After first road sweep for EWU since 2004, Eastern hosts Sacramento State in rematch of 90-77 Hornet victory on Jan. 17
Thursday, February 12 - Reese Court (5,000) - Cheney, Wash.
6:05 p.m. Pacific - Eastern Washington (18-5/9-1 Big Sky) versus Sacramento State (16-6/10-1 Big Sky)
Saturday, February 14 -Reese Court (5,000) - Cheney, Wash.
2:05 p.m. Pacific - Eastern Washington versus Portland State (11-10/5-6 Big Sky - host Idaho 2/12)
TV: None for Sac State game; PSU game televised live regionally by SWX.
Webcast: All Big Sky games are carried at http://www.watchbigsky.com and via the new iphone/android app "Watch Big Sky"
Radio: All Eastern games are on 700-AM ESPN in Spokane. Larry Weir returns for his 22nd season calling the play-by-play, starting 20 minutes prior to tipoff.
Internet Radio: www.700espn.com or www.tunein.com
Radio iPhone App: Search for "Spokane Radio" and download app. An app is also available for tunein radio.
Live Stats: ewustats.com (EWU home games).
It's already rematch time in the Big Sky Conference, and this one could decide a lot as the remainder of the league season unfolds.
The top two teams in the Big Sky Conference standings square off Thursday (Feb. 12) at 6:05 p.m. Pacific time at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash., when 10-1 Sacramento State visits 9-1 Eastern Washington. The Eagles will try to avenge a 90-77 loss to the Hornets in Sacramento, Calif., on Jan. 17 when Sac State made a blistering 63 percent of their shots in the game and 73 percent in the second half.
Eastern will also host Portland State on Saturday at 2:05 p.m. in a rematch of a 92-85 Eagle win in Portland on Jan. 15. Both games game may be heard live via radio on 700-AM ESPN and via the web at www.700espon.com. They may also be viewed via www.watchbigsky.com and via "Watch Big Sky" mobile phone apps. The Portland State game will be televised regionally by SWX.
Both the Eagles and Hornets are on track to have their best league seasons in their histories. Eastern is chasing the 12 league victories the 1999-2000 Eagle squad had, and the Eagles have already exceeded the 17 victories overall the 2000-04 NCAA Tournament team had. Sacramento State has already has recorded its most victories since becoming a NCAA Division I member 20 years ago in 1991.
"We've been on a similar trajectory and have had similar growth in our programs," said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. "Brian Katz is one of my life-long best friends in coaching and in life. I'm really, really happy to see what he's done with his program, and likewise, he's been encouraging to me and what we've accomplished at Eastern.
"It's kind of surreal that our two teams are playing each other for first place," he added. "That doesn't take the fight away from it – both of us want our teams to play in big games like this."
Eastern enters with 10 victories in their last 11 games, while Sac State has won 11 of its last 12 with a seven-game winning streak. The lone league loss for the Hornets was an 84-73 road loss at Northern Colorado.
The Eagles are now 18-5 on the season and are ranked a season-high 12th in this week's Collegeinsider.com mid-major poll, and are a Big Sky-best 63rd nationally in the RPI rankings. Sacramento State is 16-6 overall, are a season-high 14th in the mid-major poll and is 142nd in the RPI. The Eagles are a perfect 11-0 at home at Reese Court and the Hornets are 5-5 in road games.
Eastern is coming off its first road sweep since 2004, and only its fourth in 28 tries at the Montana schools, with wins over Montana (75-69) and Montana State (61-51) last week. And the Eagles did that without the services of the nation's leading scorer, Tyler Harvey, who didn't make the trip after suffering a quadriceps contusion on Jan. 31 versus Idaho. Eastern played the previous game versus Sacramento State without its second-leading scorer, Venky Jois, who missed three games and parts of two others with a sprained ankle.
"We had a lot of great competitive spirit and showed a lot of improvement defensively with our performance on the road," said Hayford of his team's sweep.
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. Sac State closed the year 14-16 overall and was also 10-10 in the league to edge out EWU for the seventh and final berth in the Big Sky Conference Tournament.
"Coming off the Idaho win two weeks ago and the importance of this game, I anticipate having a great Eastern crowd," added Hayford. "I ask everybody who can be at the game to be here to cheer us on."
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 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
* Sacramento State and Eastern Washington enter Thursday's game as two of the top shooting teams in NCAA Division I. The Hornets are eighth nationally in field goal percentage (.493), third in 3-point field goal percentage (.417) and 32nd in free throw shooting (.734). Eastern is 13th (.488), fifth (.415) and 35th (.734) in those three categories. The Hornets and Eagles are 1-2 in the Big Sky in shooting overall, as well as 2-3 in 3-point field goal percentage and 3-4 in free throw shooting. Eastern and Sac State are the top two teams in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio, with the Eagles ranking 42nd nationally (+1.27) and the Hornets 44th (+1.27). In addition, EWU is fourth in D-I in scoring (82.0) and fifth in 3-point field goals per game (10.0), with Sac State considerably lower at 78th (71.7) and 149th (6.5), respectively.
* Individually, Thursday's game will be a great battle between senior point guards. Sac State senior point guard Mikh McKinney is 31st nationally in scoring (18.9), 35th in assists (5.4), fifth in steals (2.9) and 61st in assist-to-turnover ratio (+2.33). Eastern's Drew Brandon ranks 39th in Division I in assists (5.3), 120th in rebounding (7.3), 77th in steals (1.82) and 31st in assist-to-turnover ratio (+2.64).
* Following the Sacramento State game, Eastern hosts Portland State (5-6, 11-10) on Valentine's Day on 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. Sacramento State Series Notes
* Since Eastern became a member of NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season, the Eagles are now 27-14 versus Sacramento State, and the two schools did not play against each other prior to that. The Eagles have won 20 of their last 30 games against the Hornets, and have a 17-3 record versus Sacramento State in Cheney and a 10-11 record in Sacramento.
* In their meeting on Jan. 17, EWU was playing without one of the top players in the Big Sky and couldn't keep up with the hot-shooting Hornets and lost 90-77 in a league game Jan. 17 at "The Nest" in Sacramento, Calif. The loss ended EWU's five-game winning streak and created a logjam at the top of the league standings. After a 41-all tie in the first half, the Hornets made 10 of their first 12 shots in the second half to open an 11-point lead. Although the Eagles pulled within four on four occasions after that, Sacramento State made a blistering 73 percent of its shots in the second half and 63 percent for the game. A pair of free throws by Tyler Harvey with 3:54 to play cut Sac State's lead to 77-73, but the Hornets scored seven-straight points in a game-ending 13-4 run. Eagle junior Venky Jois sat out the game with an ankle sprain suffered midway through the first half of EWU's 92-85 win at Portland State on Jan. 15. True freshman Bogdan Bliznyuk, the main replacement for Jois, came off the bench to score a season-high 19 points and grab 10 rebounds for the first double-double in his Eastern career. Harvey led Eastern with 21 points, and senior point guard Drew Brandon had 13 points, six rebounds and three assists. Sophomore Ognjen Miljkovic was the fourth Eagle in double figures with 11 points. The shooting percentage for the Hornets was the best against Eastern in 23 games this season, and the scoring total is the second-most (Idaho had 95 in overtime on Jan. 31). Eastern held Dylan Garrity to seven points, but Cody Demps hit 6-of-10 shots from the field and all 10 of his free throws to finish with 22. Mikh McKinney finished with 14 points, 12 assists and six steals, and Dreon Barlett came off the bench to hit all four of his 3-point attempts and finish with 12 points.
EWU vs. Portland State Series Notes
* Since Eastern became a member of NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season, the Eagles are now 19-20 versus the Vikings. All of the meetings have come since the 1996-97 school year when PSU joined the Big Sky Conference, and Eastern is 12-7 in Cheney and 7-12 against PSU in Portland (0-1 on neutral courts) since then. The Vikings have a 23-20 edge in the overall series.
* With junior Venky Jois suffering an ankle injury nine minutes into the game and Tyler Harvey getting just five shots in the first 20 minutes, Eastern was still able to garner a 42-29 halftime lead and turn it into a 92-85 victory on Jan. 15 in Portland, Ore. The Eagles led from start to finish versus the Vikings, and made 7-of-10 free throws in the final 1:46 to close out the win. The victory snapped a seven-game losing streak in Portland against the Vikings, with EWU's last win at the Stott Center coming in the Rodney Stuckey era with an 88-70 victory on Jan. 3, 2007. Harvey, after scoring just five points on 2-of-5 shooting in the first half, exploded for 18 points in the second half to lead four Eagles in double figures with 23. True freshman Bogdan Bliznyuk helped make up for the absence of Jois with a team-high 10 first-half points and finished with a season-high 18 for the game. Senior Parker Kelly had six 3-pointers and finished with a season-high 19 points, and 6-foot-7 Ognjen Miljkovic helped fill in for the absence of Jois with 14 points and a career-high eight rebounds in 32 minutes of action. Senior point guard Drew Brandon had nine assists, eight rebounds, four points and two steals for the Eagles, and senior Garrett Moon played 12 minutes off the bench and had eight points, three rebounds and a steal. Eastern was solid at the free throw line, making 15-of-18 for 83 percent, and had just eight turnovers. A quick 8-1 start helped EWU lead the entire first half, as the Eagles made 50 percent of their shots from the field and had just one turnover. Eastern held PSU to 33 percent shooting and led by as many as 15 in the first half at 42-27 on a 3-pointer by Kelly. After leading 42-29 at halftime, a 3-pointer by Kelly and a pair of treys by Harvey helped EWU open a 54-37 lead with 16:13 to play. The Vikings rallied to pull within six on five occasions, and eventually to five with 1:08 remaining before EWU closed out the win at the free throw line. Eastern used a 9-1 run to regain an 85-71 advantage with 2:45 left. Bliznyuk scored four of the points in the run, as PSU went 4:56 without a field goal. Portland State had four players in double figures, including 25 by Gary Winston and 20 by Tim Douglas, as they combined for 18-of-28 shooting from the field and 7-of-12 3-pointers. A year ago in Portland, the Eagles led 40-30 at halftime but allowed 62 second-half points in a 92-83 loss.
* The Eagles registered a sweep of the Montana schools for only the fourth time in 28 seasons as a member of the Big Sky Conference. 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.
* Coupled with its women's sweep against the Montana schools, Eastern had its first-ever men's/women's 4-0 weekend sweep. Thursday's 65-64 women's win versus the Griz was only the third time in school history in 28 tries both the men's and women's teams defeated Montana on the same weekend. Eastern's women registered a 72-58 win over the Bobcats on Saturday
* 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.
* 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 82.0 points per game to rank fourth 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 9-1 start in the league equals the school's best after 10 games in EWU's 28-year history as a member of the Big Sky Conference, and EWU will try to be just the second to improve to 10-1. The 2003-04 team – EWU's only squad to advance to the NCAA Tournament -- lost its league opener, then won 11 straight before finishing 11-3. The 1989-90 squad was also 6-1, then lost a pair of games en route to an 11-5 finish. Eastern's school record for league wins in a season was set in 1999-00 when the Eagles were 12-4, which included a 5-2 start followed by six-straight victories.
* In NCAA Division I statistics through games of Feb. 8, the Eagles are ranked fourth in scoring offense (82.0 per game), fifth in 3-pointers made per game (10.0), 33rd in blocked shots (5.0 per game) and 42nd in assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.27 per game). Eastern leads the league in all four categories. The Eagles are also 13th nationally and second in the Big Sky in field goal percentage (48.8 percent), 35th/fourth in the league in free throw percentage (73.4 percent), fifth/third in 3-point field goal percentage (41.5 percent), and are 25th/2nd in fewest turnovers per game (10.8).
* 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 18 victories have already exceeded the total of 15 the Eagles had all of last season and equaled their most in 28 seasons as a member of the Big Sky Conference, 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 also won 18 during EWU's NIT season in 2002-03. The Eagles won their 10th game this season on Jan. 1, the fastest the school has hit that mark since the 1945-46 season when that Eastern Hall of Fame team finished 31-4. In the 1985-86 season, the Eagles recorded their 10th win on Jan. 6 against Western Illinois (their 18th was on Feb. 12 and their 19th was on Feb. 19). 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 .776. Among those with enough attempts to qualify, Tyler Harvey (93.1 percent), Drew Brandon (83.7) and Bogdan Bliznyuk (80.6) are 1-5-10 in the league. Overall, Eastern is fourth in the league and 35th in NCAA Division I at 73.4 percent, with Harvey ranking 33rd and leading the league (86.1). Brandon (fifth, 83.1), Bliznyuk (82.2), Sir Washington (81.8) and Parker Kelly (77.8) also have impressive season percentages.
* Eastern is now 16-0 when it has a better shooting percentage than its opponent, 15-1 when making at least 45 percent of its shots and 9-0 when holding the opponent to less than 45 percent. The Eagles are also 10-1 when they out-rebound or equal opponents, 12-0 when they have at least 36 rebounds and 11-1 when they hold opponents to 35 or less. In addition, Eastern is 12-2 when forcing more/equal turnovers and 11-1 when it has 10 or less turnovers. The Eagles are also 16-2 when scoring 71 points or more and 7-0 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 312-143 in 15-plus seasons as a head coach for a .686 winning percentage. He is 58-59 in 3+ seasons at EWU, was 217-57 at Whitworth and was 37-27 in two seasons at Sioux Falls.
Eagle Player Notes
* Senior point guard Drew Brandon had another stellar weekend in leading the Eagles to their first Big Sky sweep on the road in 11 seasons and helping EWU improve to 18-5 on the season and 9-1 in the Big Sky. As a result, he was the league's player of the week for the second-straight week and third time this season. With leading scorer Tyler Harvey sidelined, Brandon averaged 21.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 4.0 steals and 2.5 assists in Eagle wins over Montana (75-69) and Montana State (61-51). He also had just two turnovers in 79 total minutes, helping EWU to a plus-15 advantage in turnovers (36 takeaways, 21 giveaways). He helped secure Eagle wins down the stretch by making 11-of-14 free throws (78.6 percent), and made 14-of-33 shots from the field (42.4 percent) and 3-of-11 3-pointers (27.3 percent). In the win over MSU, he had a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds for his 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. With Eastern nursing a 55-51 lead with 1 1/2 minutes left, his offensive rebound led to an Eagle layup with 55 seconds to play to clinch the win. "Drew is just a winner – he finds different ways to help us win," said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. "Against Montana State it was at the free throw line and rebounding. He had 15 points, 12 rebounds and six steals – that was just big-time." One game earlier, Brandon equaled his career high with 27 points in EWU's win over Montana, which snapped a 12-game losing streak to the Grizzlies in Montana. Brandon, who has played much of the season with back ailments – as well as a recently-disclosed broken finger – attempted a career-high 20 shots from the field en route to equaling the 27 points he had earlier this season in a stunning win over Indiana. Brandon was named co-Big Sky Conference Player of the Week on Feb. 2 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 has had double-doubles in four of his last five games – including two near triple-doubles – with a total of six on the season and 11 in his career. Brandon has the second-best assist average in school history, a mark of 5.2 that trails the 8.4 average of Ed Waters (1974-77).
* On the watch list for the Lou Henson Award given to the nation's top mid-major player, junior Tyler Harvey suffered a quadriceps contusion in the first half against Idaho on Jan. 31 and sat out the Montana (2/5/15) and Montana State (2/7/15) games. He had a season-low 13 points in 28 minutes versus Idaho after missing the last 7:31 of regulation and overtime in the 98-95 come-from-behind Eagle win. In EWU's first two games of its 3-0 home stand, Harvey scored 61 points to earn co-Big Sky Conference Player of the Week honors from the league office, as well as the same honor by himself from Collegeinsider.com. His performances included a 35-point outing against Northern Colorado on Jan. 22, which was his fourth of at least 30 this season and 10th of his career (three versus UNC). In late January, Harvey was also picked as the "deadliest 3-point assassin" in the nation by bleacherreport.com, and he and the Eagles have also been featured this winter by Yahoo! Sports, Slam! Magazine and SB Nation.
* In NCAA statistics through Feb. 8, Tyler Harvey leads NCAA Division I in both scoring offense (23.4 points per game) and 3-pointers per game (4.33). The junior guard is also third in 3-point shooting percentage (47.6 percent) and 34th in free throw percentage (.861). Venky Jois, who has missed three full games and parts of two others with a sprained ankle, is 93rd in per game scoring (16.9), 15th in field goal percentage (59.0 percent) and 26th in blocked shots per game (2.60). Drew Brandon is 39th in assists (5.3) and 31st 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 26.2 minutes, 14.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists during the team's 9-1 start to league play. He's made a team-best 58 percent of his shots (52-of-90) in those 10 games and has converted 29-of-36 free throws (80.6 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 8.1 points, 4.0 rebounds and 17.3 minutes.
* Three Eagles – all underclassmen -- are averaging at least 11.0 points per game this season, paced by the 23.4 average of junior guard Tyler Harvey and the 16.9 average of junior forward Venky Jois. Jois is also averaging 7.2 rebounds, 2.6 blocked shots, 2.2 assists and 1.5 steals per game, and sophomore forward Ognjen Miljkovic is averaging 11.0 points and 3.4 rebounds. Also, senior point guard Drew Brandon is averaging 9.8 points, 5.3 assists and 7.3 rebounds per outing while battling a broken finger and a season-long bout with back spasms, and has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 116-to-44. 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 79-game career (77 as a starter), and is averaging 13.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.1 blocked shots per game in his career. Brandon is averaging 5.2 assists, 10.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game in his 52-game career (51 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 192 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 114-game career (68 as a starter), he is averaging 8.1 points on 40.9 percent shooting from the 3-point stripe and an impressive free throw percentage of .837. Also EWU's top defender, he averaged 10.0 points and 34.5 minutes per game in the 2013-14 season and is averaging 8.2 points and 32.5 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 42-of-89 (47.2 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 56.0 percent (65-of-116) 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 now just 76 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 924 career points, he is eighth in school history in 3-point percentage (40.9 percent), second in 3-pointers made (192) and third in attempts (469). Kelly could set the school record for games played when his four-year career ends later this season (he has 114 to rank fifth in school history and the record is 121). Kelly's 83.7 percent shooting from the free throw line in his career would rank third in school history (the record is 84.9) if he had enough attempts to qualify (he has 196 and needs 228).
* 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 1,098 to rank 14th. He continues to add to his career record for blocked shots, and now has 167 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 52 blocks this season (third), 49 last season (fifth) and 66 as a freshman (second). His 13.90 scoring average is currently 12th and his 8.1 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
* Despite a season-low scoring and shooting afternoon, Eastern's defense came through in the second half to help EWU to a 61-51 victory over Montana State Feb. 7 in Bozeman, Mont. 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.
* With Tyler Harvey left home to receive treatment for a quadriceps contusion, senior point guard Drew Brandon equaled his career high with 27 points to lead EWU to a 75-69 victory over the Grizzlies in a Big Sky Feb. 5 at Dahlberg Arena in Missoula Mont. 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, who has been hobbled recently with an ankle sprain, finished with 12 points, nine rebounds, two blocked shots and equaled his career highs with seven assists and four steals. Taking over the starting position of Tyler Harvey, 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 to 46 percent. Most notably, the Eagles 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.
Quoting Coach Hayford
On Injuries, With No Eagle Playing in All 23 Games: "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 Montana State Win: "We came in here and gutted it out. We held them to 32 percent shooting in the game, we forced 20 turnovers and we gave up only 17 second-half points. We got our school's first road sweep in a long time, and we did it both nights with defense."
On Falling Behind by Eight Early in Second Half: "I told them at a timeout, 'hey, if you aren't going to be tough, you aren't going to like the result. We need to get tough here.' I thought we really knuckled-down after that."
On Replacing Tyler Harvey's Scoring: "We stepped up and had four players in double figures. But we did miss Tyler a little bit – there are some points that we are going to score with him on the floor. But our team from top-to-bottom on the roster really stepped up. This is a really good win and it's a really good feeling to get a sweep."
On Montana Win: "Without Tyler, the team said we were going to take on this challenge on the road, and we were going to win this game with defense. We wanted to show Montana that we can guard too. We did what we have to do to win a big game on the road – we did it with great defense. It is a great win and I'm really happy for our team. There were some Eastern fans who made the drive over to Missoula and it is great to send them back with a win."
On Defense: "Our players studied all week so hard with everything we gave them, and that's why we forced 16 turnovers. It wasn't crazy pressure – we knew their plays. Our players did a really good job of holding the scouting report. We didn't want Breunig and Gregory to get 24 shots between them – they did but we were on them. Between them they made 25 percent."
On Drew Brandon versus Montana: "This was a good night to show who the true Drew Brandon was. We figured they would leave him alone. His shooting percentage was low because he had a broken finger for the first 10-12 games. He took advantage of it. When we were doing a good job burning the clock in the second half, the terminations came to him and he finished. His dunk at the end was amazing – it was right down the middle. He had 20 shots and didn't take a bad shot the whole night."
Jim Hayford Entering the Montana Game on Absence of Tyler Harvey (quadriceps contusion): "We made a decision that the best thing for Tyler and our team is to get him healed as soon as possible. By leaving him with the medical attention that is available at home, that can expedite his recovery even more. The issue is not real complicated. There is a lot of swelling in his thigh, and all that blood needs to work its way out – gravity needs to have its way. Once that clears out he can start moving around. There is no reason to stick him on the bus all weekend when we can have that treatment being done around the clock back home. Everybody is going to have to do a little more. We essentially beat Idaho by 20 with this group of guys. Our players have confidence, but it takes everybody. We responded to Venky's absence, and now we are going to respond to Tyler's absence. We're being put through a lot of adversity, but that is what is going to build depth in our program and help us going into the postseason."
On Big Sky Race: "We have a banged up team right now -- lots of tape and ice everywhere. 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. 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."
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."
On Indiana Win: "I told our team this is what the accomplishment of hard work feels like. It wasn't just this week or last summer – we've been working toward this since we got our guys through a 10-21 year as freshmen. It's been a lot of hard work to get to this point and come into this building and snap the nation's third-longest non-conference home winning streak. I'm just really happy for our team and anybody associated with Eastern Washington. We're the little engine that can, and I love that. This is a huge win, and obviously the biggest in my time at Eastern. I'm really, really proud of our guys. I told our players this is when the flower comes out of the ground. All the hard work has been going on subterraneous. I knew it was going to be a hard game to close out in the last minute – I knew there would be some drama down the stretch. We missed a few free throws and they hit some big baskets. But we got through it all."