Von Hofe, Jois & McBroom combine for all but two of EWU points against Pioneers, who were previously 3-0 against Big Sky opponents
What three other Big Sky Conference teams couldn't do, Eastern Washington University did in resounding fashion.
Australians Felix Von Hofe and Venky Jois joined Austin McBroom to combine for 72 points, and the Eagles used hot 3-point shooting some great defense to register a huge 74-58 non-conference road win Sunday (Dec. 20) at Magness Arena in Denver, Colo.
Von Hofe scored 28 points and made eight 3-pointers, Jois had 26 points and equaled his career high with 16 rebounds and McBroom chipped in 18 points and four assists. That trio combined for all 26 of EWU's field goals, helping the Eagles sink 51 percent of their shots overall (26-of-51) and 12-of-25 3-pointers for 48 percent.
"Against Denver's zone, we had one play that involved those three players, and they didn't have an answer for it," said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. "We rode that play to great performances inside and outside – we read the options well and that's why those guys scored all the points. About 95 percent of the night we ran the same play. I'm just really, really proud of our team."
Defensively, Eastern had a dominating 40-21 rebounding advantage over the Pioneers, who entered the game 3-0 against Big Sky Conference teams. Eastern held Denver scoreless for nearly seven minutes to open a 16-point lead early in the second half, then closed out the win by holding the Pioneers to just two field goals in the final nine minutes of the game.
"It was a really, really good win," added Hayford, whose home game scheduled for last Thursday (Nov. 17) was canceled when Morehead State had travel issues. "We just needed some practice time to get ourselves figured out, and it's really early in the process. But a little rest and a little practice really made a huge difference. Denver is a better team than some of the teams we've lost to, so it's a big, big win."
Won-Lost Records . . .
* Eastern enters league play with a 6-6 record, including nine of its 12 games thus far on the road. Last Thursday's (Dec. 17) game against the Eagles of 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.
* Denver is now 8-4 and had already defeated three Big Sky Conference members. Most recently, the Pioneers defeated rival Northern Colorado 81-77 on Dec. 15. The Pioneers previously defeated Idaho State (79-69) and Weber State (69-68) from the Big Sky.
What It Means . . .
* Eastern heads into Big Sky Conference play with its biggest win of the season, and snapped a three-game losing streak in the process. More importantly, Eastern improved to 3-6 away from home, giving them confidence heading into a pair of difficult road games to start league play.
What's Next . . .
* Eastern will open Big Sky Conference play at Northern Colorado (Dec. 31) and North Dakota (Jan. 2). Eastern will have played 11 of its 14 games on the road by the time they play their conference home opener on Jan. 9 versus Idaho.
Keys to Game . . .
* Eastern's bench didn't contribute any points, but contributed greatly in holding Denver to 58 points – equaling the fewest EWU has allowed this season (Seattle in a 58-52 loss on Nov. 23). The Eagles held the Pioneers to 40 percent shooting from the field, and just 4-of-17 from the 3-point stripe (24 percent). The Pioneers entered the game ranked 33rd in NCAA Division I at 48.6 percent, and the Eagles were just ahead of them in 32nd at 48.8 percent. In addition, Denver was 62nd in 3-point field goal percentage (37.9 percent) and EWU was 73rd (37.5 percent).
Top Performers . .
* Junior Felix Von Hofe has eclipsed his career high in each of the last two games, finishing with 28 against Denver on 9-of-18 shooting from the field and 8-of-14 from the 3-point stripe. Von Hofe, who stands 6-foot-5, finished two treys away from the school record of 10. He also had six rebounds, one game after scoring 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.
* Senior graduate transfer Austin McBroom finished with 18 points, four assists, three rebounds and a pair of steals. He has scored 94 points in his last four games, including 33 at Davidson, 14 at Pitt and 29 at Western Carolina.
* Senior Venky Jois, ranked 12th in the nation entering the game with a .656 field goal percentage, sank 11-of-14 shots from the field for 79 percent on his way to his second double-double in the last four games and the 28th of his 101-game career (99 as a starter). His 16 rebounds matched his previous career high against Weber State on March 7, 2015. Jois, who has been battling bronchitis much of the season, sank 4-of-8 free throws and had three blocked shots.
* Junior college transfer Rico Nuno came off the bench to grab seven rebounds, including four on the offensive end in EWU's dominating 40-21 performance. He more than doubled his previous career high of three, and also added a pair of assists and a steal against the Pioneers.
Turning Point . . .
* Eastern trailed early 16-11, but Felix Von Hofe scored 16 points in a 19-7 run in the first half to give EWU the lead for good at 30-23. The Eagles closed the half with an 8-0 run, then scored six of the first seven points of the second half to take a 49-33 lead. Eastern led by no less than eight the rest of the way.
Key Stats . . .
* With EWU holding a 35-32 lead late in the first half, Eastern's defense took over in the next eight minutes of the game. During an 11-0 run spanning intermission, Eastern held Denver to without a point for 6:56 and led 46-32. Denver would go a total of 7:50 without a field goal during that stretch of the game, and closed the game by making just two field goals in the final 9:06.
Team Highlights . . .
* The Pioneers pulled to within eight twice in the second half, but 3-pointers at the 5:17 and 3:45 marks by Austin McBroom helped EWU take its biggest lead of the night at 18 in the final seconds. The Eagle defense did the rest, holding the Pioneers to without a field
Notables . . .
* Senior Venky Jois had three blocked shots against Denver, increasing his school-record total to 206 and narrowing the gap among the top four players on the Big Sky Conference career leaders list. He is fourth, just one from third, six from second and 41 from the league record of 247.
* After leading 43-32 at intermission at Denver, Eastern has now led at halftime in 10 of 12 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.
More Comments from Head Coach Jim Hayford . . .
On Big Three of Von Hofe, Jois & McBroom: "Obviously, Felix was really special. He's a great shooter and it's hard to take away his shot because he's so tall and his release point is so high. Venky is feeling better and better – he had 26 and 16, and I honestly expect that he can do that a lot. It's a question for him to get healthy to do that. And Austin has obviously coming in and done a really good job as our point guard."
On Defense Versus Denver: "Our staff did a great job in preparation. We held them to 40 percent and 23 percent from the 3-point line -- our defense was solid.
On Bench Contributions: "The bench played really good – we've been looking for that. Rico came in and rebounded well for us – we just needed a little more size and he provided that. What our bench did better than any other game, is when the young guys came in they really held the defensive scout. That's why we walked out with a 16-point win at Denver where a lot of other really good teams have lost."
On Sending Players Home for Christmas With Victory: "It's nice for the players who are flying home to their families that they can go home with a win and the satisfaction of a job well done."
On Entering League Play With a Win: "Especially for 18-to-20 year olds, you can be improving but if you're not winning it's harder for them. The things that were glaringly bad we could easily fix, we just needed to get back home to practice. We are still a long ways away, but we showed great backbone. We faced some adversity and we weathered it – we answered their runs. And we had some runs of our own so it wasn't scary in the last two or three minutes."