EWU guard hits eight 3-pointers to finish with career high and tie tourney record, with Venky Jois adding his fifth-straight double-double to advance Eagles to semifinals against Sacramento State
A monumental victory deserved a satmonumental performance.
Junior guard Tyler Harvey tied the Big Sky Conference Tournament record with a career-high 42 points to lead the Eastern Washington University men's basketball team to a 91-83 victory over Idaho in the quarterfinals Thursday (March 12) at Dahlberg Arena in Missoula, Mont. It was EWU's first tourney win in Missoula in school history.
In recording the third-most points in school history, Harvey made 8-of-12 3-pointers and 13-of-20 shots overall. Junior forward Venky Jois added his fifth-straight double-double to advance EWU to Friday's semifinals, where the Eagles will play Sacramento State, a 70-60 victor over Portland State later Thursday.
"He had an amazing performance – we have a very special player in Tyler Harvey," said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford of the leading scorer in NCAA Division I, who missed three games in February with a quadriceps contusion. "We want to let everybody know in the Big Sky he is back and healthy. I think (his performance) told you that too."
Friday's game between the second-seeded Eagles (24-8) and No. 3 Sacramento State (20-10) begins at 4:30 p.m. Pacific time and may be heard live via radio on 700-AM ESPN and via the web at www.700espon.com. It may also be viewed via www.watchbigsky.com and via "Watch Big Sky" mobile phone apps.
Harvey scored nine in a 15-2 run early in the half, then had a 3-pointer and two free throws in another 15-2 run late in the game. In the last run, which turned a 73-70 Vandal lead into an 85-75 advantage, EWU held Idaho without a field goal for 4:19. The Eagles clinched the win by making 6-of-8 free throws in the last 52 seconds.
After scoring 38 points in the first half, Eastern outscored the Vandals 53-42 after halftime. It was the third-straight game EWU won versus the Vandals when trailing at halftime. The Eagles and Vandals played two hard-fought battles this season, with EWU pulling out an 89-86 victory in Moscow, Idaho, on Jan. 10. Eastern then rallied in the rematch at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash., for a 98-95 overtime victory on Jan. 31.
The other quarterfinal games taking place later Thursday are No. 4 Northern Arizona (18-13) versus No. 5 Northern Colorado (15-14), and tournament host Montana (18-11) versus No. 8 Weber State (13-16).
Won-Lost Records . . .
* Now 24-8 on the season after finishing 14-4 in the league, EWU owns school records for overall and Big Sky victories in 32 seasons as a member of NCAA Division I.
* The Vandals are 13-17 overall after finishing 8-10 in the Big Sky in their first season in the Big Sky since 1995-96.
What It Means . . .
* The Eagles make their ninth appearance in the semifinals where they are 5-3 in their previous eight appearances. Eastern is now 9-11 in 20 games all-time in the tournament.
What's Next . . .
* The winners of Friday's semifinals advance to the championship game at 6 p.m. Pacific time on Saturday (March 14), which will be televised nationally by ESPNU. The winner of the tourney receives an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.
Tweet of the Game . . .
Keys to Game . . .
* After making just 4-of-14 3-pointers in the first half, the Eagles sank 9-of-16 in the second half. Overall, EWU made 63 percent of its shots in the second half and 53 percent in the game. It was the best shooting percentage in 12 games since Jan. 24 for the Eagles, who had made 50 percent just twice since then.
Top Performers . . .
* Junior Tyler Harvey had his fifth game of the season and 11th of his career with at least 30 points, and his 42 ranks third in school history behind the 45 of Rodney Stuckey (versus Northern Arizona on 1/5/06) and 44 of David Peed (versus UC Irvine on 12/13/88). His 42 points tied the tourney record of 42 set by Anthony Johnson of Montana in 2010, and passed the 38 Stuckey had versus Portland State in 2006, which now ranks fourth all-time. Harvey scored 16 points in the first half and then had 26 in the second half against the Vandals.
* Junior Venky Jois had 10 points and 14 rebounds, giving him eight double-doubles this season and 26 in his career.
* Sophomore Ognjen Miljkovic added 13 points with a trio of 3-pointers. He had scored just 12 points in EWU's last three games, including two losses. He entered the game averaging 11.4 points in EWU's victories, and 6.9 in losses.
* Senior point guard Drew Brandon finished with eight points and two steals.
Turning Point . . .
* Trailing 73-70 with 5:18 to play in the game, Eastern held the Vandals without a field goal for the next 4:19. The resulting 15-2 Eagle run gave the Eagles an 85-75 lead. Tyler Harvey (5), Venky Jois (4) and Bogdan Bliznyuk (2) scored the first 11 points in that game-deciding stretch, then driving layins by Drew Brandon at the 1:33 and 1:07 marks completed it.
Key Stats . . .
* Eastern made its last seven shots of the game, compared to Idaho's 3-of-10 performance in the last 4:16 of the contest.
Team Highlights . . .
* Tyler Harvey scored 16 first-half points for the Eagles, who trailed at intermission 41-38. The Eagles made just 4-of-16 3-point shots, while the Vandals made 7-of-10 thanks to a 5-of-5 performance by Connor Hill, who finished with six 3-pointers and 23 points for Idaho. It was the third time in three games against the Vandals this season that EWU trailed at halftime, and the first time either team scored less than 40 points in a half. Harvey then had nine points in a 15-2 run early in the second half to give the Eagles a 53-47 lead. The Eagles made four 3-pointers – matching their total in the first half – during that 2:14 flurry.
Notables . . .
* Thursday's game was another match-up of prolific 3-point shooters, now with a combined total of 592 in their careers. Idaho senior Connor Hill has a current total of 349, with 108 this season that included 11 versus EWU. Eastern junior Tyler Harvey had 15 in three games versus the Vandals, and has 252 in his career to rank sixth in Big Sky Conference history. Harvey has a school-record 120 on the season (second in league history behind the record of 124). He entered the game leading NCAA Division I with an average of 4.0 per game and Hill was fourth at 3.52 per outing.
* The Eagles are 2-0 this season in Missoula, having defeated Montana 75-69 on Feb. 5. However, Eastern won for the first time in four tries in the tournament in Missoula, including its last appearance in the 2012 semifinals when the No. 4 seeded Eagles lost 74-66 to the top-seeded Grizzlies. One of the other losses in Missoula was to Northern Arizona in 2000 when EWU shared the regular season title with Montana and lost the tiebreaker to host the tourney – just like this season.
* With 24 victories, the Eagles are almost certainly assured of a berth in a postseason tournament. The Big Sky Conference Tournament champion receives an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament, and other possibilities are the NIT (National Invitation Tournament), CIT (CollegeInsider.com Tournament) and the CBI (College Basketball Invitational). Last season, Weber State advanced to the NCAA Tournament, and North Dakota, Portland State and Northern Colorado all made first-round CIT appearances. Eastern lost to Wyoming in the first round of the NIT in 2003, and lost 75-56 to Oklahoma State in the NCAA Tournament a year later.
* Eastern is making its 13th Big Sky Conference Tournament appearance in 28 years as a member of the league, with a record of 9-11 in its 20 games. Eastern and Idaho had met once before in the tournament, with Idaho beating Eastern 65-62 in the 1990 championship game on a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Ricardo Boyd.
* Senior Parker Kelly is the only Eagle with tournament experience, having played in the 2012 tourney. Idaho has been through tournament rigors previously as a member of the Western Athletic Conference, which advances all of its members to the league tourney.
* Eastern will be trying to join the 2003-04 EWU squad in advancing to the NCAA Tournament. The 2002-03 team advanced to the NIT for EWU's only other national postseason appearance in 32 seasons as a member of NCAA Division I.
More Comments from Head Coach Jim Hayford . . .
On Close Game: "What you saw today is what you are going to see every game in this tournament. I'd really be shocked if that doesn't happen. Our league is very evenly-matched and it is full of good coaches. I want to give credit to Connor Hill – he just played his last college basketball game and he left it out on the court. He had an amazing performance."
On Attention Harvey Received: "As you watched the last four or five minutes, with all the attention he was getting they didn't want him to score, and that opened up some easy baskets for other players. We'll take the victory. We're very evenly-matched with Idaho, and it will be an even match with either Sacramento State or Portland State."
On Shooting: "Going in, we knew we had to shoot four or five percent better than Idaho. We thought that would be the big difference. Both teams are low turnover teams – they had nine and we had 10 – and we shot three percent better. We're very grateful for the win."
On Defense: "I thought the best way to guard Idaho was to take away their confidence by making stops. The better we play defense would affect their defense because they are an offensive-minded team. Parker's only basket was a really big 3, then I just wanted to call timeouts to tell them, 'hey, I'm only taking this timeout so you can rest and go play the best defensive possession you've played all year.' I don't mind using those timeouts (in that situation) because if you have the lead the other team is going to have to call timeouts. You don't get to take those with you to heaven, so I like to use them up."
Comments from Tyler Harvey
On Motivation from Not Getting MVP: "From day one our goal was to make it to the Big Sky Tournament and win it. All the accolades I don't worry about."
On Motivation from Hill's First-Half Performance: "I already had enough motivation that I needed. When he shoots like that we obviously need to step our game up. Fortunately I was able to hit today and our guys were finding me. It was a heckuva win."
Comments from Venky Jois
On Performance by Harvey: "That's the thing – I thought I was crashing the boards pretty hard, but when it seemed to leave Tyler's fingertips I thought, 'wait for it because I think this one is going down too.'" It does tend to help the team when Tyler goes into his mode -- he definitely can do it night-in, night-out. We definitely have to help him out more sometimes, but he shows he can definitely carry the load at times for us."
On Recovery from January Ankle Injury: "I'm feeling healthier every game. When I had the MRI, they said no matter what, with the rehab I had to do four hours a day, it was going to take six to eight weeks for that swelling, strength and range of motion to come back. I think right now we're at week six, so that's nice timing for the Big Sky Tournament for us."