Eastern wins first meeting 76-70 to improve to 2-1 on the season, but adjustments expected in rematch at Key Arena
Monday, Nov. 23 - Key Arena (8,000) - Seattle, Washington
7 p.m. Pacific - Eastern Washington (2-1) vs. Seattle (0-3)
Webcast: None for Seattle game; All Eastern home games and non-conference Big Sky Conference road games are carried at http://www.watchbigsky.com
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.
Live Stats: www.goseattleu.com for Seattle game; ewustats.com for EWU home games.
If the Hunger Games can have a Part II, so can the Eagles and Redhawks.
Just five days after meeting in Cheney, Wash., the Eastern Washington University men's basketball team will take on Seattle University again on Monday (Nov. 23) at 7 p.m. Pacific time at Key Arena in Seattle, Wash.
Fans can also listen to the game on 700-AM ESPN and via the web at www.700espn.com. Pre-game coverage starts a half-hour prior to tipoff, with Larry Weir providing the play-by-play.
The Eagles won the first meeting 76-70, opening a 15-pont lead with 5:27 left and then holding on to the win. Seattle switched out of its zone defense near the end of the game and used an up-tempo attack to get back in the game, so Hayford expects an interesting – and difficult -- rematch Monday.
"They are 0-3, so I'm sure we are going to get a really, really good punch from them," he said. "There will be some game-planning because they are going to take away some of the things we did. We are going to have to counter with some other things. It's going to be interesting and really, really helpful."
The Eagles are 2-1 after playing three games in six days. Eastern lost its opener on Nov. 13 to Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss., and then set school records for steals (23) and points (126) in a 62-point victory over George Fox (126-64) on Nov. 15.
The Redhawks had the same difficult stretch, and will be looking for their first victory after a 0-3 start. The Redhawks lost 77-65 to Sacramento State after a season-opening 58-56 home loss to Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
"It's really unique," said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford of the back-to-back meetings "I'm trying to think in my years as a coach where we have had back-to-back home and away (against the same team) – kind of NBA-like."
A year ago, the Redhawks were 18-16 overall and 7-7 in the Western Athletic Conference. Seattle advanced to the semifinals of the College Basketball Insider (CBI) Tournament, falling to Loyola Chicago 63-48. The Redhawks lost to New Mexico State in the championship game of the WAC Tournament.
The Eagles are coming off their best season as a member of NCAA Division I, closing the 2014-15 season 26-9 after finishing 14-4 in the Big Sky Conference to share the regular season title with Montana. Eastern swept through three games in the Big Sky Conference Tournament to garner the school's second NCAA Tournament appearance in school history. The Eagles finished with program bests for victories overall (26), in the Big Sky (14), on the road (11) and in non-conference play (9) in 32 seasons as a member of NCAA Division I.
Eastern's national resume featured the 25th-most wins in NCAA Division I and 28th in winning percentage at .743, the fourth-most victories in the 50+ year history of the Big Sky Conference, a marquee win at Indiana and the nation's leading scorer in Tyler Harvey.
Link to Fact Book
The complete version of the 2015-16 EWU men's basketball fact book may be found at:
More Eagle Basketball Links
Eastern Basketball -- http://goeags.com/sports/m-baskbl/index
2015-16 Season Outlook -- http://goeags.com/sports/m-baskbl/2015-16/releases/16mbSEASONOUTLOOK.docx
Link to Ticket Information -- http://www.goeags.com/tickets
Spokesman-Review EWU Basketball Page -- http://www.spokesman.com/ewuhoops
Story on Eagle Head Coach Jim Hayford -- http://www.inlander.com/spokane/the-man-in-the-red-blazer/Content?oid=2603878
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
Tyler Harvey NBA D-League Page -- http://dleague.nba.com/player/tyler-harvey/
Rodney Stuckey NBA Page -- http://www.nba.com/playerfile/rodney_stuckey/index.html
More Information and Links are Available at: HTTP://WWW.GOEAGS.COM
* Eastern is now 13-8 all-time against Seattle in a series that has included at least one game annually since 2009. With its 76-70 win on Nov. 13 giving EWU a three-game winning streak against the Redhawks, Eastern won last season in Seattle 87-75, and the year before triumphed in Cheney 82-75. Before renewing their rivalry in 2009, the last meeting came on Nov. 22, 1985, when Eastern won 83-64 at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash. Until 2009, that was the lone game played between the two schools since EWU moved to NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season. The first four meetings came in the 1945-46 season, and Eastern won all four of those games, as well as a pair the following season. A split followed in 1948-49, and Seattle swept a pair in the 1951-52 season. Seattle was in NCAA Division I from 1944-1980, with such star players as Elgin Baylor, John O'Brien, Clint Richardson and Frank Oleynick on its rosters. Baylor, in fact, led Seattle to the championship game of the NCAA Tournament where it lost 84-72 to Kentucky. Formerly known as the Chieftains, from 1980-2002 they were affiliated with NAIA and from 2002-2007 were a member of NCAA Division II.
* In last year's meeting with Seattle, junior forward Venky Jois had his second-straight 38-point performance to lead the Eagles to an 87-75 victory at Key Arena on Dec. 6 in Seattle, Wash. The Eagles used a 16-5 run in the first half to help open a 19-point halftime lead, and led by as many as 21 in the second half. After falling behind by seven, Eastern held the Redhawks to 4-of-19 shooting from the field the rest of the half. The Eagles, meanwhile, made 12-of-16 2-point shots in the first 20 minutes of action. Jois scored 15 points in the first half, then poured in 23 after intermission. He sank 25 shots on 33 attempts – 13-of-18 field goals and 12-of-15 free throws. He added seven rebounds and three blocked shots. Senior point guard Drew Brandon had a double-double with 11 assists and 12 rebounds, and also had five points and only two turnovers in 36 minutes of action. Tyler Harvey finished with 18 points, making 5-of-14 field goals including 3-of-10 from the 3-point stripe. The Eagles made 21-of-27 free throws versus the Redhawks for 78 percent, and was also hot from the field with a 50-percent night.
* In an 82-75 Eastern victory in the 2013-14 season, Tyler Harvey poured in 30 points for the Eagles, Venky Jois had a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds, and Drew Brandon finished with 12 points and seven assists. Eastern took the lead for good on a 3-pointer by Harvey 4:56 to play. He closed his scoring with free throws – two at the 3:00 mark that gave EWU a 72-69 lead, and two more with 14 seconds to play to give EWU a five-point bulge.
* Eastern has scored 290 points in three games already for an average of 96.7 points per game – amazingly, a mark that only ranks 15th in NCAA Division I thus far (through 11/19). 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.
* With Seattle playing zone defense most of the game, Eastern made 15-of-34 3-pointers for 44 percent against the Redhawks. Eastern's school records in those two categories are 18 and 44, respectively. A year ago, the Eagles were fifth in NCAA Division I with an average of 9.8 treys per game, and their .400 percentage was eighth. Through three games this season, the Eagles have made 30-of-81 for 37 percent.
* Fresh off its best season in the school's NCAA Division I history, Eastern will play teams from 11 different conferences in the 2015-16 season. The Eagles will play nine games versus six teams who appeared in national postseason tournaments a year ago.
* In what could again be a tightly-contested race in the Big Sky Conference, the defending champion Eastern men's basketball team has been picked to finish third by both the coaches and media in preseason polls released Oct. 1 by the league. Eastern had 99 points in the coaches poll to trail preseason favorites Weber State (114) and Montana (113). Both the Wildcats and Grizzlies received six first-place votes. With 183 points in the media poll, EWU trailed preseason favorite Montana (220) and WSU (194). Montana captured 14 of the 19 first-place votes, with the Eagles receiving one and the Wildcats two.
* The Eagles closed a monumental 2014-15 campaign with a 26-9 record overall after finishing 14-4 in the Big Sky Conference to share the regular season title with Montana. Eastern swept through three games in the Big Sky Conference Tournament to garner the school's second NCAA Tournament appearance in school history. The Eagles finished with program bests for victories overall (26), in the Big Sky (14), on the road (11) and in non-conference play (9) in 32 seasons as a member of NCAA Division I.
* Entering the 2015-16 season, head coach Jim Hayford was selected by College Sports Madness as its preseason Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year. Additionally, Sam Vecenie of CBS Sports rated him as one of the top 21 offensive coaches in all of NCAA Division I.
* Head coach Jim Hayford – the 2014-15 Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year -- took over an Eastern team four years ago that had been to the Big Sky Conference Tournament just once in five seasons, but in the 2014-15 season he took the Eagles to new heights. The Eagles have 66 victories overall, 39 league wins and four Big Sky Tournament game triumphs under Hayford, and the 26 victories last season are the fourth-most in the more than 50-year history of the league. In fact, a local newspaper dubbed Hayford the "Wizard in Cheney" in a feature article in November 2015. On July 8, 2015, Hayford signed a new five-year agreement which extends his contract at EWU through the 2019-20 season. The new five-year agreement replaced the contract he signed a year prior.
* Eastern's triumphs in 2014-15 included victories over six different NCAA Division I conferences, including road wins at Indiana, San Francisco and Seattle. Eastern was ranked as high as 12th in the national mid-major poll, and as high as 50th in the RPI. The Eagles concluded their home schedule with a crowd of 4,621 against Montana to rank as the fourth-most in school history and the most in 15 years.
* For the second year in a row, EWU was honored with the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Team Academic Excellence Award. Eastern's 3.27 team grade point average was the best in the Big Sky Conference in the 2014-15 season, and .20 better than the team's 3.07 average of a year ago.
* The Eagles continue to be a part of the C.H.A.M.P.S (College Headed and Making Progress) program at Whitman Elementary School in Spokane. Eastern student-athletes spend part of their time at Whitman with the entire student body, but a majority of their time is spent one-on-one with a fifth-grade student. The unique program follows each Whitman student for eight years through middle school and high school. Once an EWU student-athlete graduates, an incoming player will begin mentoring their student.
* Active within the last year in the pro ranks are 14 former Eagles, including Tyler Harvey and Drew Brandon from last year's Eagle team. Harvey is now with the Erie Bay Hawks of the NBA's Developmental League after getting drafted in the second round (51st overall) by the Orlando Magic in the 2015 NBA Draft. Harvey averaged 10.6 points, 2.0 assists and 1.4 rebounds for the Magic's "Blue" summer squad. Brandon is in his first year with the Bayer Giants in the Germany ProA League. Eastern's professional players are headlined by NBA veteran Rodney Stuckey, who is in his second season with Indiana after seven seasons with the Detroit Pistons. In 2014-15 – his eighth season as a pro and first with the Indiana Pacers – Stuckey averaged 12.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 0.8 steals per game in 71 games (36 starts). He made a career-best 39.0 percent of his 3-point attempts, sinking 55-of-141. Stuckey signed a new 3-year, $21 million contract with the Pacers on July 21, 2015.
* Six Eagles have already made their college basketball debuts this season, and five of them have played in all three Eastern games. True freshman Ty Gibson has seen the most significant action, averaging 11.7 minutes per game. Redshirt freshman Bear Henderson has averaged 8.7 minutes and 3.3 points thus far, and started his first career game against George Fox on Nov. 15. Freshman redshirt Cody Benzel has averaged 5.0 points in an average of 5.0 minutes off the bench. Also making their debuts at Mississippi State on Nov. 13 were redshirt freshman Will Ferris and true freshman Jesse Hunt, and true freshman Michael Wearne made his versus George Fox. Making his NCAA Division I debut against MSU and playing all three games thus far is junior college transfer. Rico Nuno. Senior graduate transfer Austin McBroom made his Eagle debut against the Bulldogs, and junior transfer Julian Harrell is out indefinitely with a hand injury. Three Eagles – transfer Geremy McKay, transfer Mario Soto and freshman Grant Gibb – will redshirt.
* The Eagles lost a pair of All-Big Sky guards from last year's NCAA Tournament team, but senior graduate transfer Austin McBroom has provided an instant solution for the Eagles. The former starter at Saint Louis has a team-leading 105 minutes thus far, with averages of 16.7 points and 6.0 assists, and just four total turnovers. He has made 7-of-22 3-pointers for 31.8 percent while making 43.6 percent from the field overall, and has sank 9-of-10 free throws. He is coming off a 16-point effort against Seattle in which he only had three assists, but had only one turnover to help EWU to a season-low of seven.
* Junior Felix Von Hofe had a breakthrough game in the Big Sky Conference Tournament last March, and he's proven that was no fluke. In two games played thus far, he is averaging 23.0 points per game while making 12-of-22 3-pointers for 55 percent and 54 percent from the field overall. He had a career-high 25 points against Seattle on Nov. 18, besting his previous high of 23 when he made 8-of-10 from the field and 7-of-8 from the 3-point stripe in a 91-83 victory over Sacramento State in the semifinals of the league tournament on March 14, 2015. Much like the 15-point lead he helped open against Seattle, his sizzling shooting helped EWU open a 26-point lead against the Hornets.
* Two major cogs in Eastern's roll to the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament last season – Venky Jois and Bogdan Bliznyuk -- have been selected to the preseason All-Big Sky Conference team as selected by a panel of sportswriters, broadcasters and sports information directors in the league. Jois, a senior 6-foot-8 forward, is EWU's lone returning starter this season and was selected as the league's preseason MVP. A year ago, Eastern's Tyler Harvey won the award and went on to lead NCAA Division I in scoring and was eventually drafted in the second round of the NBA Draft by Orlando. Besides Jois, Bliznyuk was also selected to the seven-player team and was the only underclassmen chosen. The others honored included Montana's Martin Breunig, Montana State's Marcus Colbert, Northern Arizona's Kris Yanku and Weber State's Joel Bolomboy and Jeremy Senglin.
* Senior Venky Jois continues to climb the Big Sky Conference career leaders list for blocked shots. His school-record total of 190 currently ranks fifth, just six from moving into fourth and 57 from the league record. His 1,324 total points ranks ninth in school history and his 760 rebounds are fourth, and he also ranks on leaders lists for scoring average (14.20, 12th), rebounding average (8.2, eighth), field goals attempted (936, 10th), field goals made (518, fifth), free throws made (284, fourth) and free throws attempted (493, second -- just six from the school record). Jois was on the All-Big Sky Conference first team as a junior in the 2014-15 season, and then was named to the Big Sky Conference All-Tournament team. He was the Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year in the 2013-14 season, and earned honorable mention All-Big Sky accolades as a freshman and sophomore. Jois averaged 16.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.2 blocked shots per game as a junior, and so far as a senior has averages of 15.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.0 blocks. Jois is from Boronia, Australia, and has a 3.51 grade point average as an interdisciplinary studies major (biology/pre-med emphasis). He is a three-time member of the Big Sky All-Academic team and was a member of the NABC Honors Court as a junior.
* Sophomore forward Bogdan Bliznyuk has been used frequently at bringing the ball up the court, and is averaging 16.7 points per game with a deft ability to get to the rim. He has made only 3-of-10 3-pointers thus far, but he is 15-of-27 inside the stripe (56 percent) with an overall percentage of 47 percent. He has also made 11-of-13 free throws, has a team-high eight steals and is averaging 5.3 rebounds. He was the Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year after coming off the bench to average 8.7 points and 4.0 rebounds for the Eagles. It's an honor now won six times in the past 14 seasons by Eastern players, including current Eagle Venky Jois in the 2012-13 season. Bliznyuk, who also earned Big Sky All-Academic honors, averaged 12.0 points in league play to rank 24th in the Big Sky -- tops among all freshmen. He was also fifth in field goal shooting (58.0 percent) and 12th in rebounding (5.6) while also averaging 24.3 minutes and 1.4 assists. He made 58.0 percent of his shots (80-of-138) in those 18 league games and converted 39-of-51 free throws (76.6 percent). Bliznyuk is formerly from Lutsk, Ukraine, but graduated from Todd Beamer High School in Federal Way, Wash., in 2014. He was less than 2 years old when his father, a truck driver, died in an accident. Their mother moved them to Federal Way five years later to be closer to family. Born with a gap in his upper jaw, he has had multiple surgeries after moving to the United States, included transferring bone from his hip.
* Guard sophomore Sir Washington had a career-high 11 points in the team's opener at Mississippi State, and has started all three games thus far. He is averaging 10.0 points on 55 percent shooting from the field, and is also averaging 3.7 rebounds with four assists and five steals.
Quoting Coach Hayford
On Seattle Win: "We're really happy to win a game. As this team comes together, who knows how good we'll be. When you get a win you are grateful and you accept it. The team that was up 15 with about five minutes to go was the team I see when I look at my team. The way we played in the last four minutes I was a little disappointed with. But give Seattle some credit, they made some big shots."
On Von Hofe's 25 Versus Seattle: "I don't know if it's special, but it's what I expect him to do. If the team gives him 12 good looks – he didn't take a bad shot – he's going to make them. His goal each game is to make 50 percent or more of his threes. He's disappointed if he doesn't. He made one more than 50 percent tonight. It should be routine and he takes great pride in himself as a shooter. I hope he gets 12 looks in every game – that will be good for us. He's obviously a premier shooter."
On Jois & Bliznyuk Earning Preseason Honors: "Preseason honors set up expectations. We are comfortable with that, as our team has great expectations for the upcoming season. On preseason lists that I've seen, Venky is listed as one of the top 20 forwards in college basketball. It's pretty special to lose the nation's leading scorer, but you still welcome back one of the top forwards in college basketball."
On Venky Jois: "Venky is a threat to have a double-double every night out. He plays with great passion and energy, and is a captain of our team. Venky has been a foundation in the building of our program -- he is an outstanding student, a great leader, and committed to developing into the best basketball player he can be. I join all Eagle fans in anticipating a great senior year for Venky. "
On Bogdan Bliznyuk: "Bogdan had a great freshman year and has a great career ahead of him. He's a very coachable player and he plays hard. He has a great drive game and rebounds with tenacity. He is efficient as a player and has great shot selection. I think he has a great career ahead of him because of his determination to be the best that he can be."
On Being Picked Third in Big Sky Preseason Poll: "Being picked in the top third of the conference is a good place to be," said Hayford. "That shows we are earning the respect of our peers. This year there are many great players returning in the Big Sky Conference and the league has so many great coaches. We have our work cut out for us."
Recent Game Recaps
* Junior sharpshooter Felix Von Hofe made seven of EWU's 15 3-pointers on his way to a career-high 25 points for the Eagles in a 76-70 victory Nov. 18 at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash. The game was postponed by 18 1/2 hours after a massive wind storm slammed the Inland Northwest the night before. The storm, with sustained winds of 40-miles per hour and gusts of up to 70 creating widespread power outages and unsafe travel conditions, forced the delay. Power was restored to campus early Wednesday morning, and with both teams and officials waiting out the storm, the decision was made to play. The Eagles built a 15-point lead with 5:27 left, then survived a late 12-0 Seattle run to register the win. Von Hofe's performance included a 7-of-12 effort from the 3-point line, and 8-of-15 overall against Seattle's zone defense. Senior graduate transfer Austin McBroom contributed 16 points on 4-of-10 shooting from the 3-point stripe, and made four clutch free throws in the final 43 seconds. He also had three assists and a key steal late in the contest. Sophomore Bogdan Bliznyuk scored 10 points in just 28 minutes because of foul trouble, and sophomore guard Sir Washington was the fourth Eagle in double figures with 11 points. En route to making 15-of-34 as a team, the Eagles hit six 3-pointers in the opening 7:15, including three by McBroom and a pair by Von Hofe. That helped Eastern open a 20-7 lead, and the Eagles hit 10 total treys in the first half en route to a 38-30 halftime advantage. Early in the second half, Von Hofe ignited the Eagles with a steal and assist to Bliznyuk on a layin that were the first fastbreak points of the game for the Eagles. Von Hofe followed with a driving layin himself, and a 3-pointer with 11:46 left that gave EWU a 51-38 advantage. His seventh trey of the game at the 5:27 mark gave EWU a 68-53 advantage.
* On a day a historic season was honored, Eastern set a little more history by breaking a nearly 47-year scoring record. With its ball-hawking defense leading the way with a school-record 23 steals, the Eagles rolled past George Fox 126-64 on Nov. 15 in the first-ever meeting between the two non-conference foes at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash. The afternoon matinee featured the presentation of championship rings to the 2014-15 squad and unveiling of Big Sky championship and NCAA Tournament banners at Reese Court. Led by the 29 points of senior Venky Jois, the Eagles broke the previous scoring record recorded in a 124-94 win over Eastern Montana on Jan. 20, 1969. Two Eagles had double-doubles – Bogdan Bliznyuk with 19 points and 12 rebounds, and Austin McBroom with 15 points and 10 assists. Eastern forced 12 George Fox turnovers in the first half, and had steals on all 12 of them, led by four for Sir Washington. The Eagles only scored eight points directly off the turnovers, but finished with 18 second-chance points and 19 fast-break points in the half. Eastern led by 30 at intermission. Jois made 13-of-15 shots from the field and also had seven rebounds, three blocked shots, three assists and a pair of steals. Bliznyuk led the team with five steals, and Sir Washington had four steals, eight points, four rebounds and a pair of assists. Redshirt freshman Cody Benzel played seven minutes off the bench and hit all four of his shots to finish with 12 points. Redshirt freshman Bear Henderson was the fifth Eagle in double figures with 10 points to go along with three steals.
* It was a promising first 25 minutes to the 2015-16 season for EWU, but Mississippi State came alive in the final 15 to win 106-88 in a non-conference game Nov. 13 in Starkville, Miss. The Eagles of the Big Sky Conference led the Bulldogs of the Southeastern Conference 60-50 with 18:35 left in the second half, and 68-62 at the 14:49 mark. But EWU went 8 1/2 minutes without a field goal as MSU went on a 33-6 run, including one stretch of 18 unanswered points. The Eagles made 28 of their first 46 shots from the field for 61 percent, but missed their next 11 during MSU's big run. The Eagles finished the game making 42 percent in the second half after a 59-percent performance in the first 20 minutes. With sophomore Bogdan Bliznyuk and junior Felix Von Hofe each having 21-point nights for the Eagles, the game also marked the EWU debut for point guard Austin McBroom. The graduate transfer from Saint Louis finished with 15 points, and also had five assists -- all in the first 25 minutes. Senior Venky Jois added 12 points and a team-leading seven rebounds. Sophomore guard Sir Washington made 5-of-7 shots from the field to finish with a career-high 11 points in just his second start as an Eagle.