NCAA TOURNAMENT PREVIEW: Thanks to Indiana Win & Five-Game Winning Streak, Eagles are Popular Upset Pick as No. 13 Seed in NCAA Tournament

NCAA TOURNAMENT PREVIEW: Thanks to Indiana Win & Five-Game Winning Streak, Eagles are Popular Upset Pick as No. 13 Seed in NCAA Tournament

Sports Illustrated picks EWU as the "upset pick" of the South Region when Eagles play fourth-seeded Georgetown Thursday in Portland

Complete Release in .PDF Format

Upcoming Games in NCAA Tournament

Thursday, March 19 - Moda Center - Portland, Oregon
6:57 p.m. Pacific - #13 Seed Eastern Washington (26-8) vs. #4 Seed Georgetown (21-10) 

Saturday, March 21  - Moda Center - Portland, Oregon
Time TBA - EWU-Georgetown winner vs. winner of Thursday's game between #12 Seed Stephen F. Austin (29-4) vs. #5 Seed Utah (24-8) 


Coverage

TV: truTV with Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Dan Bonner and Rachel Nichols (sideline reporter). Also via NCAA March Madness Live mobile app.
National Radio: Westwood One Radio Network (including Sirius 157, XM 204) & via NCAA.com
EWU Radio:
All Eastern games are on 700-AM ESPN in Spokane (not available online or via mobile apps). Larry Weir returns for his 22nd season calling the play-by-play, starting 20 minutes prior to tipoff.
Live Stats: www.ncaa.com

Eagle Nation is drinking what Sports Illustrated is offering up.

The magazine has picked the Eastern Washington University men's basketball team as its "upset pick" in the South Region of the NCAA Tournament bracket. Eastern makes its second NCAA Tournament appearance in school history – and third postseason appearance as a member of NCAA Division I – when it faces Georgetown in a second-round game on Thursday (March 19) at the Moda Center in Portland, Ore.

The game between the Eagles and Hoyas will start at 6:57 p.m. Pacific time and will be broadcast on truTV. It may also be heard live via radio on 700-AM ESPN with Larry Weir providing the play-by-play. Eastern enters 26-8 and with a five-game winning streak, and the Hoyas are 21-10.

Eastern's resume – featuring the 17th-most wins in NCAA Division I (24th in winning percentage at .765), a marquee win at Indiana and the nation's leading scorer – has made the Eagles a popular upset pick over the Hoyas. Georgetown has a storied past, but it has lost five of its last 12 games and that gives the Eagles hope to improve the 25-95 record No. 13's have versus No. 4's since the 64-team tournament was introduced in 1985. In 22 of 30 years, at least one No. 13 has pulled off an upset.

"Our players are fearless and just want to go play," said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. "The neat thing is they are not concerned about what name is across the other team's chest. They are just ready to go play basketball."

Since reaching the 2007 Final Four, Georgetown has lost to double-digit seeds in each tournament it has made. The Hoyas lost to No. 10 Davidson in 2008, No. 14 Ohio in 2010, No. 11 VCU in 2011, No. 11 N.C. State in 2012 and No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast in 2013.

Last season, Eastern lost 92-70 to Seton Hall on Dec. 22, 2014, on a road trip that also included an 82-65 loss to eventual NCAA Tournament champion Connecticut six days later. The Seton Hall game is EWU's only meeting against current members of the Big East.

 
 

Link to Fact Book

The complete version of the 2014-15 EWU men's basketball fact book may be found at:
http://goeags.com/trads/ewas-factbooks.html

 

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
Column by John Blanchette on EWU's Big Sky Tournament Championship: http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2015/mar/15/resilient-eagles-became-believers/
Hello, My Name Is: The NCAA's Leading Scorer (by Tyler Harvey in The Cauldron):

https://medium.com/the-cauldron/i-am-the-ncaa-s-leading-scorer-can-you-hear-me-now-e79a97ff4698
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

 

About the Hoyas & Eagles

* The Hoyas are 21-10 overall this season and finished 12-6 in the Big East Conference. The Hoyas lost to Xavier 65-63 in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament on March 13. Earlier this season on Dec. 27, the Hoyas won 91-87 in overtime over Indiana, which fell to Eastern 88-86 on Nov. 24.

* Head Coach John Thompson III leads Georgetown to the NCAA Tournament for the eighth time in his 11 years at the helm of the program. This is the sixth time the Hoyas have been a top-five seed under Thompson III. The Hoyas reached the Sweet Sixteen during the 2005-06 season as the No. 7 seed, advanced to the Final Four in 2007 as the No. 2 seed, reached the second round in 2008 as the No. 2 seed, and were the No. 3 seed in 2010, the No. 6 seed in 2011, the No. 3 seed in 2012 and a No. 2 seed in 2013.

* Georgetown, ranked No. 23 in the country by the Associated Press and No. 23 in the USA Today Top 25 Coaches' poll, has played 15 games against eight teams that made the 2015 NCAA Tournament field. The Hoyas are ranked No. 25 in the latest RPI Ratings with a strength of schedule tabbed No. 8 in the country. Eastern is No. 75th in the RPI.

* This will be the first-ever meeting between Georgetown and Eastern Washington. The Hoyas have an all-time record of 3-1 against teams from the Big Sky Conference, with wins over Idaho (1946), Sacramento State (1995) and Weber State (in the 1995 NCAA Tournament) and a loss to Montana State (1956).

 

EWU's Postseason Notes

* Eastern has joined 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 lost to Wyoming 78-71 in the first round of the NIT in 2003, and lost 75-56 to Oklahoma State in the NCAA Tournament a year later.

* In beating Montana 69-65 in the Big Sky Conference Tournament Championship game, Eastern won the title game for the first time since 2004. It was EWU's sixth appearance in the championship game overall with a record of 2-4. It was the fifth time the Eagles have played the Grizzlies in the tournament, with EWU losing the first four meetings. The two teams met in the championship game in 2002, which was won by UM 70-66. Eastern advanced to the title game with a pair of 91-83 victories – against Idaho in the quarterfinals and Sacramento State in the semifinals.

* Junior Tyler Harvey was selected as the MVP of the Big Sky Conference Tournament after averaging 23.0 points, 2.7 assists and 2.0 steals per game in three games while making 10-of-24 3-point shots (41.7 percent) and 22-of-43 overall (51.2 percent). Junior Venky Jois was also selected to the all-tournament team after averaging 12.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per outing while making 16-of-24 shots from the field for 66.7 percent.

* Eastern head coach Jim Hayford spent the summer of 1989 at Georgetown as a 21-year-old political science major living on campus at Darnall Hall. He made his way occasionally to McDonough Arena, where he was able to watch star center Dikembe Mutombo play and see coach John Thompson Jr. in action. Basketball eventually trumped politics and Hayford found his calling in the coaching ranks.

* This will be the seventh NCAA Tournament Eastern head coach Jim Hayford has coached in, including the last six (2003, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011) at NCAA Division III Whitworth. He is 6-6 in tourney games, including an Elite Eight appearance in his final season. Whitworth is located in nearby Spokane, Wash., which is also home to perennial NCAA Tournament participant Gonzaga. 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 320-146 in 15-plus seasons as a head coach for a .687 winning percentage. He is 66-62 in 3+ seasons at EWU, was 217-57 at Whitworth and was 37-27 in two seasons at Sioux Falls.

* Two of Eastern's assistants – Alex Pribble (2006) and Shantay Legans (in 2001 and 2002) – were part of teams who advanced to the NCAA Tournament for Cal. Also, the father of senior Parker Kelly, Terry Kelly, played in the 1980 Tournament for Washington State. And Tyler Harvey's father, Frank Harvey, has worked two previous NCAA Tournaments as an official but will be in Portland as a spectator this year.

* In equaling the Big Sky Tournament record with 42 points against Idaho, junior Tyler Harvey had his fifth game of the season and 11th of his career with at least 30 points, and his 40th-straight game scoring in double figures (snapped when he scored nine versus Sacramento State the next night). 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.

* The Big Sky Conference is 17-58 in the NCAA Tournament, with the last victory coming in 2006 when No. 12 seed Montana beat Nevada in Salt Lake City. In 1995, Weber State lost to Georgetown 53-51 on a last-second shot to advance to the Sweet 16.

 
 

EWU's Postseason Recaps

NCAA Tournament  - Oklahoma State 75, Eastern Washington 56 (3/19/04): Eastern went into halftime tied with third-ranked Oklahoma State at 36, but the 15th-seeded Eagles missed shots when they needed them most in the second half and lost to the Cowboys 75-56 in EWU's first-ever game in the NCAA Basketball Tournament at Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Mo.

A No. 2 seed in the region, OSU improved to 28-3 for the season as it outscored the Eagles 39-20 in the second half. Eastern finished the season 17-13 as it made its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 21 seasons as a member of NCAA Division I.

 "I'm proud as heck," said Eagle head coach Ray Giacoletti, whose team won 14 of its last 18 games after a 3-9 start. "It's been a great journey to get here to Kansas City. I thought we battled in the first half and were in a position to have the last 20 minutes decide the basketball game. I have no qualms. I'd go anywhere with these guys and fight any battle."

Senior Gregg Smith led the Eagles with 16 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field, senior Brendon Merritt had 14 points and junior Marc Axton added 10 points. But the trio of Merritt (4-of-14), Axton (3-of-12) and senior Alvin Snow (1-of-10) combined to make just 8-of-36 for 22 percent. All three players earned first team All-Big Sky Conference honors in the 2003-04 season.

Eastern made just three of its first 15 shots against the Cowboys, but then caught fire to make 11 of its next 17. However, the Eagles closed the game with a 7-of-27 performance (25.9 percent) from the field in the second half.

"We had some great looks, and that's how we got here," said Giacoletti. "To win 11 games in a row, those shots dropped for us. But we didn't face a defense that can come at you at waves like Oklahoma State."

Smith scored 12 of his points in the first half after entering the game averaging just 2.6 points and 9.1 minutes per game. In the first half alone he doubled his previous season high of six points on four occasions. His 16 points was his highest scoring game against a NCAA Division I opponent of his 77-game Eagle career as he played a season-high 23 minutes.

"He got on a roll tonight," praised Giacoletti. "He got the ball in a good position and did a great job finishing plays."

Snow, meanwhile, equaled his previous season low with just two points. He scored with 2:09 to play to avoid going scoreless for just the second time in a school-record 118 games. The only time he failed to score was in his freshman season on Feb. 16, 2001 versus Portland State.

Snow led the Eagles with five assists and had one steal. Merritt and sophomore Danny Pariseau -- who missed all five shots he took -- added four assists each. The Eagles had assists on 19 of 21 field goals made.

 

NIT - Wyoming 78, Eastern Washington 71 (3/20/03): The worst blizzard to hit Denver, Colo., in 90 years may have created a lot of havoc and headaches for the Eastern Washington University men's basketball team in the school's first-ever national post-season appearance as a member of NCAA Division I. But when they finally made it to Laramie, Wyo., it was the Eagles that created the havoc and headaches for the home team. However, EWU couldn't overcome a late 7-0 Wyoming run and the Eagles fell 78-71 to the Cowboys in a first round game in the National Invitation Tournament at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie, Wyo.

Senior Chris Hester closed his Eastern career with 19 points, making 7-of-12 shots from the field. Junior Alvin Snow was also 7-of-12 to finish with 17 points and three steals. Brendon Merritt chipped in 16 points and T.J. Williams had 10.

The game was tied 54-all when UW went on its decisive 7-0 run. Eastern went 4:48 without scoring, missing four shots and turning the ball over two times. The Eagles pulled to within three, but the Cowboys made 10-of-10 free throws in the last 1:18 to ice the game.

"We came close a couple of different times, but we couldn't get over the top," said Eagle head coach Ray Giacoletti. "That's the way it is in college basketball at this level and life on the road. But I'm proud of our effort. That's the type of mentality that builds a foundation to which you can take the next step from."

In an evenly-matched game, Eastern made 54 percent of its shots from the field, and Wyoming made 48 percent. The Eagles had 14 turnovers to Wyoming's 13, and the Cowboys had a 27-23 rebounding advantage.

But the biggest difference in the game was at the foul line as Wyoming made 29-of-37 for 78 percent while the Eagles made 11-of-12 for 92 percent. Eastern was whistled for nearly twice as many fouls as the Cowboys (26-16).

The Eagle-Cowboy game was originally going to be played March 19, but on March 18 the game was postponed a day because of a storm that blasted the Northern Colorado and Southern Wyoming areas. Closed roads leading to Laramie re-opened the morning of the game, and the Eagles finally made the 130-mile trip to Laramie. The region was paralyzed by up to seven feet in some mountain locations, and 40 inches in the Denver area.

 "That's one of the things I'm proud of," Giacoletti said. "The guys spent 72 hours pushing the bus out of the snow and stuck in motel rooms. I have no arguments about the way we played and the effort we gave. We came out and fought hard."

 
 

Eagle Tip-Ins 

* The Eagles are now 26-8 overall, their most victories since becoming a NCAA Division I member in the 1983-84 season and fourth overall. 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).

* Now with 2,746 points scored this season, in the semifinals of the Big Sky Conference Tournament the Eagles broke the previous school record for scoring of 2,610 set in 1972. Eastern's 335 3-pointers in 832 attempts has also broken the records of 283 makes and 793 attempts in 2012. The team's .403 percentage is also on pace to break the record of .385 set by the 1987 and 2002 teams.

* In three of Eastern's last 11 victories, the Eagles have used stirring comebacks to register victories. Most recently, EWU trailed Montana by 11 with six minutes left, but out-scored the Grizzlies 21-6 the rest of the way for a 69-65 victory on UM's home court. On March 7 to help wrap-up a share of the Big Sky regular season title, the Eagles trailed Weber State by 15 with 13:29 to play before rallying for a 79-71 overtime win. Tyler Harvey made a trio of 3-pointers and scored 11 points during EWU's 13-2 run that cut the lead to four, then knotted the score at 59, 64, 66 and 69 – with Harvey providing the tying points the last two times. The Eagles scored the last 10 points in overtime. Against Idaho on Jan. 31, the Eagles rallied from 11 points down in the final 1:33 of the game to defeat Idaho 98-95 in overtime. With Harvey out with a quadriceps contusion, Drew Brandon 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 at the buzzer to send the game to OT. Bogdan Bliznyuk 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. Eastern also opened the league season with a comeback from an eight-point deficit with inside of six minutes to play, using a game-ending 21-7 run to upend league favorite Weber State 84-78.

* The Eagles finished 4-0 this season in Missoula, having defeated Montana 75-69 on Feb. 5. Before going 3-0 in this year's Big Sky Conference Tournament, EWU was previously 0-3 in the tourney 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.

* 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 a Big Sky best 11-6 on the road this season (2-0 on neutral courts) – its most wins and best percentage (.647) 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.

* 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 21-0 when it has a better shooting percentage than its opponent, 20-2 when making at least 45 percent of its shots and 12-1 when holding the opponent to less than 45 percent. The Eagles are also 16-2 when they out-rebound or equal opponents, 15-0 when they have at least 36 rebounds and 17-3 when they hold opponents to 35 or less. In addition, Eastern is 17-5 when forcing more/equal turnovers and 15-3 when it has 10 or less turnovers. The Eagles are also 22-3 when scoring 71 points or more and 10-1 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 19-6).

* 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 80.8 points per game to lead the league and rank third 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 12th-straight week, Eastern was 18th in the Collegeinsider.com mid-major poll on March 9. EWU was ranked 20th on March 2, 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.

* 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 on March 7. Because EWU and Montana split their season series, the tiebreaker for the No. 1 seed and host status of the tournament was won by UM 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 Jim 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."

* Eastern finished the non-conference portion of its schedule with a 9-4 record, a .692 winning percentage that is EWU's best in 28 seasons as a member of the Big Sky Conference. Eastern bettered the 6-4 mark (60.0 percent) by the 1997-98 team, which finished the year 16-11 and 10-6 in the Big Sky. The only other three times EWU has had a winning record in non-conference play have come in 1990-91 (6-5, finished 11-16 and 5-11 in the Big Sky), 2002-03 (8-6, finished 18-13 and second in the Big Sky at 9-5 to advance to the NIT) and the latest in 2006-07 (7-6, finished 15-14 and fifth in the Big Sky at 8-8). In the 2002-03 season when EWU advanced to its only NCAA Tournament, the Eagles were 4-9 in the pre-season before finishing 17-13 overall and first in the Big Sky with an 11-3 record).

* Eastern's heart-stopping 88-86 victory at Big Ten Conference member Indiana Nov. 24 will go down as one of the greatest victories in school history after the Eagles snapped the nation's third-longest non-conference home court winning streak at 43 in front of 11,636 Hoosier fans at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind. It was the first-ever win for the Eagles in 14 tries against a Big Ten Conference opponent, was the first Big Sky win on a Big Ten home court and was the first time in 21 games Eastern has won in front of a crowd in excess of 10,000. A crowd of 11,636 attended the game at legendary Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind. This is the 115th season of basketball for Indiana, which has won five NCAA Championships (1940, 1953, 1976, 1981, 1987), with 62 total tourney victories in 37 appearances. The Hoosiers also have advanced to eight Final Fours, have won 21 Big Ten titles, have had 44 All-Americans and have had 74 NBA draft picks.  Senior point guard Drew Brandon led the charge with a career-high 27 points, to go along with eight rebounds, five steals and four assists. Venky Jois had a double-double with 20 points and 14 boards and Tyler Harvey scored 25.

 
 

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 14, Tyler Harvey leads NCAA Division I in scoring offense (22.9 points per game) and 3-pointers per game (4.94), and is 18th 3-point shooting percentage (42.8 percent) and 44th in free throw percentage (.850). Venky Jois, who has missed four full games and parts of two others with a sprained ankle, is 100th in per game scoring (16.6), seventh in field goal percentage (60.8 percent), 39th in blocked shots per game (2.23) and 93rd in rebounding (7.7). Drew Brandon is 52nd in assists (4.8), 34th in assist-to-turnover ratio (+2.56 per game), 72nd in steals (1.79) and 147th in rebounding (7.1).

* 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 244 games of experience (142 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 10.0 points per game this season, paced by the 22.9 average of junior guard Tyler Harvey and the 16.6 average of junior forward Venky Jois. Jois is also averaging 7.7 rebounds, 2.4 blocked shots, 2.1 assists and 1.2 steals per game, and sophomore forward Ognjen Miljkovic is averaging 10.0 points and 3.2 rebounds, with 55 3-pointers made on the season.

* Bit by injuries this season, the latest loss for the Eagles was freshman guard Sir Washington. He was thought to be out for the season with a nagging knee injury, but the injury was found to be a bruise and not a fractured patella. He was cleared to play the week of the Big Sky Conference Tournament but didn't see action. He played his last game on Feb. 7 and was averaging 10.1 minutes and 2.5 points off the bench for the Eagles.

 
 

Eagle Records Watch 

Tyler Harvey now has a school-record 122 3-pointers this season to rank second in Big Sky Conference history, just two behind the record of 124 set by Stephen Sir of Northern Arizona in 2007. Harvey had 109 last season and 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 254 to eclipse the previous record of 184 set by Marc Axton (2002-05). Harvey is the 17th player in Big Sky Conference history to make at least 200 and is currently sixth in league history (five away from ranking fifth). He is currently second in school history for career free throw percentage (84.6 percent), and is second for career scoring average (18.5) and fifth in 3-point shooting accuracy (43.3 percent). Harvey has had 42 performances in his career with at least 20 points and 11 with at least 30, and scored in double figures in 40-straight games (total of 67) until the streak was broken on March 13. He has a career total of 1,537 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 (just 13 away from his 1,550 from 1942-47) and Ron Cox (1,741 from 1974-77).

* • Parker Kelly, the only Eagle to have previously played in a Big Sky Tournament (2012), now has 1,003 career points and is the 19th player in EWU history – and third this season – to go over the 1,000-point mark in his career. Now with 125 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 (209) and second in attempts (511). Kelly's 83.6 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 213 and needs 250).

* Junior Venky Jois is just one blocked shot 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 67 blocks this season (second), 49 last season (fifth) and 66 as a freshman (third). 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 1,259 to rank 10th. He continues to add to his career record for blocked shots, and now has 182 in his career to rank sixth all-time in the Big Sky Conference. Jois has had 16 performances in his career with at least 20 points and two with at least 30, and has 26 career double-doubles (eight this season). His 14.10 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 26 career double-doubles (eight this season).

* Senior Drew Brandon has the second-best assist average in school history, a mark of 4.8 that trails the 8.4 average of Ed Waters (1974-77), and is ninth overall in assists with 311. He needs just three assists to equal the school record for two-year players (314 by Darryl Harris in the 1970-71 and 1971-72 seasons).

 
 

Big Sky Tournament Recaps

* The Eagles took a punch from the Grizzlies, then delivered their own. Out-scoring Montana 21-6 in the final six minutes, Eastern earned its second NCAA Tournament berth in school history with a come-from-behind 69-65 victory over host Montana in the Big Sky Conference Tournament championship game March 14 at Dahlberg Arena in Missoula, Mont. The Eagles trailed by 11 before the quartet of tournament MVP Tyler Harvey, senior Drew Brandon, all-tournament selection Venky Jois and sophomore Felix Von Hofe scored all 21 points in EWU's furious rally. Eastern also forced four UM turnovers in that stretch, with a basket by Brandon giving the Eagles the lead for good with 1:33 left and EWU its first-ever tournament win over the Grizzlies. In EWU's game-ending 21-6 run, Harvey led the Eagles with eight points, including a three-point play with 43 seconds to play to give the Eagles a four-point lead. Brandon had six, including two free throws with six seconds to play to ice the win. Jois added a pair of baskets, and Von Hofe made a huge 3-pointer with 2:10 left that gave EWU a 62-61 advantage. The win also made the Eagles a perfect 4-0 this season at Dahlberg Arena. Tied at 42 in the second half, Montana's Brett Weisner scored the first 13 points in a 17-4 Montana run that gave the Grizzlies a 59-48 lead with 6:15 left. To that point, the game featured five ties and nine lead changes, and there were an additional three lead changes after that. In trailing 30-29 at halftime, Eastern had its worst shooting half of the season at 28.6 percent – including only 1-of-8 3-pointers – to score less than 30 points in a half for only the fifth time this season. But the Eagles found their mark in the second half, sinking 16-of-26 shots for 61.5 percent, including eight of their last nine. In the previous meeting, a loss in Cheney by a 77-76 score, the Eagles missed their last four shots. Harvey was just 1-of-7 from the 3-point line, but was 5-of-8 inside the arc to finish with a team-high 18 points. He also had four of EWU's seven steals. Brandon finished with 16 points, a team-high seven rebounds and a pair of assists. Bogdan Bliznyuk, the Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year, was the third Eagle in double figures with 13 points. Jois had eight points and five rebounds.

* With sophomore Felix Von Hofe coming off the bench to score a career-high 23 points with seven 3-pointers made, the Eagles used a 16-of-17 shooting stretch to beat Sacramento State 91-83 in the semifinals Friday (March 13). Von Hofe made his first five treys and scored 17 points in the first half – exceeding his previous career high of 14. Fellow Australian Venky Jois added 19 points, and the Eagles came one 3-pointer away from the tournament record en route to shooting an impressive 58.2 percent from the field. At one point, the Eagles had made 16-of-17 shots from the field, including seven of its last eight in the first half and their first nine of the second half. The 22-11 flurry to start the second half gave EWU a 26-point lead, then EWU led by 23 with 4:28 to play before Sac State rallied to make the score close. Bogdan Bliznyuk, the Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year, finished with 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting. Junior Tyler Harvey was scoreless in the first half on 0-of-2 shooting and finished with nine points to snap his streak of 40-straight games scoring in double figures. Senior point guard Drew Brandon hit a pair of early 3-pointers and finished with nine points, and also had eight assists, five rebounds and two steals. Senior Parker Kelly chipped in 11 points and in the process went over the 1,000-point mark in his career. Eastern made 15-of-25 (60 percent) 3-pointers in the game for its best shooting percentage of the season. The 15 makes were one behind the team's best of 17. Eastern's overall shooting percentage of 58.2 percent was its best against a NCAA Division I opponent this season and its second-best overall behind a school-record 72.5 percent performance against Walla Wall on Nov. 19, 2014.

* Junior guard Tyler Harvey tied the Big Sky Conference Tournament record with a career-high 42 points to lead the Eastern 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 with 10 points and 14 rebounds to advance EWU to Friday's semifinals. Harvey scored nine in a 15-2 run early in the second 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. 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. Sophomore Ognjen Miljkovic added 13 points with a trio of 3-pointers. Senior point guard Drew Brandon finished with eight points and two steals, with key baskets down the stretch at the 1:33 and 1:07 marks of the second half.

 
 

Quoting Coach Hayford

"Our players are fearless and just want to go play," said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. "The neat thing is they are not concerned about what name is across the other team's chest. They are just ready to go play basketball.

On Experience Coaching in a NCAA Tournament: "This might shock you, but there is a bit more attention placed on this tournament than the Division III tournament championship. But at the same time, the principle is having your team ready to play so they can play another game. We'll be ready and we'll be prepared. There is nobody we recruited who picked us over Georgetown. They are a talented team and a historical program. It's going to be a challenging game."

On Being Content Getting to the Tournament: "Every single day we want to advance the program forward, and this as big an opportunity as you get. Being content is the last thing anybody involved with Eastern Washington basketball should be."

On Getting to NCAA Tournament in Fourth Season: "We've worked really, really hard to get to this point. I was asked if I expected this to happen this soon. I don't know about that, but I've never taken a team out of the locker room not expecting to win. I'm expecting to win and I expect our players to keep that same mindset. We're going to put together a game plan our players will have confidence in. We can sleep in April."

On Using Experience at Indiana This Week: "The last two Saturdays we've played in front of 7,000 people, and in both of them our players looked at it as nothing because we played at Indiana. I promise you Portland won't be more hostile than Missoula was."

On Seeing Brackets Revealed: "I've watched this show for over 30 years. I remember being a little kid with paper and pencils, and would make my own bracket and write it in. To see your name there for the first time ever is a really cool moment. I'll remember that. When my friends fill out their brackets in their office, they have to pick a 13 seed – it's awesome. It's great to throw all that pressure on my friends."

On Big Sky Championship Victory: "It was an improbable comeback, but it just shows the character of this team. We were down 11 and looked dead in the water. We called timeout, but we've been there before. I said, 'let's do this – let's play to win. Let's put the pressure on them and put the pressure on them to maybe start playing not to lose.' We're a lot better shooting team than you saw today. That energy (at the end of the game) helped give us some more offensive efficiency and the ball started going in. We were able to manage the clock with what timeouts we did have, and scored out of those. Getting a five-second call is just denial and being tough. The next thing you know all the pressure shifted and we got it to a one-possession game pretty quick. Then I thought our half-court defense took them out of their rhythm – we made stops and got rebounds."

On Big Sky Regular Season 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 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."

 

Eagles Versus Ranked Teams

Now 1-21 versus nationally-ranked teams, Eastern lost 77-68 to No. 22 SMU on Nov. 22, 2014 and then 81-77 to No. 17 Washington on Dec. 14, 2014. Before that, EWU lost 82-65 to No. 15 Connecticut on Dec. 28, 2013 and 77-69 on Nov. 11, 2011, to a Gonzaga team ranked 23rd in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today preseason coaches' polls. The Gonzaga game was the head coaching debut at Eastern for Jim Hayford.

Eastern lost to Washington 98-72 on Nov. 16, 2010, and 86-57 to Gonzaga on Nov. 30, 2010, in EWU's other recent games against nationally-ranked teams. Washington was ranked 17th by Associated Press and 15th in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll, and Gonzaga was 24th by the coaches.

In the 2009-10 season, the Eagles fell 94-52 to Gonzaga on Dec. 28, 2009. The Bulldogs were ranked 22nd by ESPN/USA Today, but were just out of the top 25 at No. 26 by Associated Press. The 2008-09 season was the first time since 2002-03 that Eastern did not play a nationally-ranked team. The Eagles played 12 such games in the five seasons before that.

Eastern's list versus nationally-ranked teams includes three games in the 2004-05 season alone as well as three the year before. Seven of the games came under former head coach Mike Burns and five others came under Ray Giacoletti from 2000-2004.
12/13/14 vs. #17 Washington – L, 77-81
11/22/14 vs. #22 SMU – L, 68-77
12/28/13 vs. #15 Connecticut  – L,65-82
11/11/11 vs. #23 Gonzaga – L, 69-77
11/30/10 vs. #24 (ESPN/USA Today) Gonzaga - L, 57-86
11/16/10 vs. #17 Washington - L, 72-98
12/28/09 vs. #22 (ESPN/USA Today) Gonzaga - L, 52-94
12/5/07 vs. #3 Kansas - L, 47-85
11/9/07 vs. #10 Washington State - L, 41-68
12/15/06 vs. #22 Oregon - L, 74-100
11/24/06 vs. #16 Washington - L, 83-90
12/19/05 vs. #8 Gonzaga - L, 65-75
12/16/05 vs. #11 Washington - L, 74-91
12/28/04 vs. #14 Arizona - L, 45-79
12/21/04 vs. #13 Gonzaga - L, 70-83
12/5/04 vs. #14 Washington - L, 56-89
3/19/04 vs. #3 Oklahoma State - L, 56-75
12/31/03 vs. #16 Gonzaga - L, 49-70
11/21/03 vs. #14 Oklahoma - L, 59-69
11/15/01 vs. #10 St. Joseph's - W, 68-67
11/25/00 vs. #4 Michigan State - L, 61-83
1/21/85 vs. #10 DePaul - L, 50-72

 

Eagles in Front of Crowds of 10,000+

The Eagles have played in front of 21 crowds in excess of 10,000 in school history, including a high of 16,840 for EWU's NCAA Tournament game versus Oklahoma State in 2004. The last time EWU played in front of a crowd of 10,000 or more was on Nov. 24, 2014, when 11,636 were on hand for EWU's 88-86 victory at Indiana, a victory which snapped the third-longest non-conference home winning streak in the nation at 43. Here is a list of crowds EWU has played in front of in excess of 10,000 fans (EWU is 1-20 in those games):

16,840 - 3/19/04 vs. Oklahoma State - L, 56-75
16,374 - 11/15/02 vs. Wisconsin - L, 55-81
16,300 - 12/5/07 vs. Kansas - L, 47-85
14,759 - 11/25/00 vs. Michigan State - L, 61-83
14,535 - 12/28/04 vs. Arizona - L, 45-79
14,422 - 11/14/08 vs. Illinois - L, 50-66
12,533 - 11/24/01 vs. Minnesota - L, 68-86
12,299 - 12/31/03 vs. Gonzaga - L, 49-70
12,016 - 11/12/06 vs. New Mexico - L, 57-92
12,000 - 12/21/04 vs. Gonzaga - L, 70-83
11,977 - 11/26/08 vs. Minnesota - L, 67-88
11,879 - 12/19/05 vs. Gonzaga - L, 65-75
11,636 – 11/24/14 vs. Indiana – W, 88-86
11,268 - 11/21/03 vs. Oklahoma - L, 59-69
11,031 - 12/5/03 vs. Iowa - L, 54-70
11,000 - 12/22/02 vs. Gonzaga - L, 64-67
10,432 - 12/28/01 vs. Indiana - L, 60-87
10,216 - 11/20/04 vs. Wichita State - L, 62-80
10,215 - 11/9/06 vs. Washington State - L, 41-68
10,210 - 3/12/03 vs. Weber State - L, 57-60
10,000 - 11/24/06 vs. Washington - L, 83-90

 

 

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