Eagles Open East Coast Road Trip With 96-86 Loss to Red-Hot Davidson

Eagles Open East Coast Road Trip With 96-86 Loss to Red-Hot Davidson

Eagles make 49 percent of their shots, but Wildcats are even better at 60 percent with 13 3-pointers, as Eastern continues three-game, six-day road stretch at Pittsburgh on Friday

Like its most famous alum, firepower is the key to Davidson Basketball.

The Eastern Washington University men's basketball team sank 49 percent of its shots from the field, but the Wildcats were even hotter and used a 14-2 run early in the second half and 66 percent shooting after intermission to defeat the Eagles 96-86 Wednesday (Dec. 9) in a non-conference men's basketball game at the John M. Belk Arena in Davidson, N.C.

Davidson is the former home for the NBA's hottest star right now, Stephen Curry of the unbeaten Golden State Warriors. Jack Gibbs did his best imitation of Curry, hitting 12-of-17 shots with six 3-pointers to finish with 37 points to lead a trio of Wildcats with at least 20.

Gibbs entered the game averaging 24.6 points per game, while Davidson is ranked 32nd in NCAA Division I in scoring (84.3) and is 19th in 3-pointers made per game (10.2). The Wildcats finished 13-of-26 from the 3-point stripe on its way to an overall shooting night of 60 percent, including 66 percent in the second half.

Those season marks were similar to those of Eastern Washington, which entered 36th scoring (83.5) and fourth in 3-pointers (10.9). The Eagles made 10-of-27 3-pointers, and finished at 49 percent after making half of their shots in the first 20 minutes.

"We represented our school very well," said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford, who had a trio of players combine for 68 of his team's 86 points. "We showed that offensively we can hang with these teams, but we just couldn't put together the stops we needed. We didn't have enough mature depth to close that gap and that's why we left with a 10-point loss. It was a great learning experience. It's game that I would like to play in the future, because it's against the kind of team that can only make you better."


Won-Lost Records . . .  

* Eastern is now 5-4, and plays four more non-conference games before beginning Big Sky Conference play on Dec. 31.

* Davidson is 6-1, having suffered its first loss of the season at ninth-ranked North Carolina on Dec. 6 by a 98-65 score.


What It Means . . .

* A year after playing and winning at college basketball legend Indiana, Eastern was making its first-ever trip to play twice in another mecca of basketball -- the state of North Carolina -- in the Gotham Classic presented by the Gazelle Group. Davidson, the defending Atlantic-10 Conference regular season champion, headlined the list of teams in the tournament. The Eagles will next play at Pittsburgh from the Atlantic Coast Conference (Dec. 11) and then Western Carolina from the Southern Conference (Dec. 14). Morehead State of the Ohio Valley Conference visits Reese Court in Cheney, Wash., on Dec. 17 to close EWU's games in the tourney. Following Wednesday's EWU-Davidson game, those four opponents are 20-9 (Davidson 6-1, Pitt 6-1, Western Carolina 3-5, Morehead State 5-2). Pittsburgh doesn't play until the game against the Eagles on Dec. 11, while Western Carolina will play at Davidson on Dec. 12 prior to hosting the Eagles. Morehead State will play at Pittsburgh on Dec. 13 prior to making the trip to the West Coast.


What's Next . . .

* Eastern continues play in the Gotham Classic on Friday (Dec. 11) when the Eagles play at Pittsburgh, then end the road trip at Western Carolina on Monday (Dec. 14). Pitt has rolled to a 6-1 record – plus a halftime lead in its opener against Gonzaga. Unsafe court conditions due to humidity and moisture at Foster Field House in Okinawa, Japan, led to the cancellation at halftime of the fourth annual Armed Forces Classic. Six-foot-9 Michael Young and 6-7 Jamel Artis lead the way for the Panthers – Young is averaging 16.6 points and 9.0 rebounds per game, and Artis contributes 14.3 points and 3.4 rebounds. They have combined for nine blocked shots and 51 assists as well.


Keys to Game . . .

* The Eagles had only 11 turnovers in the game, but three came early in the second half that helped ignite Davidson's game-deciding run. Eastern entered the game ranked 29th nationally and leading the Big Sky with an average of just 10.7 per game.


Top Performers . .

* Senior graduate transfer Austin McBroom scored a career-high 33 points, making 12-of-19 shots from the field. He was 5-of-9 from the 3-point stripe, sank all four of his free throws, and finished with three assists and a pair of steals.

* Senior Venky Jois had his first double-double of the season and the 27th in his career with 21 points and 14 rebounds. Ranked third in NCAA Division I entering the game with a field goal percentage of 72.4 percent, he sank 10-of-17 against the Wildcats. He also had four assists, and his two blocks gives him 203 in his career. His school-record total is just four from moving into third in Big Sky history.

* Sophomore Bogdan Bliznyuk had 14 points, but made only 1-of-9 from the 3-point line. He was 4-of-7 inside the stripe.

* Junior Felix Von Hofe had a career-high eight rebounds, but Davidson's defense limited him to four 3-point attempts. He made two, and finished 2-of-7 overall from the field.


Turning Point . . .

* Ahead by just three at 47-44 with 18:23 left, Eastern went 2:22 without scoring. As a result, the Wildcats scored 10-straight as part of a 14-4 run that gave Davidson a 61-46 lead at the 14:58 mark. The Wildcats led by as many as 20, at 82-62 with 8:14 to play.


Key Stats . . .

* The game matched head coaches with a collective total of 827 victories in their head coaching career. Eastern's Jim Hayford is now 325-151 in 17 seasons, while Davidson's Bob McKillop won his 502nd versus the Eagles, giving him a 502-301 record in 28 seasons, all at Davidson.


Team Highlights . . .

* The Eagles rested Austin McBroom and Venky Jois in last Sunday's 104-64 win over Great Falls, and it paid dividends on Wednesday. They combined for 54 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists and a pair of blocked shots, and combined for 22-of-36 shooting from the field.

* There were eight lead changes early in the game, and Eastern led by as many as four with 13:58 to play. Austin McBroom and Bogdan Bliznyuk combined for 23 first-half points for the Eagles, who made 50 percent of their shots in the opening half. But Jack Gibbs scored 23 and Jordan Barham had 14 for the Wildcats, helping Davidson to a 54 percent shooting half and a 47-39 halftime lead. An 8-0 run in the first half gave Davidson the lead for good.


Notables . . .

* Of EWU's four opponents in the Gotham Classic (Davidson, Pittsburgh, Western Carolina, Morehead State), three of them will be the first-ever meetings between the schools. The only one of those opponents EWU has faced before was Morehead State back on Dec. 29, 1969. Eastern lost that game 84-69 as part of the Granite City Classic in St. Cloud, Minn.

* Davidson (24-8 overall and 14-4 in the A-10 last season) is the only EWU opponent in 2015-16 that played last year in the NCAA Tournament, losing 83-52 to Iowa in Seattle. Pitt (19-15/8-10) lost to George Washington 60-54 in the NIT. Adding Western Carolina (15-17/9-9 Southern Conference) and Morehead State (17-17/10-6 OVC) to the mix, those four opponents were a collective 75-57 overall and 41-29 in league play a year ago.


More Comments from Head Coach Jim Hayford . . .

On Davidson: "There were a lot of positives to take from this game, and this was as hard a team to guard as we'll play all year. Jack Gibbs certainly looked like a NBA player tonight. I give a lot of credit to them – they were really, really difficult to guard. They have one of the top offensive coaches in the country and they gave us a clinic."

On Defense: "We held our own and scored, but we're just not at a place where we can go on the road to play a team like this and put the hurt on them defensively. We need to grow in that area – we just can't do it yet."

On Top Performers: "Austin is playing really well right now. Venky's second half was what we've expected of him all year, and this will be a good confidence builder for him. They denied Felix hard, but he had his best rebounding game of his career. And Bogdan is just so close to getting there."

On Younger Players: "When you look at the rest of the players we're using, they are all young. They gave us good minutes, but out of that whole bunch we had only two rebounds. That's eight guys and 46 minutes. Everybody comes from high school where their identity was scoring points. Now they are put in the role where they have to get defensive stops, make tough plays and execute offense. Davidson didn't go deep into their bench, but their bench was a little better than ours. We had a big rebounding gap there. If we get four or five more defensive rebounds out of that group, that closes that gap and maybe it's a different game."

On Pittsburgh: "The more I've looked at Pittsburgh, I see they are a very skilled team. They are still going play good defense and it's going to be a hostile place to play going against an ACC team on the road on national television. It's going to be a tough game. Talk about a really well-coached team – Coach (Jamie) Dixon is one of the best. My first year out of college he was an assistant at Los Angeles Valley College when I first met him. He knew what he was doing way back then."

On Second Leg of Road Trip: "It's great for our team to play on that stage, but in terms of the turnaround, it's a road trip. We open at Northern Colorado and North Dakota on a two-day swing, and it's easier to get from here to Pittsburgh than it is to get from Greeley to Grand Forks. It is what it is – you just have get tough and go do it."

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