Finally at Home, Eastern Hosts Red-Hot Vandals

Finally at Home, Eastern Hosts Red-Hot Vandals

Eagles play for just the fourth time this season at home after playing 11 of first 14 on the road

Update in .PDF Format

Upcoming Games (times Pacific)

Saturday, Jan. 9 - Reese Court (5,000) - Cheney, Wash.
12:05 p.m. - Eastern Washington (6-8/0-2 Big Sky) vs. Idaho (10-5/2-0)
 

Coverage

TV: Live regionally on SWX (Sam Adams & Greg Hannan)
Webcast:
All Eastern home games and Big Sky Conference road games are carried at http://www.watchbigsky.com.
Radio: All Eastern games are on 700-AM ESPN in Spokane. Larry Weir returns for his 23rd season calling the play-by-play, starting 30 minutes prior to tipoff.
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: ewustats.com for EWU home games.
EWU Coaches Show: First show, featuring head coach Jim Hayford & host Larry Weir, takes place Monday, Jan. 4 live at 6 p.m. Pacific time from the Swinging Doors Restaurant in North Spokane (W. 1018 Francis). Fans may attend the one-hour shows live, or listen on 700-AM ESPN and via the web at www.700espn.comNote: Next week's show will take place on Tuesday, Jan. 12, but thereafter, shows will be on Mondays from Jan. 18 through at least Feb. 29.


For the longest stretch of the season, the Eagles will be re-acquainted with Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.

The Eastern Washington University men's basketball team begins a three-game homestand by playing the Big Sky Conference's hottest team – the Idaho Vandals – in a key league game on Saturday (Jan. 9). Tipoff is 12:05 p.m. Pacific time in a game televised regionally by SWX.

The first 1,000 Eagle fans attending the game will be given a commemorative Bogdan Bliznyuk schedule poster (second of a three-poster collector series). Plus, the game is being promoted as a "Red Out" with EWU fans asked to wear red to the game. Fans can also listen to all EWU games on 700-AM ESPN and via the web at www.700espn.com. All EWU home games and conference road games are broadcast on www.watchbigky.com.

The Eagles are 0-2 in the Big Sky and 6-8 overall after falling by six points at Northern Colorado (79-71) and eight at North Dakota (79-71) last week. Idaho defeated both of those opponents – 74-71 over UND and 75-70 versus UNC – and comes to Cheney with a five-game winning streak. The Vandals started that streak with a 78-74 home win over Washington State on Dec. 10.

Last year, Idaho returned to the Big Sky Conference and EWU beat the Vandals twice in the regular season and once in the Big Sky Conference Tournament. Idaho is coached by Don Verlin, who has directed his team to a 10-5 record so far. Idaho was picked to finish seventh by the media and eighth by the coaches in the league's pre-season polls, while EWU was picked to finish third in both.

Saturday's game will be a battle between one of the top offensive teams in the nation against one of the top defensive squads. Through game of Jan. 3, the Eagles are second in the league and 56th in NCAA Division I in scoring offense (80.0 per game), and are 10th nationally in 3-pointers per game (10.5 per game). The Vandals lead in the league in defense, allowing 64.6 points per game to rank 43rd in NCAA Division I.  They are also 26th nationally in rebounding margin with a league-leading +7.7 mark per game.

"We'll try to prepare a game plan to stop them," said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. "I have a lot of respect for that Idaho program. Coach Verlin took over a program that had lost a lot of games and he's turned that around. He's somebody we have watched as we turned the Eastern program around. He has our utmost respect, and we want to earn their respect. We made a step forward last year and we want to do that this year."

Of EWU's first 14 games of the season, just three have come at home – Nov. 15, Nov. 17 and Dec. 6. A Dec. 17 game against Morehead State would have been one of only two home games for the Eagles in a 12-game stretch from Nov. 23 to Jan. 2, but it was canceled because of weather-related travel difficulties for the Kentucky-based team. Thus, by the time the Eagles play Idaho, they will have not played at home in more than a month and will have played 10 of 11 on the road (including its last six). Thus far, EWU is 3-0 at home and 3-8 on the road.

The Vandals, meanwhile, have picked up six wins in nine tries away from their home court.

"It will be nice to be home, but Idaho is playing better than anybody else right now," said Hayford. "They gave it to Washington State pretty good earlier this season, and they are playing really well. We beat them three times last year, so they are going to come at us with a lot of force."

 

Link to Fact Book

The complete version of the 2015-16 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
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

 

Opponent/Series Notes 

* The Eagles and Vandals played three hard-fought battles last season, with EWU pulling out an 89-86 victory in Moscow, Idaho, on Jan. 10. Eastern then rallied from 11 points down in the final 1:33 in the rematch at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash., for a 98-95 overtime victory on Jan. 31. The Eagles then won 91-83 in the quarterfinals of the Big Sky Conference Tournament in Missoula, Mont., when Tyler Harvey tied the Big Sky Conference Tournament record with a career-high 42 points. Harvey made 8-of-12 3-pointers and 13-of-20 shots overall, with Venky Jois adding his fifth-straight double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds.

* The meeting last season in Moscow was EWU's first-ever league victory over the UI, and was the first league meeting between the schools since Feb. 17, 1996. The Vandals rejoined the Big Sky Conference in the 2014-15 season after previously competing in the league from 1963-1996, winning tournament championships in 1980, 1981, 1989 and 1990. Eastern began playing in the Big Sky in 1987-88, and won the tourney title in 2004. In those previous nine seasons of co-existence in the Big Sky, the Vandals won all 18 league meetings between the two schools, as well as the Big Sky Conference Tournament Championship game in 1990 won 65-62 by the Vandals on a shot at the buzzer by Ricardo Boyd.

* Since 1996 when Idaho left the Big Sky Conference, the two schools have now played 17 times, with Eastern winning 11 of them. Idaho leads the all-time series 52-27. Since EWU became a NCAA Division I member in the 1983-84 season, EWU is 14-31 against Idaho (7-14 home, 6-14 away, 1-3 neutral).

* This year's Big Sky Conference Tournament will include all 12 teams at a neutral site, the Reno Events Center in Reno, Nevada. The first round takes place on March 8, followed by quarterfinals (March 10), semifinals (March 11) and the championship game (March 12).

* The Eagles had a 6-6 record in non-conference play, with three of those losses coming to upper echelon squads in NCAA Division I (Mississippi State, Davidson and Pittsburgh). With two of EWU's wins against lower-division teams, that gave Eastern seven opponents – mid-majors if you will –to prepare for the rigors of league play. The Eagles finished those seven games with a 4-3 record, including road wins at San Francisco and Denver. Fresh off its best season in the school's NCAA Division I history, Eastern played teams from nine different conferences in the 2015-16 non-conference portion of EWU's season.

 
 

Game Notes 

* Coaches Shows featuring head coach Jim Hayford and host Larry Weir will begin Monday, Jan. 4 at 6 p.m. Pacific time at the Swinging Doors Restaurant in North Spokane (W. 1018 Francis). Fans may attend the one-hour shows live, or listen on 700-AM ESPN and via the web at www.700espn.com. Because of the National Championship college football game on Jan. 11, the next coaches show will take place on Tuesday, Jan. 12. Thereafter, shows will be on Mondays from Jan. 18 through at least Feb. 29. The show on March 7 depends on team travel arrangements for the Big Sky Conference Tournament in Reno, Nevada. Shows on March 14 and March 21 are also possible and will be determined by EWU's postseason fate and availability of Hayford.

* The Eagles are 5-1 when they've held opponents to 71 points or less and 3-1 when holding opponents to less than 45 percent from the field. Twice EWU has held opponents to a season-low 58 points, including a 58-52 loss at Seattle and a 74-58 road win at Denver. Eastern is 4-0 when it has a better field goal percentage.

* Eastern has now led at halftime in 10 of 14 games this season, and has a 6-4 record in those 10 games. Until a 96-86 loss to Davidson on Dec. 9 and an 84-51 setback to Pitt two days later, EWU had led at halftime in its first eight games of the season. The Eagles trailed by eight and 19 points, respectively in those two games. In EWU's last outing at Denver on Dec. 20, the Eagles had advantages of 43-32 and 31-26 in each half. In the previous game with Western Carolina, the Eagles had a 39-35 halftime lead but were outscored 62-41 after that. A 3-pointer at the buzzer after a costly dead-ball turnover by the Eagles gave Northern Colorado a 41-39 halftime and EWU was out-scored 55-51 in the second half. Eastern has out-scored opponents 532-472 in the first half (average score of 38-33) and has been outscored 617-588 in the second half (44-42).

* Eastern's scoring average for the season is at 80.0 points to rank 56th in NCAA Division I and second in the Big Sky Conference through games of Jan. 3. 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.

* Eastern's average of 10.5 3-pointers per game is 10th in NCAA Division I (previously fourth after eight games) and leads the Big Sky, and the team's percentage is 56th at 38.0 percent (previously 175th/33.9 percent after six games). Felix Von Hofe (3.77 per game) and Austin McBroom (3.46 per game) and are ranked 1-2 in the Big Sky, and are fifth and 10th, respectively, in the nation – the only teammates to rank in the top 10. Von Hofe, who is 17th nationally in 3-point accuracy (46.2 percent), is fourth in the nation when combining the per game and percentage rankings (5+17=22). 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.

* Because of his team's involvement with the C.H.A.M.P.S (College Headed and Making Progress) program at Whitman Elementary School in Spokane, senior Venky Jois is one of 154 nominees nationally for the NABC/Allstate Good Works Team. The 10-player squad will be announced in February, and the distinguished award shines a spotlight on a select group of student-athletes who have shown dedication to community service and altruism in their communities. 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 a EWU student-athlete graduates, an incoming player will begin mentoring their student. Jois, an Academic All-America candidate with a 3.51 grade point average as a pre-med student at EWU, has also been a part of several other team community projects. Those include Salvation Army backpacks and school supplies distribution; Salvation Army Christmas Eve meal for the homeless; participation in AAU Youth Basketball Day; food drive for the West Plains Food Bank; and campus move-in days. He's a three-time member of the Big Sky Conference All-Academic Team, and three times has been honored on All-Big Sky Conference teams (2012-13 Freshman of the Year and all-league honorable mention; 2013-14 all-league honorable mention; 2014-15 all-league first team for a squad that won Big Sky regular season and tournament titles to advance to the NCAA Tournament). He is also the preseason choice for 2015-16 MVP honors in the Big Sky.

* 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 entered the 2015-16 season with 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.

* 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.

* 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.

 
 

Player Notes 

* Senior Venky Jois continues to climb the Big Sky Conference career leaders list for blocked shots. His school-record total of 208 currently is third, just four from second (212, Daren Engellant, Montana, 1989-92) and 40 from the league record of 247 (Brian Qvale, Montana, 2008-11). His 1,484 total points ranks fourth in school history and his 844 rebounds are fourth, and he also ranks on leaders lists for scoring average (14.40, 12th), rebounding average (8.2, eighth), field goals attempted (1,038, fifth), field goals made (585, third), free throws made (310, fourth) and owns the school record for free throws attempted (545).

* The hottest Eagle as of late, junior sharpshooter Felix Von Hofe has averaged 25.3 points in his last four games with outings of 28, 27 (twice) and 19. In that stretch, he has made 53.1 percent of his shots overall (34-of-64) and 51.2 percent of his 3-point shots (22-of-43), and also made 11-of-14 free throws (78.6 percent) and averaged 4.3 rebounds. Von Hofe is averaging 17.0 points per game this season, and ranks fifth in NCAA Division I in 3-pointers per game with a league-leading average of 3.77 per game. He is also 17th nationally and third in the league in 3-point shooting percentage (.462), with the fourth-best mark nationally when combining his per game average and percentage (5+17=22). He was selected on Dec. 21 as the Big Sky Conference Men's Basketball Player of the Week after back-to-back career-best performances. The 6-foot-5 sharpshooter eclipsed his career high with 28 in a huge 74-58 road win at Denver on Dec. 20 on 9-of-18 shooting from the field and 8-of-14 from the 3-point stripe. Von Hofe finished two treys away from the school record of 10 and also had six rebounds -- two from his career high. One game earlier, he scored 27 at Western Carolina, which bested his previous high of 25 points set against Seattle on Nov. 18. He made 10-of-16 shots overall and 5-of-9 from the 3-point stripe against Western Carolina, for two-game totals of 19-of-34 (55.9 percent) and 13-of-23 (56.5 percent).

* Preseason Big Sky Conference MVP Venky Jois is ranked seventh in NCAA Division I in field goal percentage, having made 66.9 percent of his shots thus far (he was as high as third at 72.4 percent after his first seven games played). He has had a pair of double-doubles in his last three games, and in two games last week made 17-of-26 shots (65 percent) to average 21.0 points and 9.0 rebounds. He also had six assists, two blocked shots and two steals, and made 8-of-13 free throws after entering league play at 45.3 percent. He had his 29th career double-double at Northern Colorado on Dec. 31, finishing with 25 points and 10 rebounds for his second-straight double-double (he had 26 points and a career-high 16 rebounds at Denver on Dec. 20). He had his first double-double of the season with 21 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots at Davidson on Dec. 9. One game later versus Pitt, he moved up two spots to sixth on EWU's all-time career scoring list. He is now fourth in school history with 1,484 points, ahead of the 1,438 of Rodney Stuckey, who now plays for the Indiana Pacers in the NBA. Jois played in the 100th game of his career and became the 16th player in school history to hit the century mark on Dec. 14 when EWU played at Western Carolina. He equaled his career high with seven assists on Nov. 29 against South Dakota, which double and triple teamed him when he got the ball in the post and limited him to just three shots. He also went to the free throw line five times against the Coyotes to surpass the school's career record for charity shots. Now with 545 free throws attempted in his career, he broke the previous school record of 499 set by Dave Hayden from 1970-73. His 310 free throws made are fourth in school history, with Rodney Stuckey (2006-07) owning the record of 386. 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 15.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.8 blocks. Jois has three double-doubles this season and 29 total in his career. 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.

* Senior graduate transfer Austin McBroom is averaging 18.5 points per game to lead the Big Sky and rank 56th in NCAA Division I, and his average of 3.46 3-pointers per game is second in the league behind teammate Felix Von Hofe and is 10th nationally. McBroom is also 13th in the nation in minutes per game with a league-leading 37.0 average. He is 60th in 3-point percentage (.417) and 101st in free throw percentage, making 35-of-42 for 83.3 percent (he was 10th nationally after making 19 of his first 20). The Eagles lost a pair of All-Big Sky guards from last year's NCAA Tournament team, but McBroom has provided an instant solution for the Eagles. He has averages of 18.5 points, 3.3 assists and 2.5 rebounds, with 32 total turnovers. He scored 76 points on Eastern's East Coast road trip, including 33 at Davidson on Dec. 11, 14 two nights later at Pitt and 29 on Dec. 14 at Western Carolina. He His performance against Davidson included a 12-of-19 shooting night, and eclipsed his previous top game as an Eagle of 20 points (versus Pacific) and as a collegian of 26 points (for Saint Louis against Bradley on 11/29/14). He sank 10-of-17 shots from the field at Western Carolina, including 7-of-12 3-point attempts. His 19 points, five 3-pointers and five assists helped EWU win at San Francisco 81-77 on Dec. 1. He had a double-double with 19 points and 10 assists versus George Fox on Nov. 15. McBroom came to EWU with 97 games and 45 starts worth of NCAA Division I experience -- he played in 66 games at Saint Louis (15 as a starter) and 31 (30 as a starter) at Central Michigan in 2011-12.

* Julian Harrell, a transfer from City College of San Francisco who previously played at Penn, made his Eagle debut at North Dakota on Jan. 2 after missing the first 13 games with a hand injury. He had two points, five rebounds and an assist in 10 minutes of action.

* Six Eagles have already made their college basketball debuts this season, and five of them have played in at least 13 Eastern games. Those five were inserted into the starting lineup by head coach Jim Hayford against Great Falls on Dec. 6.

* Starting true freshman Jesse Hunt, a 6-foot-7 forward, made the first start of his career against Pacific (11/28/15), and is averaging 13.8 minutes, 2.8 rebounds and 1.9 points per game. He missed EWU's game at Western Carolina with a sprained ankle. Redshirt freshman Will Ferris, who came off the bench to play 23 minutes against Seattle on Nov. 23 and score a career-high nine points, is averaging 1.9 points and 7.6 minutes on the season. Ty Gibson has seen significant action as a true freshman, averaging 9.2 minutes per game and starting twice. Redshirt freshman Bear Henderson has averaged 6.6 minutes and 2.4 points thus far, and started his first career game against George Fox on Nov. 15. Freshman redshirt Cody Benzel has averaged 5.1 points in an average of 6.4 minutes, including 23 points on a 7-of-14 3-point shooting performance against Great Falls on Dec. 6. He also had a 12-point performance against South Dakota on Nov. 29 when he made four 3-pointers in just eight minutes of action. All five of those players made their collegiate debuts in EWU's opener at Mississippi State on Nov. 13, and Ferris, Benzel and Gibson made the first starts of their careers against Great Falls. True freshman Michael Wearne made his collegiate debut versus George Fox, however, will now redshirt because of a hip injury requiring surgery.

* Making his NCAA Division I debut against Mississippi State on Nov. 13 was junior college transfer Rico Nuno, who had a career-high seven rebounds at Denver on Dec. 20 and is averaging 1.9 rebounds, 0.8 points and 7.2 minutes per game. Senior graduate transfer Austin McBroom made his Eagle debut against the Bulldogs, and junior transfer Julian Harrell played for the first time on Jan. 2 after missing the first 13 games with a hand injury. Three Eagles – transfer Geremy McKay, transfer Mario Soto and freshman Grant Gibb – will redshirt.

* Sophomore forward Bogdan Bliznyuk has been used frequently at bringing the ball up the court, and is averaging 11.1 points and 2.1 assists per game with a deft ability to get to the rim. He has made 16-of-54 3-pointers thus far for 30 percent, and is 39-of-82 inside the stripe (48 percent) with an overall percentage of 40 percent. He has also made 30-of-41 free throws (73.2 percent), has a team-high 19 steals and is averaging 5.1 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 topped that with 15 points and a career-high nine rebounds against Great Falls on Dec. 6. He also scored 11 in two other games, including Northern Colorado on Dec. 31. He has started four games thus far, and is averaging 5.8 points on 44 percent shooting from the field, and is also averaging 17.5 minutes and 2.7 rebounds with 10 assists and 12 steals.

* Two major cogs in Eastern's roll to the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament last season – Venky Jois and Bogdan Bliznyuk -- were 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.

 
 

Quoting Coach Hayford

On UND Loss: "It was a really good game -- we were right there at the end. North Dakota played a good, solid game. We played better defense and showed some toughness."

On Lowering Opponent Shooting Percentages in Second Half: "Our team is going be good – but the moment is now, I get it. Teams are shooting over 60 percent against us in the second half and we're still in close games. We need to get that number down – to 50 percent for starters. I've never seen anything like this, and I'm in year 17 as a head coach."

On Practices at Home Leading to Improved Defense: "We get to stay home until we head off for Montana. It's the longest stretch of practices at home we have all season, and we'll have to put our head into it and figure out how to get better defensively. We're still in really tight games despite giving up an obscene field goal percentage in the second half. That's the challenge for our coaching staff and myself. Once we get that figured out we'll be a dynamite team."

On Shooting Percentages Versus UND: "We shot the ball from the 3-point stripe well – we made 11 threes and that's a winning number. It was our twos where we were at 38 percent. We need to look at that – we missed some point-blank shots. There was a lot of physical play and we didn't finish through some contact."

On UNC Loss: "We came in here and played our game-plan in the first half. We did a great job rebounding in the first half, and in the second half we would get a stop but we wouldn't get the rebound. It's not realistic to win if you don't put up more resistance defensively. I want to give credit to Northern Colorado – they played and shot the ball really well. But if we don't develop more resistance against the other team, we're going to be on the wrong side of these scores."

On Reliance on Offense: "We just get too much of our confidence on offense and not enough on defense. When they miss a couple of shots and still score, that makes you have to play perfect offensively. You aren't going to be able to go on the road and win if you give up those kind of points and shooting percentages. We can keep learning the same lesson or we can take more pride defensively. You have to go stop the other team and put resistance up, and we didn't do that. Since we got back from our East Coast trip, that's all we've been coaching. We recruit some offensively-skilled players, but you have to be a complete player at the Division I level, or you are going to pay for it. You are putting way too much pressure on yourself offensively to play that kind of defense and think you are going to win."

 

 
 

Recent Game Recaps

* Eastern rallied from a 10-point deficit in the first half to take a six-point lead in the second half, but the Eagles lost 79-71 to North Dakota on Jan. 2 in Grand Forks, N.D. Three Eagles scored in double figures, and the game featured nine lead changes and seven ties before the Fighting Hawks made 11-of-14 free throws down the stretch. North Dakota made 67 percent of its shots in the second half (16-of-24), sinking 15-of-21 from inside the 3-point stripe after intermission. For the game, North Dakota sank 53 percent from the field, including 59 percent of its 2-point shots. Junior Felix Von Hofe led EWU in scoring for the third-straight game, finishing with a game-high 19 with five 3-pointers and six rebounds. Senior Venky Jois made 6-of-11 shots to finish with 17 points, eight rebounds and a team-leading four assists. Senior graduate transfer Austin McBroom had 17, making 4-of-10 3-pointers. Sophomore Bogdan Bliznyuk made 3-of-5 shots and had two assists, but he played only 21 minutes because of foul trouble and fouled out with 6:40 to play. After EWU took a 65-64 lead with left on a 3-pointer by Felix Von Hofe, the Fighting Hawks sandwiched a pair of baskets around an EWU miss to take the lead for good. A basket by Julian Harrell at the 2:33 mark were the last points for the Eagles -- who missed their next five attempts -- until making a bucket with 40 ticks left. The Eagles made only 38.7 percent of their field goal attempts after entering the game ranked 27th in NCAA Division I (48.8 percent). Eastern made only four of their first 18, but still finished the game 11-of-28 from the 3-point stripe. The Eagles, however, were just 13-of-34 from inside the arc for 38 percent. An 8-0 run was the highlight in the first half, as Eastern overcame a 10-point deficit to trail by just one at halftime, 31-30. Von Hofe made four of his five 3-pointers in the game in the second half, and EWU led by as many as six at 46-40 with 14:27 left.

* For the first 13 minutes, things went according to plan in the Big Sky Conference opener for Eastern, but Northern Colorado exploded for 78 points in the final 27 minutes to beat the Eagles 96-90 Dec. 31 in Greeley, Colo. Felix Von Hofe scored 27 points for the Eagles, marking his third-straight game of at least 27. Venky Jois had his second-straight double-double with 25 points and 10 rebounds, but EWU never led in the second half after taking a 24-18 lead in the opening 12:47. The Bears made 40-of-65 shots from the field for 62 percent, including 9-of-13 3-pointers (69 percent). In the second half alone, Northern Colorado made 66 percent from the field and out-rebounded the Eagles 22-10. The Bears had 16 of their 20 second-chance points after intermission. Senior graduate transfer Austin McBroom added 18 points and sophomore Sir Washington made 3-of-6 shots from the field and 5-of-6 free throws to finish with 11 points. Eastern was within 83-81 with 2:20 to play, but the Bears scored 10 of the next 12 points to go up by 10 with 37 seconds left. The biggest blow in that run was an offensive rebound – UNC's 11th of the half – that led to a basket and eight-point lead at the 1:19 mark. The final rebounding margin was 39-36 in favor of the Bears, but it was a tale of two halves. Eastern led 26-17 at halftime and had 12 offensive rebounds leading to 11 second-chance points (16 in the game). But in the second half, UNC out-rebounded the Eagles 22-11, with 11 offensive boards leading to 16 UNC second-chance points (20 in the game).

 
View: Mobile | Desktop