Trying to stay in first place in the league standings, Eastern is a collective 9-24 all-time in Cedar City and Flagstaff
Thursday, February 19 - Centrum (5,300) - Cedar City, Utah
6:05 p.m. Pacific - Eastern Washington (19-6/10-2 Big Sky) at Southern Utah (7-16/4-8 Big Sky)
Saturday, February 21 - Walkup Skydome (7,000) - Flagstaff, Ariz.
1:05 p.m. Pacific - Eastern Washington at Northern Arizona (13-12/8-4 Big Sky - host Idaho 2/19)
TV: None for SUU game; NAU game televised live regionally by Fox College Sports AZ.
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: SUU Click Here; NAU Click Here; ewustats.com (EWU home games).
As the crow flies, it's only 187 miles between Cedar City, Utah, and Flagstaff, Ariz.
But unfortunately for the league-leading Eastern Washington University men's basketball team, the Grand Canyon is in between, and getting to and from both places makes it arguably EWU's toughest Big Sky Conference road trip of the season in cities the Eagles are a combined 9-24 in.
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. Tipoff Thursday is 6:05 p.m. Pacific time, and Saturday's game is at 1:05 p.m. Pacific time in a game televised via FOX College Sports AZ.
These are the first and only league meetings of the season against the Thunderbirds and Lumberjacks, who are both in the midst of the battle for eight spots in the Big Sky Conference Tournament. Four of eight league teams will be left out of the tourney, and SUU is currently tied for ninth at 4-8 (7-16 overall) and NAU is fourth at 8-4 (13-12 overall).
The Eagles have now lost both of their games this season without the services of their second-leading scorer and rebounder, Venky Jois (ankle sprain). Coupled with a quadriceps injury to leading scorer Tyler Harvey that kept him out of three games, Eastern has used five different starting lineups in its last eight games after using the same one for 15 of its first 17.
"We are looking forward to being a healthy, energized team that is ready to go play with pride and determination," said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford, whose team is 19-6 on the season. "We have worked hard to get to this place in the season with three weeks to go. I like the focus of our players and that we will have a good rotation of players."
Eastern, coming off a home split last week, is 4-1 on the road and 6-1 at home during league play. Eastern's 10-2 record leads the league, but four of EWU's final six games are away from the comfy confines of Reese Court. Eastern beat previous league leader Sacramento State 64-61 last Thursday (Feb. 12) at home, but then fell 68-66 to Portland State two days later for EWU's first loss in Cheney in 13 tries this season.
"When you come off a loss, you like to fix things at home," said Hayford. "It's kind of a nice pillow underneath you, but that is not where we are. But our road record is just about as good as our home record in conference play, so the road is where we will go."
The Eagles won the last year's meeting in Cedar City, but had lost the last three games there. Eastern fell in Flagstaff a year ago, marking EWU's eighth loss in the last 10 games at Northern Arizona. Eastern is 8-21 all-time at NAU.
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.
Link to Fact Book
The complete version of the 2014-15 EWU men's basketball fact book may be found at:
More Eagle Basketball Links
Eastern Basketball -- http://goeags.com/sports/m-baskbl/index
Link to Ticket Information: http://www.goeags.com/tickets
Spokesman-Review EWU Basketball Page: http://www.spokesman.com/ewuhoops
Story on EWU Becoming America's Favorite Team: http://www.sbnation.com/college-basketball/2015/1/27/7922505/eastern-washington-basketball-2014-15-ncaa-tournament-tyler-harvey
Story on Tyler Harvey by Zach Helfand of the Los Angeles Times: http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-tyler-harvey-20150216-story.html
Story on Tyler Harvey by Yahoo! Sports: http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/ncaab-the-dagger/how-tyler-harvey-went-from-zero-scholarships-to-the-nation-s-leading-scorer-184409702.html
Story on Tyler Harvey Listed as the Top 3-Point Shooter in the Nation: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2340158-ranking-the-deadliest-3-point-assassins-in-college-basketball-in-2014-15/page/12
Story on Tyler Harvey in SLAM! Magazine: http://www.slamonline.com/college-hs/college/tyler-harvey-eastern-washington/
Story on Tyler Harvey by Lindsay Joy from SWX/KHQ TV: http://www.swxrightnow.com/story/27853836/from-unknown-to-unmistakable-the-story-of-ewus-tyler-harvey
Australian "Flag Flyers" Interview of Venky Jois: https://soundcloud.com/sen1116/the-flag-flyers-venky-jois
Story on EWU Men's Basketball "Champs Program" at Whitman Elementary: http://www.swxrightnow.com/story/27610128/ewu-mens-basketball-taking-time-to-build-champs
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
Rodney Stuckey NBA Page -- http://www.nba.com/playerfile/rodney_stuckey/index.html
More Information and Links are Available at: HTTP://WWW.GOEAGS.COM
* Southern Utah is coming off a pair of impressive road victories to improve to 4-8 in league play. The Thunderbirds knocked off defending champion and preseason favorite Weber State 65-56 before defeating Idaho State 71-67 two days later. Southern Utah beat both of those teams at home earlier in the season, but have since lost home games versus Northern Arizona, North Dakota and Northern Colorado. The Thunderbirds have held opponents to 45.3 percent shooting from the field and 35.3 percent from the 3-point stripe during league play. A.J. Hess leads SUU with a 12.1 scoring average, and 6-foot-8 Casey Oliverson is averaging 7.9 points and 4.3 rebounds with a league-leading field goal percentage of .629.
* Northern Arizona was just 8-11 overall and 3-3 in league play in January, but has won five of its last six heading into Thursday's home game versus Idaho. The Lumberjacks fell at Idaho State 80-66 last week before rebounding for a 61-54 win at Weber State. Senior 6-foot-5 guard Quinton Upshur is averaging 15.6 points per game on the season, but has bumped that up to 17.8 during league play.
* Following this week's games, Eastern plays its final home games of the regular season when Montana State and Montana visit on Feb. 26 and 28, respectively. Eastern defeated both of those teams on the road earlier this month for EWU's first league road sweep since 2004.
EWU vs. Southern Utah Series Notes
* The Eagles are 4-4 all-time against Southern Utah (3-1 in Cheney, 1-3 in Cedar City). Last season, the Eagles won 90-83 at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash., then triumphed in Cedar City by an 85-74 score. One year earlier, Eastern triumphed at Reese Court 85-72 on Feb. 16, 2013. When Eastern lost 69-55 at Southern Utah on Jan. 26, 2013, it marked the first Big Sky Conference meeting between the two schools. It was also the first meeting overall since Jan. 10, 1994, when Eastern lost at home, 69-65. The Eagles lost the previous three meetings against the Thunderbirds -- Eastern lost in Cedar City 87-67 on Feb. 17, 1993, 70-68 in Cheney on Dec. 21, 1993 and 71-50 in Cedar City on Dec. 28, 1993.
EWU vs. Northern Arizona Series Notes
* Since Eastern became a member of NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season, the Eagles are 27-34 versus Northern Arizona, including an 8-21 record in Flagstaff, Ariz., 18-12 in Cheney and 1-1 on neutral courts. Eastern trails in the all-time series 27-35 (8-21 in Flagstaff, 18-12 in Cheney, 1-2 neutral). The only meeting before Eastern became a member of NCAA Division I was an 84-80 NAU victory on Dec. 20, 1969, in Fresno, Calif.
* A year ago, Eastern lost in Flagstaff 84-65 before winning by the same score in Cheney a month later. The Eagles have lost 11 of the last 19 meetings, including eight of the last 10 games played in Flagstaff. In winning two games versus NAU in the 2000-2001 season, Eastern swept the regular season meetings with the Lumberjacks for the first time in 10 years. Eastern duplicated that feat in 2003 and 2004, and again in 2012 and 2013.
* Eastern had won six-straight games against the Lumberjacks and nine of the last 11 until falling 77-64 in Flagstaff on Feb. 5, 2005. The Lumberjacks beat EWU 105-95 on Jan. 5, 2006, in a game in which Eastern's Rodney Stuckey scored a school-record 45 points.
* The Eagles used the same starting lineup for 15 of their first 17 games this 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 has been forced to use five different lineups in the eight games since. Harvey, the leading scorer in NCAA Division I, missed three games and then was just 5-of-15 from the field (2-of-12 from the 3-point stripe) in his first game back on Feb. 14 in a 68-66 loss to Portland State. 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.
* The Eagles are now 19-6 overall, just one victory from equaling their 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.
* In three games without the leading scorer in NCAA Division I, Tyler Harvey (quadriceps contusion), Eastern used defense to help it to a trio of victories and back into first place in the league standings. In those three games, the Eagles allowed an average of just 60.3 points per game on sub-40 percent shooting from the field. Opponents made 63-of-160 (39.4 percent), and were 31-of-71 from the 3-point stripe (43.7 percent). Eastern also forced an average of 16.7 turnovers per game, scoring 35 points off a total of 50 miscues. The Eagles beat Montana, Montana State and Sacramento State in consecutive games, before falling to Portland State 68-66 on Feb. 14.
* With the football team setting school and Big Sky Conference records in scoring at "The Inferno" at Roos Field this past fall, the hoops team is just as prolific on offense. The Eagles are averaging 80.6 points per game to lead the league and rank fifth in NCAA Division I, led by the nation's top individual scorer in junior Tyler Harvey (23.4 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.
* The Eagles are just two Big Sky wins from the school record for league wins in a season, set in 1999-00 when the Eagles were 12-4, which included a 5-2 start followed by six-straight victories. Eastern's 10-1 start in the league this 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.
* In NCAA Division I statistics through games of Feb. 15, the Eagles are ranked fifth in scoring offense (80.6 per game), fifth in 3-pointers made per game (10.0) and 21st in blocked shots (5.3 per game). Eastern leads the league in all three categories. The Eagles are also 16th nationally and second in the Big Sky in field goal percentage (48.4 percent), fifth/second in 3-point field goal percentage (41.3 percent), 30th/third in the league in free throw percentage (73.8 percent), 55th/2nd in assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.21 per game) and are 33rd/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 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 19th 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.
* Now 12-1 at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash., the Eagles have recorded their most victories 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). 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). Eastern defeated defending Big Sky Champion and preseason favorite Weber State (84-78) at home to open the league season. 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 .780. Among those with enough attempts to qualify, Tyler Harvey (94.1), Drew Brandon (86.0) and Bogdan Bliznyuk (78.9) are ranked 1-3-13 in the league, respectively. Overall, Eastern is third in the league and 30th in NCAA Division I at 73.8 percent, with Harvey ranking 23rd nationally and leading the league (87.3). Brandon (third, 84.7), Bliznyuk (80.9), Sir Washington (81.8) and Parker Kelly (78.9) 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 10-2 when they out-rebound or equal opponents, 12-0 when they have at least 36 rebounds and 12-2 when they hold opponents to 35 or less. In addition, Eastern is 12-3 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 8-1 when allowing 70 or less.
* The Eagles have 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.
* A 104-87 victory over Eastern Oregon on Nov. 30 gave EWU head coach Jim Hayford an even 300 victories in 16 seasons as a collegiate head coach. He currently is 313-144 in 15-plus seasons as a head coach for a .685 winning percentage. He is 59-60 in 3+ seasons at EWU, was 217-57 at Whitworth and was 37-27 in two seasons at Sioux Falls.
Eagle Player Notes
* In NCAA statistics through Feb. 15, Tyler Harvey leads NCAA Division I in both scoring offense (23.4 points per game) and 3-pointers per game (4.23). The junior guard is also fourth in 3-point shooting percentage (45.8 percent) and 23rd in free throw percentage (.873). Venky Jois, who has missed four full games and parts of two others with a sprained ankle, is 113th in per game scoring (16.4), 14th in field goal percentage (59.0 percent) and 31st in blocked shots per game (2.60). Drew Brandon is 44th in assists (5.0), 45th in assist-to-turnover ratio (+2.42 per game) and 54th in free throw percentage (.847).
* 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. He returned versus Portland State on Feb. 14 and scored 22 points thanks to perfect 10-of-10 free throw shooting, but he was only 5-of-15 from the field (2-of-13 from the 3-point stripe) in the 68-66 loss. In EWU's first two games of its 3-0 home stand in January, 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 the Los Angeles Times, Yahoo! Sports, Slam! Magazine and SB Nation.
* 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 3.3 rebounds. Also, senior point guard Drew Brandon is averaging 9.9 points, 5.0 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 121-to-50. Harvey is averaging 18.1 points, 2.4 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game in his 74-game career thus far (57 as a starter), making 225-of-508 3-point attempts for 44.3 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 5.1 assists, 10.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game in his 54-game career (53 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 199 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 116-game career (70 as a starter), he is averaging 8.2 points on 41.4 percent shooting from the 3-point stripe and an impressive free throw percentage of .838. Also EWU's top defender, he averaged 10.0 points and 34.5 minutes per game in the 2013-14 season and is averaging 8.8 points and 33.0 minutes this year while battling nagging foot and groin injuries.
* True freshman Bogdan Bliznyuk has provided a boost off the bench during league play, and in the process has established himself as the frontrunner for the Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year honor won two seasons ago by Eagle Venky Jois. Bliznyuk is averaging 25.3 minutes, 12.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists during the team's 10-2 start to league play. He's made a team-best 58.3 percent of his shots (56-of-96) in those 12 games and has converted 30-of-38 free throws (78.9 percent). Four times during league play he eclipsed his career high for scoring, and three times for rebounding. He had 19 points and 10 rebounds at Sacramento State when he had the first double-double of his Eastern career. At one point he had seven-straight double-figure scoring performance. For the season, Bliznyuk is averaging 7.8 points, 4.0 rebounds and 17.6 minutes.
* Senior point guard Drew Brandon had double-doubles in four games during a five-game stretch in late January and early February – 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 5.1 that trails the 8.4 average of Ed Waters (1974-77).
* Junior Tyler Harvey has now averaged 21.7 points per game in his last 61 games as an Eagle after averaging 1.3 points in his first 13 outings. In fact, his one-year improvement of 14.1 points per game from his freshman to sophomore seasons ranked third in the nation. In EWU's last eight games of the 2012-13 season, 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 as a freshman, Harvey scored just 17 points (by contrast, in the first 13 games in the 2013-14 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. As a sophomore, he averaged 21.9 points and 37.4 minutes in starting all 31 EWU games.
* In a three-game stretch from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11, Venky Jois made 23-of-27 free throws for 85.1 percent, but in the other games he's played, he's made 43-of-93 (46.2 percent), including just 12 of his first 33 (36 percent). He made 71.2 percent from the line as a freshman (89-of-125), 52.8 percent as a sophomore (94-of-178) and thus far is at 55.0 percent (66-of-120) as a junior. He sank all eight of his shots from the charity line against Eastern Oregon on Nov. 30 and then made 12-of-15 at Seattle on Dec. 6 and 3-of-4 against San Francisco on Dec. 11.
* Bit by injuries this season and still managing to win 19 of 25 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.
Eagle Records Watch
* Tyler Harvey is climbing EWU's single season 3-pointers list, with 93 this season to rank third in school history. Harvey holds the school record with 109 a year ago (second in league history), and Shannon Taylor made 103 in the 1998-99 season. Earlier this season, Harvey broke the school record for career 3-pointers made, with a current total of 225 to eclipse the previous record of 184 set by Marc Axton (2002-05). His 508 attempts is also a record, breaking the previous mark of 499 by Axton. Harvey is the 17th player in Big Sky Conference history to make at least 200 and is currently 12th in league history (10 away from ranking 11th). He is currently the school record holder for career free throw percentage (85.4 percent), and is third for career scoring average (18.1) and third in 3-point shooting accuracy (44.3 percent). Harvey has had 36 performances in his career with at least 20 points and 10 with at least 30, and has scored in double figures in 33-straight games (total of 59).
* Parker Kelly is now just 47 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 953 career points, he is eighth in school history in 3-point percentage (41.4 percent), second in 3-pointers made (199) and third in attempts (481). Kelly could set the school record for games played when his four-year career ends later this season (he has 116 to rank fourth in school history and the record is 121). Kelly's 83.8 percent shooting from the free throw line in his career would rank third in school history (teammate Tyler Harvey currently holds the record at 85.4 percent) if he had enough attempts to qualify (he has 198 and needs 232).
* 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
* The league-leading Eagles were outscored 42-34 in the second half by Portland State and fell to the hot-shooting Vikings 68-66 Feb. 14 at Reese Court. 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 (2-of-12 from the 3-point stripe). 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. Senior Parker Kelly scored 14 points with a pair of 3-pointers, and sophomore Ognjen Miljkovic scored 12 points on 4-of-12 shooting. The Eagles led 38-32 with 17:18 left on a basket by 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. 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. The loss was the first time in nine games the Eagles lost when allowing 70 points or less.
* 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 Southern Utah: "Coach (Nick) Robinson has really worked hard to build this T-Bird team. They play as hard as anyone in the league, they have camaraderie and they support one another. They are a team. When you look at the development process they have gone through as a program, you can see a team ready to finish their season strong. We have great respect for them."
On Juggling Lineups Since Jan. 15: "We have been through a tough five weeks of injuries and switching lineups. We really need to just get the guys who will play in the games together playing in practice. This is the biggest key for us right now in our improvement as a team."
On Portland State Loss: "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. I think that our injuries and not having people practicing together probably caught up with us a little bit. 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. As much as it hurts to lose, I think we need to credit Portland State -- they went out and won the 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 Friday (Feb. 13) 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 against Portland State than I should have."
On Defense After Win 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 Injuries, With Freshman Bogdan Bilznyuk the Only Eagle to Play in Every EWU Game: "I don't know what has happened with other teams, but I do know that our injuries have tested us a lot. Fortunately, we haven't had a game fully healthy all season. If we can get all of our players healthy down the stretch, the added minutes and different roles each player has had to play will only make us better."
On Tyler's Harvey's 39-Point Performance Against Weber State: "The great thing about Tyler is all he wants is to win. He was just the right voice in every huddle. He is obviously a very special player."
On Tyler Harvey Breaking Marc Axton's Career 3-Pointers Record With 8 Treys on Dec. 22: "It was a very special night for Tyler. He is playing very well, and with a lot of confidence while staying within himself. I think he showed again why he is a very, very special player. The thing about Tyler is he works that hard, he is in the gym that much, and reps that much. He never has questioned it. That sets an example for the rest of the guys in the program. That hard work really pays off. He is just a great example of what you have to do be the best that you can be."
On 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."