Eagles get first win of the season after opening 56-26 lead at halftime over Bruins
On a day a historic season was honored, the Eastern Washington University men's basketball team 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 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.
"We knew George Fox was going to press us the whole 40 minutes, so we went into it knowing it was going to be a high-scoring game," said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. "We had to keep executing in our offense, and at the same time we were trying to implement our own attacking defense. I think you put those two things together and that's why we set a school record for points."
Won-Lost Records . . .
* Eastern is now 1-1, having lost its opener last Friday to Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss.
* George Fox, a member of NCAA Division III, was 5-20 a year ago and 3-13 in the Northwest Conference. The game was an exhibition for the Bruins and does not count in their season record.
What It Means . . .
* The victory came in Eastern's home opener and was the second game of a five-day stretch in which the Eagles play three games. The Eagles won a NCAA Division I program-best 26 games a year, and are now 25 away from that mark. With a blowout win in the team's home opener, the Eagles were able to play 12 players, with all playing at least seven minutes.
What's Next . . .
* Eastern hosts Seattle on Tuesday, Nov. 17 at 6:05 p.m. Fans can listen to Eagle men's basketball on 700-AM ESPN and via the web at www.700espn.com, with pre-game coverage starting a half-hour prior to tipoff. In the first of back-to-back games against Seattle, Eastern takes on a Redhawks team that is 0-2 after a 77-65 loss to Sacramento State on Sunday. Seattle was 18-16 overall and 7-7 in the Western Athletic Conference last season. Seattle advanced to the semifinals of the College Basketball Insider (CBI) Tournament, falling to Loyola Chicago 63-48. The Redhawks, who host the Eagles Nov. 23 in Seattle, lost to New Mexico State in the championship game of the WAC Tournament.
Keys to Game . . .
* 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.
Top Performers . . .
* Senior Venky Jois made 13-of-15 shots from the field to finish with a team-high 29 points. He had seven rebounds, three blocked shots, three assists and a pair of steals.
* Sophomore Bogdan Bliznyuk led the team with five steals, and also had a double-double with 19 points and 12 rebounds.
* Senior graduate transfer Austin McBroom dished out 10 assists to go along with 19 points, five rebounds and three steals.
* Sophomore guard Sir Washington had four steals, and also contributed 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.
Turning Point . . .
* From the opening tip the Eagles were the aggressors, and held the Bruins to just seven points in the first 10 minutes of the contest. By that time the Eagles scored 28 and the rout was on.
Key Stats . . .
* Eastern's 23 steals broke the previous record of 19 set twice previously, first against Cal State Northridge on Jan. 31, 1991, and then against Evergreen State on Dec. 22, 1998. Eastern forced the Bruins into a total of 27 turnovers, leading to a 35-14 advantage in points off turnovers in the game. Eastern's largest lead of the game was 63 with 1:39 to play.
Team Highlights . . .
* The Eagles finished with 49 fast-break points, and also had a 25-8 advantage in second-chance points. Eastern had 16 offensive rebounds, leading to a 25-8 advantage in second-chance points.
Notables . . .
* The Eagles had a 49-25 advantage on the boards, something that is an emphasis this season for the Eagles.
More Comments from Head Coach Jim Hayford . . .
On Defense Creating Offense: "We scored 88 against Mississippi State, so we are going to score points. But where we want to get better is the implementation of our new attacking defensive scheme. So I was really pleased to see 27 turnovers, and we also almost doubled them up in rebounding. I knew we were going to score a lot of points today, but I wanted to see us get better in defense and rebounding."
On Own Press: "We did that the first 10 minutes of the game, and was something we did last year. We want to do that more as we develop depth. Today gave us a good opportunity to give some young players valuable game minutes."
On Offense Under Direction of McBroom: "We had good preparation on our press-break, and our half-court sets, so we were confident in that. We have something close to an untrapable point guard, so everything they were doing resulted on four-on-three and three-on-two situations. Both (Austin and Bogdan) had double-doubles – they had that kind of production and neither of them was our leading scorer. It was a really good team performance."