Eagles Headed for Portland to Play Georgetown in NCAA Tournament

Eagles Headed for Portland to Play Georgetown in NCAA Tournament

26-8 Eastern receives a No. 13 seed and will play the third-seeded and 21-10 Hoyas  

The Eagles will be dancing with the Hoyas.

The Eastern Washington University men's basketball team 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.

A limited amount of tickets will be available for the general public for EWU's appearance in the NCAA Tournament, and will go on sale at noon Pacific time via a link available at www.goeags.com/Tickets. Tickets cost $100 and for are good for the EWU-Georgetown game and the Utah-Stephen F. Austin game that precedes it at 4:27 p.m. Pacific time. A limit of four may be purchased. Should the Eagles win, the tickets may be purchased for the same cost for Saturday's third-round session.

A large crowd watched Sunday with the team at Reese Court as the selections were revealed on CBS. The Eagles received a No. 13 seed while Georgetown was a No. 4 seed.

"I've watched this show for over 30 years," said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. "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," he added. "It's great to throw all that pressure on my friends."

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.

"We wanted to go to Portland or Seattle, and I was kind of hoping we would be in the same facility as Gonzaga so the community could cheer both teams on," said Hayford. "Having a team that has to come three time zones this way is a plus. At the end of the day, they are a really good team with an outstanding coach. The system they run is one of the trendsetters of college basketball – the Princeton offense. We have our hands full, but our team is fearless. It didn't matter what team came up on that board. We were excited to be there and ready to take on whoever we play."

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, 21-10 overall and 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.

This will be the first-ever meeting between Georgetown and the 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 (1995) and a loss to Montana State (1956).

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.


EWU in the Postseason . . . 

• 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.

• 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. 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.


Team & Player Notes . . .

• Eastern is now 26-8 on the season after finishing 14-4 in the league, EWU owns school records for overall and Big Sky victories in 32 seasons as a member of NCAA Division I.

• 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.

* 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 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 equaling the 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.

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 has a career total of 1,537 points, the most by an Eagle in NCAA Division I history and ranking 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.

• 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).


Montana Recap . . .

• 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.


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