Sky title hopes of several other teams, with just three weekends of action left to play. Now 10-2 in the Big Sky, the Eagles had entered Saturday's action a half-game ahead of Sac State and 1 1/2 games clear of Montana at the top of the league race. Eastern avenged a 90-77 road loss to the Hornets with a 64-61 victory over Sac State Thursday (Feb. 12) at Reese Court. 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.


What's Next . . .

* Eastern now goes on the road to play arguably its toughest road trip of the season. After playing at Southern Utah on Thursday (Feb. 19) evening in Cedar City, Utah, the Eagles play an afternoon game in Flagstaff, Ariz., on Saturday (Feb. 21) against Northern Arizona.


Keys to Game . . .

 * Eastern used its seventh starting lineup of the season, including five different lineups used after January injuries to its two leading scorers -- Venky Jois (ankle sprain) and Tyler Harvey (quadriceps contusion). Harvey, the leading scorer in NCAA Division I, missed EWU's last three games, and Jois missed the PSU game after aggravating his injury in EWU's victory over Sacramento State. He had missed the previous game in January versus Sac State – EWU's only other conference loss – as well as two other full games and parts of two others.


Top Performers . . .

* Senior point guard Drew Brandon, the Big Sky Conference Player of the Week two weeks running, made only 3-of-11 shots from the field and finished with nine points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals.

* Sophomore Ognjen Miljkovic scored 12 points on 4-of-12 shooting.

* Senior Parker Kelly scored 14 points with a pair of 3-pointers, giving him 30 points in two games on the weekend.

* Senior Garrett Moon made the first start of his Eastern career and had a career-high 10 rebounds, improving upon his previous best of seven boards.

Turning Point . . .

* The Eagles led 38-32 with 17:18 left on a basket by Tyler Harvey, but went the next 5:45 without scoring. Eastern was 0-of-6 with four turnovers during that stretch, and Portland State scored 12 unanswered points to take a six-point lead. The Vikings led by seven on three occasions, but the Eagles could never tie or re-take the lead. Portland State baskets with 1:48 and 54 seconds left proved to be the difference, as well as a pair of free throws by Tiegbe Bamba for the Vikings with 17 seconds to play.


Key Stats . . .

* Eastern had a stellar free throw shooting day by making 17-of-18 for 94 percent, with Tyler Harvey making all 10 of his. But that didn't translate to the 3-point stripe where EWU made only 7-of-25 for 28 percent. That was the second lowest percentage of the season for the Eagles, and easily the lowest at home where EWU was shooting at a 45.7 percent clip entering the PSU game.


Team Highlights . . .

* After using defense to win its last three outings without leading scorer Tyler Harvey, Eastern once again used defense to open a double-digit lead in the first half. The Eagles held PSU to a pair of field goals in an 8:17 span, and the 17-4 run gave EWU a 21-10 lead with 7:36 to play in the half. Five different Eagles scored in the run for EWU, which led by as many as 12 in the first half. Eastern held the Vikings to 39 percent shooting in the first half, but EWU made only 38.5 percent, making just 4-of-14 3-point attempts (29 percent).


Notables . . .

* Saturday's loss was the first time in nine games the Eagles lost when allowing 70 points or less.

Eastern is still unbeaten when it has a better shooting percentage than its opponent (17-0), when holding the opponent to less than 45 percent (10-0) and when the Eagles have at least 36 rebounds (12-0).

* In the earlier game this season in Portland, junior Venky Jois suffered an ankle injury nine minutes into the game and Tyler Harvey had just five shots in the first 20 minutes. But Eastern was still able to garner a 42-29 halftime lead and turn it into a 92-85 victory. 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.


More Comments from Head Coach Jim Hayford . . .

Opening statement: "As much as it hurts to lose, I think we need to credit Portland State -- they went out and won this game. They played very well, they made of contested shots and they executed their offense to perfection in the second half, so I give them a whole lot of credit."

On Aggravation of Ankle Injury to Venky Jois: "Even in practice yesterday we thought he was going to play -- he just came up really sore after Thursday. The week before in Montana, he was just in crazy pain against Montana State and he just felt like it kind of set him back. He gave everything he had against Sacramento State Thursday and then he felt worse than he had since the Idaho game -- the first game he played. He had tears in his eyes when he came up to me before warm-ups 15 minutes before the game and said, 'I just can't do it, it just hurts, I won't be able to help the team.'"

On Tyler Harvey's Return: "Tyler is a great player, but he has also only had one practice in the last three weeks and I probably asked more of him today than I should have."

On Fouling Bamba With 17 Seconds Left: "The player we did want to foul did get the inbounds pass, and credit him he made both. He makes one of those and maybe we go into overtime. That is where I think what you need to do sometimes in sports is credit the other guys. I watch a lot of Portland State games and they played really well today -- I think their coach is really proud of his team."

On Going Back on the Road: "When you come off a loss, you like to fix things at home. It's kind of a nice pillow underneath you, but that is not where we are. But our home record is just as good as our road record in conference play, so the road is where we will go."

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