Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Eastern Washington Eagles take down Indiana at Assembly Hall 88-86

The headlines across the net are all proclaiming that Eastern stunned Indiana at Assembly Hall.  Indiana and the national writers may have been stunned by the tenacious Eagles last night, but those of us that have watched this squad grow up over the last few seasons are not shocked.  They will call this an upset, but I saw an Eastern team that played well, but not their best.  I would expect this team to beat Indiana again if they matched up on a neutral court.

The Eagles played a very sloppy first 25 minutes resulting in a 12 point deficit at 54-42 with 15:32 remaining.  And then they remembered who they are and all the hard work they've put in.  From that point on the Eagles would go on a series of runs to outscore the Hoosiers 46 to 32 over the final 15 minutes of play, capped by Parker Kelly's clutch 3 pointer to give the Eagles a 4 point lead with about 30 seconds to play.

I am not sure that you could have a more important and clutch 6 point performance than Kelly dd last night.  The former walk-on from Spokane, WA played most of the second half with a pair of black eyes and what looked like a broken nose.  Up just 1 point with Indiana rallying late, Kelly calmly drained a 3 from the top of the key for his first bucket.  He then sunk 3 of 4 FT's to help Eastern seal the win.

Eastern was led by a stellar performance from Drew Brandon, the senior point guard played the entire second half with 3 fouls, but still delivered 27 points, 8 rebounds, 5 steals and 4 assists.  On offense he was slashing through Indiana defenders to the paint over and over again.  He also nabbed a loose ball and sunk a contested shot in the paint to give Eastern the lead with about 40 seconds to go before calmly sinking 3 of 4 FT's to close out the win.

Tyler Harvey was maniacal last night, seemingly willing the Eagles to compete time and again just when it looked like Indiana might pull away the Junior guard sparked a 9-0 Eagles run.

Tyler played a game high 39 minutes and racked up 25 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists.  The stats just don't tell the story for Tyler whose leadership and poise kept this team in a tough game in a challenging environment.

Venky Jois overcame a rough start to earn his second straight double-double with 20 points and 14 rebounds, he also added 5 blocks and 2 steals.  All night long Indiana was spreading the Eagles defense out, then dribble driving the pain before alley-opp style passing to Troy Williams for a dunk to the tune of 19 points for Williams and 7 assists for guard Yogi Ferrell.  It was so frustrating to watch Eagle defenders collapse to stop the drive just in time to turn and see Williams clutching the win.  They tried that play one last time leading 77-78 with about 1:20 seconds to play, when Venky made his cleanest and most impressive block of the night.  Jois anticipated the play, turned and met Williams in mid air and then recovered his own swat to set up Drew Brandon's contested shot that gave the Eagles the lead for good.

Eastern's win was not accomplished on a magical night of shooting, they were just 6 of 16 from beyond the arc last night.  Including last night, they are averaging 10.3 of 26 from beyond the arc on the season.  The Eagles won last night because they were able to consistently take what Indiana gave them and because their stars made star quality contributions.

The Eagle's bench did not show up much on the stat sheet, but did pitch in 10 points led by "OG" Miljkovic with 6.  OG fouled out early but his tough 19 minutes were crucial and his aggressive defense made the Hoosier think twice about getting in the paint.  Sir Washington stepped up big time giving Coach Hayford 13 minutes in relief of Parker Kelly, Drew Brandon and Tyler Harvey.  His 2 points and 1 rebound don't exactly stuff a stat sheet, but defensively he was aggressive and consistently plugging lanes, only a very tightly called game by the officials and 4 personal fouls prevented him from getting more minutes down the stretch.  This was the most impressive performance from the Freshman guard I've yet seen.

Up next for the Eagles a trip back to Cheney to host Northern Kentucky (Wednesday 6:05 p.m. PT) and Eastern Oregon (Sunday 2:05 p.m. PT)
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