Hot Stretches Propel Eagles to 81-77 Win Over Dons

Hot Stretches Propel Eagles to 81-77 Win Over Dons

Eastern uses 10-0, 13-2 and 14-4 scoring runs to open big leads over San Francisco, then hold on for fourth win of the season

When you're hot, you're hot.

Propelled by hot shooting during a trio of scoring runs, the Eastern Washington University men's basketball team beat San Francisco from the West Coast Conference for the second-straight year, winning 81-77 in a non-conference game Tuesday (Dec. 1) at War Memorial Gymnasium.

Eastern used runs of 10-0 and 13-2 in the first half to forge a 17-point lead on sizzling 13-of-16 shooting from the field. The Eagles hit five-straight shots to regain a 17-point bulge in the second half with a 14-4 run, then held on for EWU's fourth win of the season.

"The bottom line is we come out of here with a win, and get two out of three on the road," said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford, whose team made 14-of-30 3-point shots and made 51 percent overall, plus turned 17 USF turnovers into 25 points. "I'm just really, really pleased with this win."

A late 9-1 run by the Dons cut the lead to three with 50 seconds to play, but USF missed its last three shots. Eastern's Austin McBroom clinched the victory with a free throw with seven seconds to play, but six missed charity shots in the final 58 seconds made the Eagles sweat it out.

 "Young teams have to learn how to close out wins on the road, and we went through about five chapters of that lesson," said Hayford. "So we'll learn from it. Obviously, if we make our free throws it doesn't even get that way. We did a really job taking care of the ball with only nine turnovers. So it wasn't turnovers during (their late run), it was us missing free throws and they were scoring."


Won-Lost Records . . .  

* The Eagles are now 4-3, and have played teams from five different conferences thus far. Eastern was playing its third game in four days, having split a pair of games last weekend at the Sacramento State Invitational. The Eagles defeated the University of the Pacific from the West Coast Conference 70-63 on Nov. 28, then falling to South Dakota 77-71 the next afternoon in the "pseudo" title game.

* San Francisco is 4-3 and was playing its first game of the season against a Big Sky Conference opponent.


What It Means . . .

* A year ago, the Eagles beat the Dons on Dec. 11, 2014, by an 81-76 score. Coupled with EWU's win over Pacific last Saturday, EWU has won its last three games against foes from the West Coast Conference.


What's Next . . .

* The Eagles return home to face Great Falls on Dec. 6 at 2:05 p.m. in one of only two games in December at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.


Keys to Game . . .

* Eastern made 14-of-30 3-pointers for 47 percent, just four makes from the school record of 18. Eastern's average of 9.3 3-pointers per game entering the game was 47th in NCAA Division I, but the team's percentage was just 175th (33.9 percent). A year ago, Eastern was fifth with an average of 9.8 made treys per game, and its 40.0 percent accuracy was eighth-best in the nation.


Top Performers . .

* Junior Felix Von Hofe made 8-of-11 field goals, including 4-of-7 from the 3-point stripe, to finish with 20 points.

* Senior graduate transfer Austin McBroom scored 19, making 5-of-9 3-pointers. He also had five assists.

* Senior Venky Jois finished with 11 points and a pair of blocked shots to give him 201 for his career. The preseason Big Sky Conference MVP made 5-of-6 shots from the field after entering the game ranked fifth in NCAA Division I in field goal percentage at 71.2 percent.

* Sophomore Bogdan Bliznyuk was the fourth Eagle in double figures with 13, and also had four assists.


Turning Point . . .

* After leading by as many as 17 in the first half, the Dons made their first six shots of the second half and cut EWU's lead to 49-42. But the Eagles responded with a 14-4 run, making five-straight shots of their own to regain a 63-46 lead with 13:37 left. Felix Von Hofe (6), Venky Jois (4) and Austin McBroom (4) accounted for all of EWU's points in the run, with Von Hofe hitting a pair of 3-pointers and McBroom sinking one.


Key Stats . . .

* The Eagles forced 17 San Francisco turnovers, and turned them into 25 points. In the first half alone, 12 USF turnovers were turned into 20 Eastern points. The Eagles finished with just nine turnovers, but were out-rebounded 36-22.


Team Highlights . . .

* Eastern opened the first half by making 13 of its first 16 shots, and began the second half 8-of-10. Collectively, those starts equaled a 21-of-26 performance (81 percent), compared to 8-of-31 for the rest of the game (26 percent).


Notables . . .

* Eastern is now 2-1 all-time against San Francisco, losing 66-48 on Dec. 1, 1995, and then winning 81-76 on Dec. 11, 2014, in a pair of games played at USF. Next year, the Dons are scheduled to come to Cheney for a pair of games against EWU and Sacramento State, similar to the invitational tournament Eastern participated in on Nov. 28-29 in Sacramento.

* Eastern entered the game with a scoring average of 80.5 points to rank 79th in NCAA Division I through games of Nov. 29. Eastern had scored 290 points in its first three games for an average of 96.7 points per game to rank fifth nationally. Last year's team set a school record with 2,820 points scored and averaged 80.6 per game to rank third in NCAA Division I.


More Comments from Head Coach Jim Hayford . . .

On Top Performances: "I thought Austin had a very good, complete game – the best game he's had for us. We put the ball in Bogdan's hand a lot and he kept drawing attention and making good kicks. Felix shot the ball better, and in the first half we went to Cody (Benzel) and Rico (Nuno) and they put some shots down. It was enough to have more points than them at the end of the game. We fouled a lot and we didn't make our free throws, but we did force a lot of turnovers. Our ball screen traps were very effective against them."

On Finding Ways to Win: It's a crazy game. We were out-rebounded by 14 and we made 50 percent at the free throw line, but we still won on the road. We'll take it. That means that somewhere in this team is the gumption to do what they have to do to win."

On Defense: "We're mixing it up, because you have to. But we are trying to play more and more pressure defense. We got offensive points from our defense."

On Winning Second-Straight Year at San Francisco: "What a great road win. We're really, really happy. When we got into this agreement with San Francisco, we knew we would play them on the road in back-to-back years. I think we're going win every game, but if you would have told me we were going to win the first two in their gym, I would have said, 'wow, that's just terrific.'"

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