Eastern hopes to return to Reese Court for the postseason, but protecting its home court is paramount for EWU to achieve that goal
Thursday, February 26 - Reese Court (5,000) - Cheney, Wash.
6:05 p.m. Pacific - Eastern Washington (20-7/11-3 Big Sky) versus Montana State (7-20/4-11 Big Sky)
Saturday, February 28 -Reese Court (5,000) - Cheney, Wash.
2:05 p.m. Pacific - Eastern Washington versus Montana (16-10/12-3 Big Sky - at Idaho 2/26)
TV: None for MSU game; UM 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).
If the Eastern Washington University men's basketball team hopes to keep playing at Reese Court, the Eagles need to finish strong at Reese Court.
The race to the regular season title in the Big Sky Conference comes down to four teams and two weekends for all the marbles, with 11-3 Eastern currently a scant 1/2 game out of first place in the league standings (Sacramento State, Montana at 12-3), and just a single game ahead of the fourth-place team (Northern Arizona at 10-4).
Montana State and Montana visit Cheney, Wash., this week in rematch of an Eagle road sweep earlier this month. The Bobcats visit Thursday (Feb. 26) for a game that begins at 6:05 p.m. Pacific time, then Eastern hosts the Grizzlies on Senior Day on Saturday (Feb. 28) in a game that begins at 2:05 p.m. and is televised regionally by SWX.
Now 20-7 on the season, the Eagles are 12-1 this season at Reese Court. But EWU stumbled the last time they played there by falling to Portland State 68-66 on Feb. 14. Eastern rebounded to beat Southern Utah 78-75 on Feb. 19, but two days later fell to NAU to drop out of first place.
Eastern has already wrapped up one of eight berths in the Big Sky Conference Tournament on March 12-14 at the site of the regular season champion. Eastern closes the regular season when they play at Idaho State on March 5 and Weber State on March 7. Last year, the Eagles were 15-16 overall and missed the Big Sky Conference Tournament with a 10-10 league mark.
"I keep hearing that these are the biggest games Eastern has played in a long time, so that means our team is doing very well," said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. "I'm glad about that and we are hoping for great crowd support again. We are 12-1 at home and like being able to defend our home court during the stretch run of conference play."
Sacramento State's remaining games are road games at Portland State, Southern Utah and NAU. The Grizzlies play at Idaho and EWU, then end the regular season at Montana State. The Lumberjacks host Portland State and Sacramento State, then play at Northern Colorado.
Head-to-head is the first tiebreaker in the league. Earlier this season, Eastern defeated Montana, split with Sac State and lost to NAU. Besides its split with EWU, Sac State beat NAU in the first meeting and knocked off Montana in the lone meeting between those two schools. The Grizzlies won in their lone meeting this season against NAU, and also lost to Sac State and EWU. Northern Arizona is 0-1 versus Sac State and 0-1 against Montana, but was victorious in the lone meeting against EWU this season.
"It's great to be in the thick of a conference championship race," said Hayford. "As you look around, both we and Northern Arizona have two home games and two away games, and the other two contenders each have three on the road. So I like our schedule of remaining games, but the main thing I like is our team – we are getting healthy and better. Another good week of practices with everybody together is going to help make us even more cohesive."
Montana State enters Thursday's game just 7-20 overall and 4-11 in the league, but the Bobcats have won three of their last four games – including a pair on the road -- since falling 61-51 to EWU on Feb. 7. The lone loss for MSU in that span was a 74-71 loss to defending champion and preseason favorite Weber State. The Grizzlies enter their game Thursday at Idaho with a 16-10 overall mark.
"We have our hands full and are looking forward to the challenge," added Hayford. "Montana State has really rallied and is playing well these last few weeks. And Montana is a solid program with a well-coached team."
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 Bud Withers of the Seattle Times: http://www.seattletimes.com/sports/college/how-tyler-harvey-the-nations-leading-scorer-found-his-way-to-eastern-washington/
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
* 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. The Eagles led most of the game in beating Montana 75-69 on Feb. 5 before coming from behind to win at Montana State 61-51 two days later.
EWU vs. Montana State Series Notes
* Eastern has won six of the last seven meetings against MSU, including a sweep last season with a 77-72 home win followed by a 79-50 road romp. Since Eastern became a member of NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season, the Eagles are 28-35 against Montana State (includes two MSU forfeits in the 1993-94 season). Since 1983-84, Eastern is 9-23 in Bozeman and 19-12 in Cheney against the Bobcats. EWU trails in the all-time series 35-43 (21-12 in Cheney, 11-28 in Bozeman, 3-3 neutral).
* Earlier this season in Bozeman, Eastern's defense came through in the second half to help EWU to a 61-51 victory over Montana State Feb. 7. Eastern went on a 17-3 run and held Montana State to 1-of-14 shooting during an 11-minute span in the second half to turn an eight-point deficit into a six-point advantage. The Eagles allowed the Bobcats just 17 points in the second half on 20 percent shooting, and gave up only six points in the final 15:13 of the game after MSU had taken a 45-37 lead. In completing EWU's first Big Sky Conference road sweep since 2004, senior point guard Drew Brandon had a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Junior Venky Jois made only 4-of-11 shots from the field, but finished with 13 points, six rebounds two assists and a steal in 28 minutes of action. Despite playing much of the game in foul trouble and playing the last 11:05 with four fouls, true freshman Bogdan Bliznyuk finished with 10 points and five rebounds in 26 minutes. Sophomore Ognjen Miljkovic scored 11 points and had five rebounds for the Eagles. But the Eagles struggled offensively with a season-low 35.1 percent shooting night, and just 26.7 percent (4-of-15) from the 3-point stripe for another season low. Eastern's previous low for scoring was 65 points. Four Eagles scored in double figures, led by Brandon's sixth double-double of the season and 11th in his career. He also made 7-of-8 free throws and had a career-high six steals to equal the 13th-best performance in school history.
* In the 2011-12 season, Eastern recorded a huge 82-66 road victory over the Bobcats in the first Big Sky Conference game in the head coaching career of Jim Hayford, then later in the year won in Cheney 69-52.
* Eastern has won 17 of the last 30 after winning just once in the previous 13 games (not counting two MSU forfeits).
EWU vs. Montana Series Notes
* Eastern is 19-47 against the Grizzlies since 1983-84, including an 8-26 record in Missoula, 11-19 in Cheney and 0-2 on neutral courts versus the Grizzlies, who lead the overall series 64-40. Until winning 75-69 earlier this season, the Eagles had lost their last 12 meetings in Missoula, dating back to a 71-52 Eagle win on Feb. 7, 2004. Eastern's 69-62 win at home last season snapped UM's five-game winning streak against EWU. Eastern has lost 13 of the last 17 meetings and 19 of the last 24, including both games last year and all three meetings in the 2011-12 season.
* Earlier this season in Missoula, senior point guard Drew Brandon equaled his career high with 27 points to lead EWU to a 75-69 victory over the Grizzlies on Feb. 5 at Dahlberg Arena. Winning the game with defense, the Eagles led for 36:10 of the game – compared to just 2:22 for the Grizzlies -- en route to ending a 12-game losing streak to the Grizzlies in Missoula. Junior Venky Jois finished with 12 points, nine rebounds, two blocked shots and equaled his career highs with seven assists and four steals. With Tyler Harvey sidelined with a quadriceps contusion, sophomore Felix Von Hofe made his second start of the season and second of his career. He finished with 12 points, just two off of his previous career high set against a non-Division I opponent. Eastern held the Grizzlies scoreless for stretches of 3:06, 3:19 and 3:50 during the contest. The Eagles used a pair of scoring runs and seven first-half 3-pointers to take a 33-29 lead at halftime, with Parker Kelly leading the way with a trio of 3-pointers and nine points. Eastern led early 9-0, then were ahead 22-17. After Eastern went 2:50 without scoring and fell behind 26-22, the Eagles responded with an 8-0 run to end the half in holding Montana without a point in the final 3:19. Tied at 52, Eastern held Montana scoreless for a 3:50 stretch to take a 59-52 lead. Shortly after that, Drew Brandon followed a steal and layin with a dunk down the middle of the key to give the Eagles a 63-54 advantage with 6:42 to play. The Eagles and Grizzlies combined for 24 3-pointers after entering the game with the most in the league. Eastern was 11-of-24 while the Grizzlies were 13-of-24. Eastern made 51 percent of its shots from the field and held Montana's two leading scorers – Martin Breunig and Jordan Gregory – to a combined 21 points on 6-of-24 shooting (25 percent). They both entered the game averaging more than 17 points per game.
* The Eagles and Grizzlies have played in two exciting overtime games in the last nine seasons. Eastern's 59-55 home victory over Montana in 2011 helped clinch a postseason berth for the Eagles and, in the process, kept the Grizzlies from clinching at least a share of the league title. In the 2005-06 season, Eastern lost 73-71 to Montana in overtime in the Big Sky Conference Tournament in Flagstaff, Ariz. Eastern trailed by 14 before a late 10-0 run put Eastern back into the game. But Eagle freshman Rodney Stuckey missed a potential game-winning shot at the buzzer to end regulation. Montana then went on a 6-0 run in overtime to end Eastern's season.
* Eastern is 0-4 versus Montana in the Big Sky Conference Tournament, including in 2002 when the fifth-seeded Grizzlies upset second-seeded EWU 70-66. Also included in the series history was an 81-75 victory in Missoula to end the 1998-99 season that clinched the sixth and final berth in the Big Sky Conference Tournament for the Eagles. That victory snapped Eastern's eight-game losing streak in Missoula. Also, a 77-75 Eagle home loss at the end of the 1999-2000 regular season kept EWU from hosting the league tournament and gave Montana a share of the Big Sky title in front of 5,426 fans at Reese Court in Cheney. The Eagles had taken a 12-point lead with 8:06 to play in the second half, but went the next 6:21 without scoring. During Montana's 17-0 run, the Eagles missed 10-straight field goal attempts while the Grizzlies made 6-of-7 shots. The loss was Eastern's first in eight conference home games. Montana made 4-of-6 free throws in the last 23 seconds to clinch the win and hold off Eastern's comeback attempt that included a trio of three-pointers in the last 1:45.
* 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 is a perfect 5-0 thus far in football and men's basketball games against the Bobcats and Grizzlies. Last season, EWU was 5-for-5 until suffering an 82-77 road loss to Montana. Until last season, Eastern had never won more than four of the six meetings in any previous season, and the only time EWU has gone 4-0 against UM and MSU on the court came in 1990.
* Earlier this 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 55 weekends of action – has EWU swept the Montana schools home or away.
* Regaining its shooting eye is of importance for the Eagles, who were ranked eighth in NCAA Division I just five games ago (currently 25th). In its last three games, the Eagles have made only 40.0 percent overall from the field and 29.3 percent (22-of-75) from the 3-point stripe. After having season-lows at home for shooting percentage overall (38.2 percent) and from the 3-point stripe (28.0 percent) in a loss to Portland State, Eastern made 43 percent from the field, including 7-of-18 from the 3-point stripe (38.9 percent) in a three-point win at Southern Utah on Feb. 19. Eastern then had percentages of 38.3/25.0 percent two days later in a loss at Northern Arizona. After making 51.0 percent from the field and 11-of-24 3-pointers in a win at Montana on Feb. 5, the Eagles ranked eighth nationally at 49.4 percent, and were third in 3-point accuracy at 41.9 percent. Eastern is now 25th nationally in field goal shooting (47.8 percent) and is 12th in 3-point shooting (40.5 percent). Eastern is 16-1 this season when making at least 45.0 percent of its shots and 4-6 in the 10 games it has shot under that mark, and is a perfect 17-0 when out-shooting opponents from the field.
* 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 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 this season. A loss at NAU two days later dropped them to 12-5.
* The Eagles are now 20-7 overall, 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. Now in its 107th season of basketball, Eastern had 14 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).
* The Eagles are just one league victory from the school record for Big Sky 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.
* 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 80.1 points per game to lead the league and rank seventh in NCAA Division I, led by the nation's top individual scorer in junior Tyler Harvey (22.8 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.
• In NCAA Division I statistics through games of Feb. 22, the Eagles are ranked seventh in scoring offense (80.1 per game), fifth in 3-pointers made per game (9.8) and 21st in blocked shots (5.2 per game). Eastern leads the league in all three categories. The Eagles are also 25th nationally and third in the Big Sky in field goal percentage (47.8 percent), 12th/third in 3-point field goal percentage (40.5 percent), 31st/third in the league in free throw percentage (73.6 percent), 64th/4th in assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.20 per game) and are 30th/2nd in fewest turnovers per game (10.9).
* Eastern was ranked 14th in last week's Collegeinsider.com mid-major poll. EWU was ranked a season-high 12th in the 12th the previous two weeks (Feb. 9 and Feb. 2), and 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. The next poll will be announced the afternoon of Feb. 23.
* Eastern's marksmanship in league play from the free throw line has been impressive, with a current league-leading percentage of .770. Among those with enough attempts to qualify, Tyler Harvey (92.6 percent), Drew Brandon (81.7) and Bogdan Bliznyuk (77.3) are ranked 1-7-14 in the league, respectively. Overall, Eastern is third in the league and 31st in NCAA Division I at 73.6 percent overall, with Harvey ranking 25th nationally and leading the league (87.0). Brandon (sixth, 81.7), Sir Washington (81.8), Parker Kelly (79.5) and Bliznyuk (79.2) 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 10-1 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 13-4 when forcing more/equal turnovers and 12-2 when it has 10 or less turnovers. The Eagles are also 17-2 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 314-145 in 15-plus seasons as a head coach for a .684 winning percentage. He is 60-61 in 3+ seasons at EWU, was 217-57 at Whitworth and was 37-27 in two seasons at Sioux Falls.
Eagle Player Notes
* A year after not having a "Senior Day" because the Eagles were senior-less, Eastern will honor three Eagles playing in their final regular season home game of the season on Saturday (Feb. 28). The trio of Parker Kelly, Drew Brandon and Garrett Moon have combined for 323 games of experience (128 starts) for EWU, with Kelly playing four seasons and Brandon and Moon transferring from junior colleges.
* Senior Parker Kelly is the top 3-point shooter in EWU history not named Tyler Harvey. Kelly has 201 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's 201 treys ranks 18th in Big Sky Conference history, and he is now just 38 points from becoming the 19th player in EWU history – and third this season – to go over the 1,000-point mark in his career. The 2011 graduate of Spokane's Gonzaga Prep High School could set the school record for games played when his four-year career ends later this season (the record is 121). In his 118-game career (72 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 .839. Also EWU's top defender, he averaged 10.0 points and 34.5 minutes per game in the 2013-14 season and is averaging 8.4 points and 33.0 minutes this year while battling nagging foot and groin injuries.
* Senior point guard Drew Brandon has had four double-doubles during league play – including two near triple-doubles to come the closest to achieving that feat in school history. 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 is averaging 9.7 points, 5.0 assists, 1.8 steals and a team-leading 7.0 rebounds per outing while battling a broken finger and a season-long bout with back spasms, and has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 129-to-52. Brandon is averaging 5.0 assists, 10.1 points and 6.7 rebounds per game in his 56-game career (55 as a starter) with eight double-figure assist performances, nine in rebounding and 32 in scoring (two with at least 20 when he scored 27 each in huge road victories this season at Indiana and Montana). Brandon has the second-best assist average in school history, a mark of 5.0 that trails the 8.4 average of Ed Waters (1974-77). A transfer from Sierra College in California, Brandon is from Corona, Calif., and is a 2010 graduate of Santiago High School.
* Senior Garrett Moon has seen his minutes increase in recent games, and is averaging 8.8 minutes, 1.8 points, 1.8 rebounds and 0.9 blocked shots during league play. He equaled his career high with eight points at Portland State on Jan. 15, had a career-high five blocks on Feb. 12 versus Sacramento State and then had a career high 10 rebounds two days later versus PSU. In his career, he has 20 blocked shots in 49 career games (one start), to go along with averages of 6.8 minutes, 1.4 points and 1.4 rebounds per game. He transferred to EWU from City College of San Francisco, and is a 2010 graduate of Wallenberg High School in San Francisco.
* National award candidate Tyler Harvey, the leading scorer in NCAA Division I, has struggled shooting the ball since missing three games with a quadriceps contusion. In his last three games, he has made only 6-of-29 3-point shots (20.7 percent), and 14-of-50 overall (28.0 percent). He 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, then was 3-of-16 overall (1-of-4) in a 78-75 win at Southern Utah. He scored a team-high 22 in a loss at Northern Arizona, but was just 6-of-19 from the field (3-of-13 from the arc). He still leads NCAA Division I in scoring (22.8) and 3-pointers per game (4.04), but has slipped to 11th in 3-point accuracy (44.1 percent). Harvey is one of 16 Finalists for the Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year and is on the watch list for the Lou Henson Award given to the nation's top mid-major player. He suffered a quadriceps contusion in the first half against Idaho on Jan. 31 and sat out the three games after that. Prior to the injury, 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.
* Junior Venky Jois finished with 22 points at Southern Utah on Feb. 19 for his highest scoring output in exactly two months since scoring 23 versus Cal on Dec. 19. He made 8-of-12 shots from the field and 6-of-8 from the free throw line. EWU's first two league losses this season came when Jois has been held out because of a sprained ankle. He missed the PSU game on Feb. 14 after aggravating his injury in EWU's victory over Sacramento State two days earlier. He had missed the previous game in January versus Sac State as well as two other full games and parts of two others.
• In NCAA statistics through Feb. 22, Tyler Harvey leads NCAA Division I in both scoring offense (22.8 points per game) and 3-pointers per game (4.04). The junior guard is also 11th in 3-point shooting percentage (44.1 percent) and 25th in free throw percentage (.870). Venky Jois, who has missed four full games and parts of two others with a sprained ankle, is 100th in per game scoring (16.6), 12th in field goal percentage (59.2 percent) and 31st in blocked shots per game (2.48). Drew Brandon is 48th in assists (5.0), 35th in assist-to-turnover ratio (+2.48 per game) and 105th in free throw percentage (.817).
* Three Eagles – all underclassmen -- are averaging at least 10.7 points per game this season, paced by the 22.8 average of junior guard Tyler Harvey and the 16.6 average of junior forward Venky Jois. Jois is also averaging 6.8 rebounds, 2.5 blocked shots, 2.2 assists and 1.0 steals per game, and sophomore forward Ognjen Miljkovic is averaging 10.7 points and 3.2 rebounds. Harvey is averaging 18.1 points, 2.4 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game in his 76-game career thus far (59 as a starter), making 220-of-525 3-point attempts for 43.6 percent. Jois has 21 double-doubles in his 82-game career (80 as a starter), and is averaging 13.9 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.0 steals and 2.1 blocked shots per game in his career. Miljkovic is averaging 21.6 minutes, 9.6 points and 3.3 rebounds in his 51-game Eastern career (32 as a starter).
* 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 25.6 minutes, 12.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists in league play. He's made a team-best 58.9 percent of his shots (66-of-112) in those 14 games and has converted 34-of-44 free throws (77.3 percent). Ten of his 12 double-figure scoring performances this season have come during the Big Sky season. 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 8.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 18.3 minutes.
* Junior Tyler Harvey has now averaged 21.5 points per game in his last 63 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 54-of-108 (50.0 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 57.0 percent (77-of-135) 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 97 this season to rank third in school history and eighth all-time in the Big Sky. 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 229 to eclipse the previous record of 184 set by Marc Axton (2002-05). His 525 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 (six 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 fourth in 3-point shooting accuracy (43.6 percent). Harvey has had 37 performances in his career with at least 20 points and 10 with at least 30, and has scored in double figures in 35-straight games (total of 61). His career total of 1,373 points is seventh in school history.
* Parker Kelly is now just 38 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 962 career points, he is eighth in school history in 3-point percentage (41.4 percent), second in 3-pointers made (201) and third in attempts (486). Kelly could set the school record for games played when his four-year career ends later this season (he has 118 to rank third in school history and the record is 121). Kelly's 83.9 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 199 and needs 236).
* 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 1,142 to rank 13th. He continues to add to his career record for blocked shots, and now has 172 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 57 blocks this season (third), 49 last season (fifth) and 66 as a freshman (second). His 13.90 scoring average is currently 12th and his 8.0 rebounding average is eighth. Jois has had 13 performances in his career with at least 20 points and two with at least 30, and has 11 career double-doubles.
Recent Game Recaps
* Eastern rallied from a 10-point deficit in the second half, but missed its last five shots and Northern Arizona scored the final five points of the game at the free throw line to beat EWU 73-69 in a Big Sky Conference showdown Feb. 21 at the Walkup Skydome in Flagstaff, Ariz. The game featured 17 lead changes (a season high for EWU) and 11 ties. The trio of Tyler Harvey, Venky Jois and Bogdan Bliznyuk combined for 53 of EWU's 69 points, but Eastern couldn't overcome 38.3 percent shooting from the field and 25 percent marksmanship from the 3-point arc (8-of-32). After an 8-0 run rallied EWU from a 10-point deficit in the second half, the Eagles made 4-of-6 three-pointers to regain a 60-59 lead with 6:16 left. Harvey hit the first two triples, then Parker Kelly and Bilznyuk each made one. Eastern, however, was just 4-of-20 from the arc prior to that point and only 0-of-6 after that surge. The Eagles took their final lead of the game at 69-68 with 3:15 to play, but EWU missed its last five shots, including a trio of open 3-pointers. Harvey had his 17th 20-point performance of the season and 37th of his career with 22 points, but made only 3-of-13 shots from beyond the 3-point arc. He was 3-of-6 from inside the arc and sank 7-of-9 free throws. True freshman Bliznyuk came off the bench to score 16 for the Eagles on 6-of-11 shooting from the field and 3-of-4 from the free throw line. He also had a team-high six rebounds. Jois played only 28 minutes before fouling out with 2:21 to play, but made 5-of-9 shots from the field and 5-of-7 free throws to finish with 15 points. Senior point guard Drew Brandon chipped in five points, six rebounds, three steals, two assists and two blocked shots, but was also in foul trouble and played 30 minutes.
* Led by Venky Jois and six free throws in the final 36 seconds, Eastern defeated Southern Utah 78-75 on Feb. 19 in Cedar City, Utah, to clinch a berth in the Big Sky Conference Tournament for the Eagles after a two-year hiatus. The win, Eastern's fifth in six tries on the road in the Big Sky this season, helped improve EWU to 11-2 in the Big Sky and 20-6 overall. Jois, who missed EWU's previous game because of nagging ankle injury, scored 22 points for the Eagles in his highest scoring game since Dec. 19. The Eagles sank 6-of-8 free throws in the final 36 seconds to hold-off SUU, which made 52 percent of its shots and was coming off a pair of road wins of its own. Eastern forced 15 Southern Utah turnovers and equaled a season-high with 10 steals. The Eagles had a 25-10 advantage in points off turnovers and were guilty of only seven turnovers themselves, equaling its best performance since having a season-low five versus Eastern Oregon in November. In a see-saw game of runs that included five ties and four lead changes, Southern Utah rallied from a 10-point second half deficit to take a 61-58 lead with 8:49 to play. But EWU held the Thunderbirds scoreless for the next five minutes and without a field goal for 6:33. The Eagles took the lead for good on a layup by Felix Von Hofe at the 4:12 mark. Baskets by Jois (3:16) and Bogdan Bliznyuk (:42), as well as free throws, helped EWU maintain the advantage. Von Hofe came off the bench to score nine points in the first half and finished with 11. He made a pair of 3-pointers and was 4-of-6 from the field overall. Bliznyuk also had a big game off the bench, making 4-of-5 shots from the field to finish with 11 points and seven rebounds. Senior point guard Drew Brandon had six assists and finished with 10 points, but was just 2-of-7 from the field and made 6-of-10 free throws. A pair of late free throws by junior Tyler Harvey extended his string of scoring in double figures to 33. He finished with 11 points, but made just 3-of-16 shots from the field (1-of-4 from the 3-point stripe).
Quoting Coach Hayford
On Battling NAU to the Wire: "I'm really proud of our team for fighting and battling back to get the lead. For it to be a one-possession game at the end showed that we were able to battle. We had some key guys for us have hard games offensively. It was just a really, really good basketball game, and that's why it came right down to the end. It was a great atmosphere – we just weren't on the side we want to be on."
On Last Two Minutes Versus NAU: "We didn't make winning plays in the last two minutes when it really mattered. We had great fight to get in that position and we got some great looks, and that's part of basketball. But we have to make those shots. They weren't bad shots – they were wide-open shots. If we make one of those, the lead is ours and the pressure shifts. They just made one or two more plays than we did, and they get credit for the win."
On SUU Win: "One of our goals for this team this season was to be a 20-win team. I'm really happy the team hit that mark, and we still can improve on that. Road wins are a special commodity. We played Southern Utah while they were playing at their best – they were playing inspired and really shot the ball really well. It was a great win."
On Finding Ways to Win: "When you have a 20-win season, which means your team is finding ways to win. In the second half (against SUU) we did a really good job of holding our scout and knowing their plays. And that was the difference because they out-rebounded us and they out-shot us. We had some guys who really struggled, but we forced turnovers and we had that big lead in the second half. We needed every bit of that cushion because they came back and took the lead on us. And Venky was very, very special down the stretch."