Renewal of league rivalry with Vandals continues in Missoula Thursday at 10 a.m. after two three-point Eagle wins earlier this season
Upcoming Games in Big Sky Conference Tournament
Thursday, March 12 - Dahlberg Arena (7,322) - Missoula, Mont.
10 a.m. Pacific - #2 Seed Eastern Washington (23-8/14-4 Big Sky) vs. #7 Seed Idaho (13-16/8-10 Big Sky)
Friday, March 13 - Dahlberg Arena (7,322) - Missoula, Mont.
4:30 p.m. Pacific - EWU-UI winner vs. winner of Thursday's game between #3 Seed Sacramento State (19-10/13-5 Big Sky) vs. #6 Seed Portland State (15-13/9-9 Big Sky)
6 p.m. Pacific - Championship Game (live on ESPNU)
Webcast: All Big Sky Tournament games except for the championship are carried at http://www.watchbigsky.com and via the new iphone/android app "Watch Big Sky" (Broadcasters Jay Sanderson and Tanoka Beard).
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.
Westwood One Sports Radio: Big Sky Championship Game on Sirius Channel 93/XM Channel 201 (Kevin Lee & Bill Frieder)
Live Stats: www.statbroadcast.com for Big Sky Tournament; ewustats.com (EWU home games).
It should be another barn-burner, but the early start time shouldn't be a concern for the Big Sky Conference co-champion Eagles.
The Eastern Washington University men's basketball team makes its first appearance in the Big Sky Conference Tournament in three years when it faces Idaho in the first game of the tourney Thursday (March 12) at Dahlberg Arena in Missoula, Mont.
The game between the second-seeded Eagles and No. 7 Vandals begins at 10 a.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.
"It's great to be Big Sky champions – our players really earned that," said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford, the BSC Coach of the Year. "Now we head for Montana in search of winning three games to advance to the Big Dance, which is the dream of every college basketball player. It's within our reach."
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. Eastern finished the regular season 23-8 overall and 14-4 in league play, while the Vandals were 13-16 overall and 8-10 in their first season in the Big Sky since 1995-96.
The early start time isn't much of a concern for the Eagles, who routinely practice at 7 a.m. In addition, the Eagles opened the season Nov. 14 versus Texas Southern with a game that began at 8 a.m., making it the first NCAA Division I game in the nation.
"We play in the morning, but that's great for us because we're a morning practice team," said Hayford. "There is no problem there, but we play a formidable opponent in Idaho. We've been fortunate to beat them in two very close games, one in overtime on our home court. We have tremendous respect for them."
The Big Sky Tournament semifinals are on Friday (March 13), with the Eagle-Vandal winner taking on the winner of a quarterfinal game between No. 3 Sacramento State (19-10) and No. 6 Portland State (15-13). The other quarterfinal games 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).
The championship game is at 6 p.m. Pacific time on Saturday (March 14), and will be televised nationally by ESPNU. The winner of the tourney receives an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.
Eastern will be making its 13th Big Sky Conference Tournament appearance in 28 years as a member of the league, with a record of 8-11 in its 19 games. Eastern and Idaho have 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.
But only senior Parker Kelly has tournament experience for the Eagles, while Idaho has been through the rigors previously as a member of the Western Athletic Conference, which advances all of its members to the league tourney.
"Their backcourt is veteran and good -- Connor Hill and Mike Scott are special players – All-Conference in my opinion," said Hayford of the Vandals. "(Head coach) Don Verlin does a great job. They came to the Big Sky from the Western Athletic Conference, and everybody in that league participates in the postseason. They know what conference tournament play is about, and that's something most of our players haven't experienced. So we have our work cut out for us."
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.
Eastern clinched its third Big Sky regular season title in 28 seasons as a Big Sky member when it rallied from 19 points down to beat Weber State 79-71 in overtime last Saturday (March 7). Because EWU and UM split their season series, the tiebreaker for the No. 1 seed and host status of the tournament was won by Montana by virtue of a better collective record against the two teams who tied for third. The Grizzlies were 1-1 against Sacramento State and Northern Arizona, while the Eagles were 1-2 against those same teams.
"It was just a great night to be an Eagle," said Hayford of the win over Weber State. "I was really proud of our team to go into Ogden and play in front of 7,000 people, and then really gut out a win. There's a lot of credit that needs to go out to people behind the scenes. We might have one of the youngest coaching staffs in NCAA Division I, but they are a super hard-working staff. And there are a lot of families behind our players who believed in the vision. We weren't selling them success, we were selling them a vision and they trusted their boys to us. I credit them. And my own personal family has made a lot of sacrifices, so my heart is out to Robin, Jayme and Joe for all their support. We'll go to Missoula with a 23-8 record overall and 14-4 in the conference – unbelievable."
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 Reid Forgrave of Fox Sports: http://www.foxsports.com/college-basketball/story/eastern-washington-s-tyler-harvey-grows-into-nation-s-top-scorer-030815
Story on Tyler Harvey by Jeff Goodman of ESPN: http://espn.go.com/blog/collegebasketballnation/post/_/id/103650/tyler-harvey-college-hoops-best-kept-secret
Story on Tyler Harvey by John Walters of Newsweek Magazine: http://www.newsweek.com/tyler-harvey-nations-unlikely-leading-scorer-310177
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
EWU vs. Idaho Series Notes
* Saturday's game will be another match-up of prolific 3-point shooters, now with a combined total of 578 in their careers. Idaho senior Connor Hill has a current total of 334, with 102 this season that included five versus EWU. Eastern junior Tyler Harvey had seven in two games versus the Vandals, and has 244 in his career to rank eighth in Big Sky Conference history. Harvey has a school-record 112 on the season (second in league history). He leads NCAA Division I with an average of 4.0 per game and Hill is fourth at 3.52 per outing.
* The previous meeting in Moscow was EWU's first-ever league victory over the UI, and was the first league meeting between the schools since Feb. 17, 1996. The Vandals rejoined the Big Sky Conference this season after previously competing in the league from 1963-1996, winning tournament championships in 1980, 1981, 1989 and 1990. Eastern began playing in the Big Sky in 1987-88, and won the tourney title in 2004. In those previous nine seasons of co-existence in the Big Sky, the Vandals won all 18 league meetings between the two schools, as well as the Big Sky Conference Tournament Championship game in 1990 won 65-62 by the Vandals on a shot at the buzzer by Ricardo Boyd.
* Since 1996 when Idaho left the Big Sky Conference, the two schools have now played 16 times, with Eastern winning 10 of them. Idaho leads the all-time series 52-26. Since EWU became a NCAA Division I member in the 1983-84 season, EWU is 13-31 against Idaho (7-14 home, 6-14 away, 0-3 neutral).
* In the meeting on Jan. 31 in Cheney, EWU rallied from 11 points down in the final 1:33 of the game to defeat Idaho 98-95 in overtime at Reese Court. Eastern forced key turnovers down the stretch and found some timely offense to go with that defense in the victory. 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. Brandonfinished with 18 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds – the third 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.
* In the Jan. 10 meeting in Moscow, a trio of 3-pointers sparked Eastern in the second half as the Eagles downed Idaho 89-86 in a battle of 2-0 league teams. The game had eight lead changes and three ties before 3-pointers by Tyler Harvey, Parker Kelly and Sir Washington gave EWU a 10-point lead. The Eagles made 11-of-26 in the game, including four by Harvey, the national leader. The Eagles led early 13-2, but the Vandals used a 9-0 run to take its first lead of the game late in the first half and led by one at halftime. A 9-0 run by the Eagles helped Eastern open an eight-point lead in the second half, but the Vandals battled back to knot it at 67. Eastern followed with an 11-3 run, then sank 5-of-6 free throws in the last 1:39 to hold off Idaho, which missed a potential game-tying shot in the final seconds. Eastern finished with just seven turnovers in the game, compared to nine for the Vandals. Eastern also had a slight edge in shooting at 53 percent to 48 percent, and made three more 3-pointers than the Vandals. Junior Tyler Harvey finished with 23 points, making 6-of-15 shots from the field (including 4-of-11 3-pointers) and had six rebounds and a pair of steals. Junior Venky Jois had 16 points – eight in each half. He made 8-of-11 shots from the field and also had five rebounds, six blocked shots and three assists. True freshman Bogdan Bliznyuk came off the bench to score 12 points, making 5-of-7 from the field and 3-of-5 free throws. He also had three assists and a steal. Senior point guard Drew Brandon had nine assists for the Eagles to go along with 11 points, eight rebounds and a pair of steals. Senior Parker Kelly, who has been battling foot and groin injuries much of the season, hit a trio of 3-pointers and finished with 11 pointers – his first game in double figures since Dec. 11. The Eagles held Idaho senior guards Mike Scott and Connor Hill to combined 11-of-26 shooting from the field. Hill made only 2-of-6 3-pointers and Scott made 4-of-9.
* In sharing the league title with Montana, Eastern has now won three regular season league titles in 28 years as a member of the Big Sky Conference. The Eagles shared the regular season title with Montana in 1999-2000, but lost the tiebreaker to host the league tournament. Eastern won both regular season and tournament titles in 2003-04. The Eagles finished 15-12 overall and 12-4 in the Big Sky in 1999-00, and were 17-13 overall and 11-3 in the league in the 2003-04 season. This is the first time EWU has won a Big Sky title in men's basketball and football in the same school year.
* The Eagles are 1-0 this season in Missoula, having defeated Montana 75-69 on Feb. 5. However, Eastern is 0-3 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 23 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.
* The Eagles are now 23-8 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 previous 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 a Big Sky best 10-6 on the road this season – its most wins and best percentage (.625) in 32 seasons as a member of NCAA Division I. The 1989-90 team was 8-8 and the Eagles in 1999-2007 were 7-7. Eastern capped the regular season with a 79-71 overtime win at Weber State, just EWU's fifth victory in 34 tries in Ogden, Utah. Coupled with an 85-81 win at Idaho State, the Eagles completed their second Big Sky road sweep of the season after having not accomplished that feat since 2004. Earlier in the 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 56 weekends of action – has EWU swept the Montana schools home or away. Besides a league-best 7-2 road record during conference play, Eastern also registered road wins in the 2014-15 season at Indiana, San Francisco and Seattle.
* Eastern will be making its 13th Big Sky Conference Tournament appearance in 28 years as a member of the league, with a record of 8-11 in its 19 games. Eastern hasn't appeared since the 2011-12 and 2010-11 seasons, which were EWU's first since 2006. The Eagles qualified for each tournament from 1998-2006. Eastern ended its season with losses to Montana in three of its last four appearances, with those coming in 2012, 2006 and 2005. But the year before, in 2004, EWU won the title with a 71-59 championship game victory over Northern Arizona to advance to the school's first-ever NCAA Tournament (EWU made its first-ever NIT appearance in 2003). Although its streak of Big Sky tournament berths came to an end in the 2006-07 season, Eastern was just the fifth school in league history to make nine-straight appearances in the Big Sky Conference Tournament. Eastern started the streak back in 1998 after making just one trip to the tourney in their first 10 seasons as a member of the conference. Weber State had its string of 24-straight appearances stopped in 2005-06, and Montana had a string of 21-straight from 1978-98. The other streaks were 16 by Idaho (1981-96) and 11 by Nevada (1982-92). Interestingly, Montana's 77-69 victory over the Lumberjacks on Feb. 28, 2005, extended Eastern's streak and ended NAU's eight-season streak. Eastern's streak started in 1998 with an end-of-year victory at Montana. That "winner advance, loser eliminated" game ended Montana's 21-year streak. In 2011, Eastern's season came to an end with a 79-70 loss at Weber State in the quarterfinal round of the tournament. That came just three days after the Eagles stunned WSU on their home court 75-59 to end the regular season. Because of the upset, the Wildcats lost their chance at a first-round bye and had to face the Eagles again. In the rematch, WSU out-scored EWU 46-25 in the second half as the Wildcats overcame a 12-point EWU halftime lead and a 15-point deficit early in the second half. Last year, the Eagles were 15-16 overall and missed the Big Sky Conference Tournament with a 10-10 league mark. Interestingly, Sacramento State was also 10-10, but secured the final bid because of a tiebreaker advantage over EWU, which dropped its final game of the season to Weber State 82-78.
Here is a list of Eastern's appearances in the Big Sky Tournament.
2015 – Quarterfinal (Missoula, Mont.) #2 seed vs. #7 Idaho
2012 – Semifinal (Missoula, Mont.) #4 seed vs. #1 Montana – L, 66-74
2012 – Quarterfinal (Cheney, Wash.) #4 seed vs. #5 Idaho State – W, 81-75
2011 - Quarterfinal (Ogden, Utah) - #6 seed vs. #3 Weber State - L, 70-79
2006 - Semifinal (Flagstaff, Ariz.) - #3 seed vs. #2 Montana - L, 71-73 (ot)
2006 - Quarterfinal (Cheney, Wash.) - #3 seed vs. #6 Portland State - W, 81-75
2005 - Quarterfinal (Missoula, Mont.) - #6 seed vs. #3 Montana - L, 48-58
2004 - Championship (Cheney, Wash.) - #1 seed vs. #2 Northern Ariz. - W, 71-59
2004 - Semifinals (Cheney, Wash.) - #1 seed vs. #5 Weber State - W, 72-53
2003 - Championship (Ogden, Utah) - #2 seed vs. #1 Weber State - L, 57-60
2003 - Semifinals (Ogden, Utah) - #2 seed vs. #4 Idaho State - W, 76-67
2002 - Championship (Bozeman, Mont.) - #2 seed vs. #5 Montana - L, 66-70
2002 - Semifinals (Bozeman, Mont.) - #2 seed vs. #3 Weber State - W, 62-57
2001 - Championship (Northridge, Calif.) - #2 seed vs. #1 CS Northridge - L, 58-73
2001 - Semifinals (Northridge, Calif.) - #2 seed vs. #5 Northern Arizona - W, 58-53
2000 - Semifinals (Missoula, Mont.) - #2 seed vs. #3 Northern Arizona - L, 65-82
1999 - Quarterfinals (Ogden, Utah) - #6 seed vs. #3 Portland State - L, 74-80
1998 - Quarterfinals (Flagstaff, Ariz.) - #3 seed vs. #6 CS Northridge - L, 98-104 (ot)
1990 - Championship (Boise, Idaho) - #2 seed vs. #1 Idaho - L, 62-65
1990 - Semifinals (Boise, Idaho) - #2 seed vs. #5 Weber State - W, 83-67
* In NCAA Division I statistics through games of March 8, the Eagles are ranked sixth in scoring offense (80.5 per game), sixth 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 26th nationally and third in the Big Sky in field goal percentage (47.6 percent), 11th/third in 3-point field goal percentage (40.0 percent), 62nd/fifth in the league in free throw percentage (72.5 percent), 50th/2nd in assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.24 per game) and are 30th/2nd in fewest turnovers per game (10.7).
* Eastern is now 18-0 when it has a better shooting percentage than its opponent, 18-2 when making at least 45 percent of its shots and 11-1 when holding the opponent to less than 45 percent. The Eagles are also 13-2 when they out-rebound or equal opponents, 15-0 when they have at least 36 rebounds and 14-3 when they hold opponents to 35 or less. In addition, Eastern is 15-5 when forcing more/equal turnovers and 14-3 when it has 10 or less turnovers. The Eagles are also 20-3 when scoring 71 points or more and 9-1 when allowing 70 or less.
* 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 (that lineup is now 16-6).
* The 14-4 league mark for EWU exceeded the school record for Big Sky wins in a season, breaking the previous mark set in 1999-00 when the Eagles were 12-4. 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 EWU's Big Sky Championship football team setting school and league 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 80.5 points per game to lead the league and rank sixth in NCAA Division I, led by the nation's top individual scorer in junior Tyler Harvey (22.9 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.
* Ranked for the 11th-straight week, Eastern was 20th in the March 2 Collegeinsider.com mid-major poll (the next poll comes out the afternoon of March 9). EWU was ranked 18th on Feb. 23, 14th on Feb. 16, and prior to that was a season-high 12th for two weeks (Feb. 9 and Feb. 2). Eastern 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.
* Coming three points from an unbeaten home season, Eastern finished the regular season 13-2 at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash. The 13 victories were its most 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. The 13th victory at home was a 24-point win over Montana State by a 92-68 score, but then the Eagles missed its last four shots in losing to Montana 77-76 on Feb. 28. A crowd of 4,621 were on hand – the fourth-largest crowd in the 40-year history of Reese Court for the game against the Griz. The only other home setback was a 68-66 loss to Portland State on Feb. 14.
* 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.
* EWU head coach Jim Hayford was selected as the 2014-15 Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year by the league's head coaches, and received the same honor from College Hoops Daily. A 104-87 victory over Eastern Oregon on Nov. 30 gave Hayford an even 300 victories in 16 seasons as a collegiate head coach. He currently is 317-146 in 15-plus seasons as a head coach for a .685 winning percentage. He is 63-62 in 3+ seasons at EWU, was 217-57 at Whitworth and was 37-27 in two seasons at Sioux Falls.
Eagle Player Notes
* Junior guard Tyler Harvey and junior forward Venky Jois were honored as first team All-Big Sky Conference selections as chosen by the league's head coaches on March 9. In addition, Bogdan Bliznyuk was recognized as the Freshman of the Year and point guard Drew Brandon was an honorable mention selection. Head coach Jim Hayford was chosen as the league's co-Coach of the Year. Harvey was a repeat selection on the first team, while Jois was honored for the third-straight season after earning honorable mention each of the past two seasons. Jois was also the 2013 Freshman of the Year. Also, Harvey and Jois earned first team All-Big Sky honors from College Hoops Daily, and Hayford was its choice as the league's Coach of the Year.
* In NCAA statistics through March 8, Tyler Harvey leads NCAA Division I in scoring offense (22.9 points per game) and 3-pointers per game (4.00), and is 20th 3-point shooting percentage (42.9 percent) and 53rd in free throw percentage (.841). Venky Jois, who has missed four full games and parts of two others with a sprained ankle, is 79th in per game scoring (17.1), ninth in field goal percentage (60.4 percent), 33rd in blocked shots per game (2.41) and 101st in rebounding (7.6). Drew Brandon is 50th in assists (4.9), 22nd in assist-to-turnover ratio (+2.69 per game), 71st in steals (1.8), 124th in rebounding (7.3) and 129th in free throw percentage (.809).
* Junior Venky Jois had his third and fourth consecutive double-doubles last week to earn Big Sky Conference Player of the Week honors for EWU's road sweep over Idaho State (85-81) and Weber State (79-71 in overtime). It was the second time this season and third time in his career that the Australian has been honored as player of the week. Coupled with three honors won by point guard Drew Brandon and two by guard Tyler Harvey, the Eagles have been honored by the league seven times this season. It was just the second time since 2004 that the Eagles have registered a two-game road sweep in the league, having won on the road earlier this season at Montana and Montana State. In the two games, Jois averaged 21.5 points and 13.0 rebounds while making 19-of-29 shots from the field for 65.5 percent. He had 21 points and 10 rebounds against Idaho State, then had 22 points and a career-high 16 boards versus Weber State. In his last four games, he has averaged 20.0 points and 12.0 rebounds per game while making 66.0 percent of his shots (35-of-53). Jois, who was hampered in January and February with a sprained ankle, now has seven double-doubles on the season and 25 in his career. Before this stretch, he hadn't had a double-double since Dec. 11 against San Francisco. He 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. EWU's first two league losses this season came when Jois had been held out because of a sprained ankle. He missed the Portland State 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.
*Senior Parker Kelly is the only Eagle with Big Sky Conference Tournament appearance, having played as a freshman in the 2012 Tournament when EWU beat Idaho State in the quarterfinals and lost to Montana in the semifinals. He had two points and an assist in 19 minutes versus the Bengals, then had three points in 23 minutes versus the Grizzlies.
* A year after not having a "Senior Day" because the Eagles were senior-less, Eastern honored three Eagles playing in their final regular season home game of the season on Feb. 28 versus Montana. The trio of Parker Kelly, Drew Brandon and Garrett Moon have combined for 235 games of experience (136 starts) for EWU, with Kelly playing four seasons and Brandon and Moon transferring from junior colleges.
* Achieving a first in Eastern men's basketball history, Tyler Harvey was selected on Feb. 26 as a first team selection on the 2014-15 Capital One Academic All-America® team for NCAA Division I as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). Harvey was one of five players to be named to the first team, and is EWU's initial first team selection in school history. The guard from Torrance, Calif. (Bishop Montgomery HS '11) has a 3.60 grade point average as a communications studies major. Eastern has had just three other Academic All-America selections since moving from the NAIA to the NCAA in the early 1980's. Rodney Stuckey, now playing for the Indiana Pacers in the NBA, was a third team selection in 2007 as EWU's first-ever selection as a member of Division I. Dave Henley, a graduate of Shadle Park High School in Spokane, earned second team accolades in 1982 and was a third team pick in 1981 when EWU was in NCAA Division II. On Feb. 25, Harvey was the recipient of a "Keeper of the Dream" award from EWU's Africana Studies department.
* Three Eagles – all underclassmen -- are averaging at least 10.2 points per game this season, paced by the 22.9 average of junior guard Tyler Harvey and the 17.1 average of junior forward Venky Jois. Jois is also averaging 7.6 rebounds, 2.4 blocked shots, 2.2 assists and 1.3 steals per game, and sophomore forward Ognjen Miljkovic is averaging 10.2 points and 3.3 rebounds, with 52 3-pointers made on the season.
* Bit by injuries this season and still managing to win 23 of 31 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 has a school-record 112 3-pointers this season to rank second in Big Sky Conference history, just 12 behind the record of 124 set by Stephen Sir of Northern Arizona in 2007. Harvey previously held the school record with 109 a year ago (now third in league history), and before that the record was owned by Shannon Taylor who had 103 in the 1998-99 season (now fifth in league history). Harvey is the first player in league history to have two single season performances of 100 treys. Earlier this season, Harvey broke the school record for career 3-pointers made, with a current total of 244 to eclipse the previous record of 184 set by Marc Axton (2002-05). His 566 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 eighth in league history (two away from ranking seventh). He is currently second in school history for career free throw percentage (84.2 percent), and is second for career scoring average (18.4) and fifth in 3-point shooting accuracy (43.1 percent). Harvey has had 41 performances in his career with at least 20 points and 10 with at least 30, and has scored in double figures in 39-straight games (total of 65). He has a career total of 1,468 points, moving past Rodney Stuckey (1,420 from 2013-15) and Dave Hayden (1,461 from 1970-73) into third on EWU's all-time leaders list. He has the most by an Eagle in NCAA Division I history, and ranks all-time only behind EWU Hall of Famers Irv Leifer (1,550 from 1942-47) and Ron Cox (1,741 from 1974-77).
* Parker Kelly now has 986 career points and is just 14 from becoming the 19th player in EWU history – and third this season – to go over the 1,000-point mark in his career. Now with 122 games played in his career, he broke the school record for games played (121 by Jeffrey Forbes from 2010-12) when the Eagles played at Weber State on March 7. Kelly is eighth in school history in 3-point percentage (40.9 percent), second in 3-pointers made (206) and second in attempts (504). Kelly's 83.7 percent shooting from the free throw line in his career would rank third in school history (teammate Tyler Harvey currently is second at 84.6 and the record is 84.9) if he had enough attempts to qualify (he has 203 and needs 244).
* Junior Venky Jois is just three blocked shots away from equaling the school record of 68 set by Martin Seiferth in 2013. Jois owns three of the top five single season performances in school history, with 65 blocks this season (third), 49 last season (fifth) and 66 as a freshman (second). He 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 1,222 to rank 10th. He continues to add to his career record for blocked shots, and now has 180 in his career to rank sixth all-time in the Big Sky Conference. His 14.20 scoring average is currently 12th all-time at EWU and his 8.2 rebounding average is eighth. Jois has had 16 performances in his career with at least 20 points and two with at least 30, and has 25 career double-doubles (seven this season).
* Senior Drew 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), and is ninth overall in assists with 300. He needs just 14 assists to equal the school record for two-year players (314 by Darryl Harris in the 1970-71 and 1971-72 seasons).
Recent Game Recaps
* The Eagles rallied from 19 points down against Weber State and won in overtime 79-71 March 7 at the Dee Events Center in Ogden, Utah, to capture a share of the Big Sky Conference regular season title. Eastern won for just the fifth time in 34 tries in Ogden, and completed a season sweep over the defending Big Sky regular season and tournament champions and preseason favorite. Eastern took its first lead in the game in overtime on a 3-pointer by Bogdan Bliznyuk, and EWU scored the final 10 points of the contest. Harvey led Eastern with 24 points and made four 3-pointers to break his own single season school record with a total of 112. Venky Jois had his fourth-straight double-double with 22 points and a career-high 16 rebounds, with Bliznyuk and Felix Von Hofe coming off the bench to score 24 key points for EWU. Once the Eagles fell behind by 19 in the first half – thanks to an 18-0 Weber State run and six-minute scoreless stretch by the EWU – Eastern used a full-court press and stepped up its urgency a notch. As a result, Eastern forced 18 turnovers – second-most this season – and had a season-high 18 offensive rebounds. The result was an 18-8 advantage in second chance points and a dominating 26-7 edge in points off turnovers. Trailing by 15 with 13:29 to play, Harvey made a trio of 3-pointers and scored 11 points during EWU's 13-2 run that cut the lead to four. Although Eastern wouldn't take the lead until overtime, EWU knotted the score at 59, 64, 66 and 69 – with Harvey providing the tying points the last two times. After making only 32 percent of its shots in the first half, Eastern sank 50 percent after intermission. Eastern was just 2-of-14 from the 3-point stripe in the first 20 minutes, but then made five of its last eight. Eastern's best run of the day came at the end of the game, as EWU scored the final 10 points and held WSU scoreless for the last 2:56. A basket by Jois tied the game at 71, then Bliznyuk gave EWU the lead for good with a 3-pointer with 1:46 left. Harvey had four of EWU's final five points.
* A 3-point shooting barrage in the first half helped Eastern take a 41-26 lead at halftime, and the Eagles went on to hold off Idaho State 85-81 March 5 at Holt Arena in Pocatello, Idaho. Eastern opened a 19-point lead in the second half, but then had to make 11-of-14 free throws in the final 6:37. A clutch 3-pointer by Felix Von Hofe with 18 seconds to play was the key basket down the stretch. Most importantly, the Eagles made their last three field goals, one game after missing their last four in a 77-76 home loss to Montana. Juniors Tyler Harvey and Venky Jois combined for 45 points for the Eagles, with Harvey scoring 24. Jois had 21 points and 10 rebounds for his third-straight double-double. Senior point guard Drew Brandon also had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, and added five assists. True freshman Bogdan Bilznyuk chipped in 10 points and five rebounds in just 16 minutes before fouling out. The Eagles trailed for only one minute in the game, as their hot shooting opened up an early lead. Harvey had four 3-pointers in the first 11 minutes, helping EWU open a 25-21 lead. But then EWU held ISU to five points the rest of the half to lead 41-26 at intermission. After Idaho State used a 3-pointer to cut EWU's lead to 80-79 with 49 seconds to play, Von Hofe responded with a trey of his own to help EWU regain a two-possession lead. Brandon clinched it for the Eagles with a pair of free throws with eight seconds left. A basket by Jois with 1:24 left and a 3-point play by Bliznyuk at the 3:38 mark were key baskets down the stretch for EWU. Eastern made 12-of-33 3-pointers in the game for 36.4 percent. More importantly, the Eagles made 8-of-22 in the first half, as Tyler Harvey made five of his first six attempts.
Quoting Coach Hayford
On Big Sky Championship: "It just feels great to be Big Sky champs. It's everything that sports should be about. It's neat for our players to feel this joy of accomplishment. I'm extremely, extremely happy and proud of our players."
On How Big Sky Title Ranks in Successful Coaching Career: "That's easy -- this is the best title I've ever had at Eastern. I truly love these players – they just played their hearts out and had buy-in. It's the most dramatic, come-from-behind win I've seen in such a big game. This was the biggest game we've coached in at Eastern, and our players just fought and fought."
On Pre-game Talk & Comeback Versus Weber State: "In our pre-game talk I told our guys that we deserved to go win the championship because they put in the hard work. The enemy of hard work is frustration and discouragement. I told them when they felt either of those two things, they needed to push it away because they had confidence in their hard work. I had no idea we would be 19 points down and miss a ton of good shots in the first 10 minutes. But we believed we could come back, and the guys believe in each other and they believe in themselves. They pushed away frustration and they didn't let discouragement set in -- they just kept working hard."
On Difference in Game: "We won because we forced 18 turnovers and had 18 offensive rebounds. Those are just nothing but hustle. We hit some clutch baskets and finally made some threes by Felix and Tyler, and then Bogdan made the big one. Venky had a huge night on the boards too."
On Press: "It's one thing to say you are going to do it, but it's all about the players – they are just laying their hearts out. If you don't press with reckless abandon and intelligence, you can look really stupid. But we combined great energy with great intelligence. Garrett Moon was chasing the ball wherever it was, and Felix (Von Hofe) was great at the front of the press."
On Idaho State Win: "I've always said I'll take a one-point win. Winning No. 22 and getting a Big Sky road win is great. Winning on the road in the Big Sky is tough. Idaho State got momentum, we got in foul trouble and they were scoring. But we hung on and we hung on. Felix made a really big shot for us, but obviously we have to play better defense. We scored enough points in the second half – 44 is a enough and is a great number. But their 55 in the second half is what will keep me up all night."
On Fourth-Year Senior Parker Kelly: "Parker has meant a lot. From day one since he arrived here, he's done every single thing the coaches have asked him to do – and more. He's been the epitome of hard work, dedication and being a man of action. He's been a joy to coach."
On Tyler Harvey's First Team Academic All-America Honor: "What a great honor for a great person. I am very happy for Tyler to be recognized as a student and a player. To be called an Academic All-American is something he will be able to carry with him through all facets of life. We are extremely proud of him."
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."