Tied in the loss column with 9-1 Sac State, second-place Eagles are at third-place Montana on Thursday before visiting MSU Saturday
Thursday, February 5 - Dahlberg Arena (7,322) - Missoula, Montana
6:05 p.m. Pacific - Eastern Washington (16-5/7-1 Big Sky at Montana (11-9/7-2 Big Sky)
Saturday, February 7 - Worthington Arena (4,500) - Bozeman, Montana
1:35 p.m. Pacific - Eastern Washington at Montana State (4-17/1-8 Big Sky - host UI 2/5)
Shows take place at the Swinging Doors in Spokane at 6 p.m. Mondays through March 9. They feature head coach Jim Hayford and host Larry Weir. The Swinging Doors is located at W. 1018 Francis in Spokane. Shows are broadcast on 700-AM ESPN, www.700espn.com & via iphone app. (search for "Spokane Radio" and download app).
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: Montana CLICK HERE; Montana State CLICK HERE; ewustats.com (EWU home games).
With the top four teams in the Big Sky Conference standings unbeaten at home in league play, road breakthroughs become the key for the Eastern Washington University men's basketball team as it continues to chase fellow one-loss foe Sacramento State.
The 7-1 Eagles get their chance at road wins this Thursday (Feb. 5) and Saturday (Feb. 7) when Eastern plays at Montana and Montana State, respectively. Thursday's game versus the 7-2 Grizzlies in Missoula, Mont., is 6:05 p.m. Pacific time, and Saturday's match-up versus the Bobcats in Bozeman starts at 1:35 p.m. Pacific time.
The Eagles will be looking to end a 12-game losing streak in Missoula against the Grizzlies. Montana is 11-9 overall this season under first-year head coach Travis DeCuire, and feature a pair of players averaging at least 17 points per game in 6-foot-8 Martin Breunig (17.4) and 6-2 Jordan Gregory (17.0).
"I am very impressed by the Montana team," said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. "They defend well and play with passion. They have multiple scorers in their offense. Coach DeCuire is doing a great job and their team is improving every week. They have our respect."
Eastern has played two fewer games thus far than 9-1 Sac State, which has already had three road victories to go along with a 6-0 home mark. Eastern is 2-1 on the road and 5-0 at home, while the Grizzlies are also unbeaten in five tries at home and have split their four road games. Montana nearly pulled off another when they lost 70-69 on Jan. 31 at Sacramento State on a 3-pointer with six seconds to play by Dylan Garrity.
Northern Arizona (5-3) also has three road breakthroughs this season, while EWU, Montana and Northern Colorado (6-3) have two each. The Bears, who EWU defeated 95-85 on Jan. 22, are 4-0 at home.
For Hayford, keeping teams behind them in the league standings is the best way to keep focusing on the game at hand. But he's doing it with an lineup ravaged by injuries at various times this season, most recently suffered by his team's leading scorers Tyler Harvey (quadriceps contusion) and Venky Jois (ankle sprain).
"We have a banged up team right now -- lots of tape and ice everywhere," he said. "But we also have strong hearts and courageous souls with a strong mindset that are injury free."
"I am not really looking at places as much as what can we do to put the team we are playing behind us in the race," he said. "There are teams that have played two more games than us. We care about who is the next team we play and what do we have to do to put them behind us. That is kind of what we are thinking on the whole thing."
With eight victories in their last 10 games after a thrilling 98-95 overtime victory against Idaho, the Eagles improved to 16-5 on the season and equaled their best start as a member of the Big Sky Conference with a 7-1 league mark. Last year, the Eagles were 15-16 overall and missed the Big Sky Conference Tournament with a 10-10 league mark.
Eastern was ranked 13th in last week's Collegeinsider.com mid-major poll (the next poll comes out later on Feb. 2), and is a Big Sky-best 67th in the NCAA RPI rankings through games of Jan. 31. Sacramento State is the next league team at No. 146 followed by Montana at 204th. Montana State is 11th in the league and 333rd nationally.
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-
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
* With 10 league games left to play – six of them on the road – the Eagles play at Montana (Feb. 5) and Montana State (Feb. 7) this week. Following those games, Eastern returns home to face league-leader Sacramento State (Feb. 12) and Portland State (Feb. 14). 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.
EWU vs. Montana Series Notes
* Eastern is 18-47 against the Grizzlies since 1983-84, including a 7-26 record in Missoula, 11-19 in Cheney and 0-2 on neutral courts versus the Grizzlies, who lead the overall series 64-39. The Eagles have 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 16 meetings and 19 of the last 23, including both games last year and all three meetings in the 2011-12 season.
* 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.
EWU vs. Montana State Series Notes
* Eastern has won five of the last six 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 27-35 against Montana State (includes two MSU forfeits in the 1993-94 season). Since 1983-84, Eastern is 8-23 in Bozeman and 19-12 in Cheney against the Bobcats. EWU trails in the all-time series 34-43 (21-12 in Cheney, 10-28 in Bozeman, 3-3 neutral).
* 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 16 of the last 29 after winning just once in the previous 13 games (not counting two MSU forfeits). However, Eastern is just 8-10 against the Bobcats in the last 18 meetings, including losses in Bozeman in seven of the last nine meetings. Until a 75-73 triumph on Jan. 10, 2010, in Bozeman, the Eagles hadn't won in Bozeman since Feb. 5, 2004, in a 64-61 triumph. Later in the season on Feb. 12, 2010, Eastern won at home against the Bobcats 74-69 to complete EWU's first sweep over MSU since 2004.
* The Eagles scored 295 points in a three-game home sweep (98.3 per game) to move into third in NCAA Division I in scoring with an average of 83.3 per game (BYU leads with an 85.3 average). Eastern beat Idaho 98-95 in overtime, with Tyler Harvey and Venky Jois combining for just 20 of those points after entering the game with a combined average of more than double that (42.0). On Jan. 24, Eastern had a 67-point second half in a 102-80 victory against North Dakota that equaled the fifth-most points an Eastern team has scored against a NCAA Division I opponent in school history, and prior to that beat Northern Colorado 95-85.
* 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 83.3 points per game to rank third 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.
* Eastern's 7-1 start in the league equals the school's best after eight games in EWU's 28-year history as a member of the Big Sky Conference, and this week EWU will try to be just the second to improve to 8-1. 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 Jan. 31, the Eagles are ranked a season-high third in scoring offense (83.6 per game), 11th in field goal percentage (49.4 percent), fifth in 3-pointers made per game (10.3), 22nd in blocked shots (5.3 per game) and 36th in assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.29 per game). Eastern leads the league in all five categories. The Eagles are also 21st nationally and second in the league in free throw percentage (74.5 percent), fourth/second in 3-point field goal percentage (41.7 percent), and are 28th/2nd in fewest turnovers per game (10.8).
* Eastern was ranked a season-high 13th in the Collegeinsider.com mid-major poll released Jan. 26. EWU was 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. 2.
* Eastern's 16 victories already exceed the total of 15 the Eagles had all of last season, as the Eagles continue to chase the school record for NCAA Division I victories. 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 their 10th game of the 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 16th was on Feb. 8 and their 17th was on Feb. 10). 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 11-0 at Reese Court and have won those games by a combined 203 points (18.5 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.
* Eastern's marksmanship in league play from the free throw line has been impressive, with a current league-leading percentage of .818. Among those with enough attempts to qualify, Tyler Harvey (93.1 percent), Drew Brandon (86.2) and Bogdan Bliznyuk (78.1) are 1-3-12 in the league. Overall, Eastern is second in the league and 21st in NCAA Division I at 74.5 percent, with Harvey ranking 45th nationally and second in the league (86.1). Sir Washington (94.4) would rank ahead of Harvey if he had enough attempts to qualify, and Brandon (84.3), Bliznyuk (80.5) and Parker Kelly (79.4) also have impressive season percentages.
* Eastern is now 14-0 when it has a better shooting percentage than its opponent, 14-1 when making at least 45 percent of its shots and 8-0 when holding the opponent to less than 45 percent. The Eagles are also 10-1 when they out-rebound or equal opponents, 11-0 when they have at least 36 rebounds and 10-1 when they hold opponents to 35 or less. In addition, Eastern is 10-2 when forcing more/equal turnovers and 10-1 when it has 10 or less turnovers. The Eagles are also 15-2 when scoring 71 points or more and 5-0 when allowing 70 or less.
* The Eagles have now 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 310-143 in 15-plus seasons as a head coach for a .684 winning percentage. He is 56-59 in 3+ seasons at EWU, was 217-57 at Whitworth and was 37-27 in two seasons at Sioux Falls.
Eagle Player Notes
* Again coming close to the first triple-double in school history, senior point guard Drew Brandon was co-Big Sky Conference Player of the Week for nearly finishing with a triple-double in EWU's 98-95 overtime victory over Idaho on Jan. 31. It was the second time this season the league honored Brandon, who was also named the league's player of the week by College Sports Madness. With Tyler Harvey out of the game for the final 7:31, Brandon helped replace the lost offense and finished with 18 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds. He also had just one turnover in 44 minutes of action. He had a steal with 1:11 left that resulted in a basket that cut Idaho's lead to five, and also made a pair of free throws down the stretch before his game-tying driving layin at the buzzer sent the game into overtime. One game earlier, he had a career-high 13 assists, 11 points and eight rebounds in EWU's 102-80 victory over North Dakota on Jan. 24. One other time in his career he's come one stat away from a triple-double, and one other occasion he was two rebounds from a triple-double. Brandon has now had three-straight double-doubles, having finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds (and four assists) against Northern Colorado on Jan. 22. He now has five double-doubles this season and 10 in his career. Brandon has the second-best assist average in school history, a mark of 5.3 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 strain in the first half against Idaho on Jan. 31 and had a season-low 13 points in 28 minutes. He missed 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 Jan. 31, 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 fourth in 3-point shooting percentage (47.6 percent), and has the most total 3-point field goals (91) in the nation. His steadily rising free throw percentage (.861) is second in the league and 45th nationally. Venky Jois, who has missed three full games and parts of two others with a sprained ankle, is 75th in per game scoring (17.4), ninth in field goal percentage (59.9 percent) and 17th in blocked shots per game (2.8). Drew Brandon is 31st in assists (5.6) and 37th in assist-to-turnover ratio (+2.64 per game).
* 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 27.6 minutes, 15.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists during the team's 7-1 start to league play. He's made a team-best 61 percent of his shots (46-of-75) in those eight games and has converted 25-of-32 free throws (78 percent). Four times in those eight games he eclipsed his career high for scoring, and three times for rebounding. He had 19 point and 10 rebounds at Sacramento State when he had the first double-double of his Eastern career. He followed that with 10 points, nine rebounds and a career highs for assists (5), steals (3) and blocked shots (2) in EWU's 95-85 win over Northern Colorado (1/22/15), then had a career-high 25 points in a 102-80 win over North Dakota (1/24/15). He followed that with 21 points and a career-high 15 rebounds against Idaho on Jan. 31, including seven points in overtime in EWU's come-from-behind 98-95 win. It was his seventh-straight double-figure scoring performance. For the season, Bliznyuk is averaging 8.1 points, 4.0 rebounds and 17.0 minutes.
* Three Eagles – all underclassmen -- are averaging at least 11.1 points per game this season, paced by the 23.4 average of junior guard Tyler Harvey and the 17.4 average of junior forward Venky Jois. Jois is also averaging 7.2 rebounds and 2.8 blocked shots per game, and sophomore forward Ognjen Miljkovic is averaging 11.1 points and 3.4 rebounds. Also, senior point guard Drew Brandon is averaging 8.7 points, 5.6 assists and 7.2 rebounds per outing while battling a season-long bout with back spasms, and has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 111-to-42. 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 77-game career (75 as a starter), and is averaging 13.9 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 2.1 blocked shots per game in his career. Brandon is averaging 5.3 assists, 9.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game in his 50-game career (49 as a starter) with 10 career double-doubles thus far.
* Senior Parker Kelly is the top 3-point shooter in EWU history not named Tyler Harvey. Kelly has 189 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 112-game career (66 as a starter), he is averaging 8.2 points and an impressive free throw percentage of .840. Also EWU's top defender, he averaged 10.0 points and 34.5 minutes per game in the 2013-14 season and is averaging 8.6 points and 31.8 minutes this year while battling nagging foot and groin injuries.
* Junior Tyler Harvey has now averaged 21.7 points per game in his last 60 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 33-of-74 (44.6 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 55.4 percent (56-of-101) 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.
Eagle Records Watch
* Tyler Harvey is climbing EWU's single season 3-pointers list, with 91 already 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 223 to eclipse the previous record of 184 set by Marc Axton (2002-05). He is the 17th player in Big Sky Conference history to make at least 200 and is currently 12th in league history (12 away from ranking 11th). He is currently the school record holder for career free throw percentage (84.9 percent), and is third for career scoring average (18.1) and second in 3-point shooting accuracy (45.0 percent). Harvey has had 35 performances in his career with at least 20 points and 10 with at least 30, and has scored in double figures in 32-straight games (total of 58).
* Parker Kelly is just 86 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 914 career points, he is eighth in school history in 3-point percentage (40.8 percent), second in 3-pointers made (189) and fourth in attempts (463). Kelly's 83.9 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 194 and needs 224). Kelly could set the school record for games played when his four-year career ends later this season (he has 112 to rank eighth in school history and the record is 121).
* 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 1,073 to rank 16th. He continues to add to his career record for blocked shots, and now has 165 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 50 blocks this season (fourth), 49 last season (fifth) and 66 as a freshman (second). His 13.90 scoring average is currently 12th and his 8.2 rebounding average is eighth. Jois has had 12 performances in his career with at least 20 points two with at least 30.
Recent Game Recap
* Rallying from 11 points down in the final 1:33 of the game, Eastern forced key turnovers down the stretch and found some timely offense to go with that defense to defeat Idaho 98-95 in overtime on Jan. 31 at Reese Court. On his way to a monster double-double with 21 points and 15 rebounds, true freshman Bogdan Bliznyuk scored seven points in overtime after a driving layin at the buzzer by senior Drew Brandon had sent the game into an extra period. Eastern trailed by as many as 17 in the second half, then ended regulation with a 16-5 run, as Idaho had three turnovers and no field goals in the final 2:01. Junior Venky Jois, who had missed EWU's last three games with an ankle sprain, gave EWU the lead for good with a basket with 59 seconds to play, and also blocked Idaho's final 3-point shot at the buzzer to keep EWU perfect at home. Best of all, the Eagles rallied after the nation's leading scorer, junior Tyler Harvey, left the game for good with 7:31 remaining with a quadriceps contusion he originally suffered in the first half. Brandon finished with 18 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds – the second time in his career he has come one stat from the first triple-double in school history. He also had just one turnover in 44 minutes of action. He had a steal with 1:11 left that resulted in a basket that cut Idaho's lead to five, and also made a pair of free throws down the stretch before his game-tying basket to send the game to OT. Bliznyuk made 9-of-14 shots from the field, and rebounded a missed Idaho free throw with 42 seconds to play in overtime, then made a driving layin with 12 seconds left to provide the final margin. Harvey finished with 13 points in 28 minutes of action. Senior Parker Kelly hit four 3-pointers for the Eagles and finished with 14 points and three assists, and sophomore Ognjen Miljkovic was the fifth Eagle in double figures with 17, making four 3-pointers. Sophomore Felix Von Hofe came off the bench to hit a pair of three-pointers and finish with eight points. Eastern attempted a school-record 44 3-pointers, making 17 for 38.6 percent.
Quoting Coach Hayford
On Big Sky Race: "I am not really looking at places as much as what can we do to put the team we are playing behind us in the race. There are teams that have played two more games than us going into today. We care about who is the next team and what do we have to do to put them behind us. That is kind of what we are thinking on the whole thing."
On Idaho Win: "What I really love about this game for my team is we were playing without Tyler, and Venky is on half a leg, and our guys showed tremendous will and guts," said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. "Guy after guy hit big shots, Drew kept attacking and we never stopped believing. That's what makes for as entertaining a college basketball game as you are going to see this year -- in my opinion. What an amazing basketball game. It was really fun to be a part of it."
On Rebounding by Bliznyuk: "We were getting our rear ends killed on the boards, and Drew and Bogdan went in there and rebounded 2-on-5. We have a freshman with a lot of guts and courage. If he gets 14 rebounds, and not 15, then we don't win. He was big inside for us."