Saturday, December 20, 2014

Eagles will soar as high as their Fab-5 will take them

Eastern has 4 players that get 30 or minutes per game, and a 5th that gets over 24 minutes and is only limited by foul trouble.

Their line up features 1 players in the top 25 in the entire nation in scoring.  They've held leads of 7 or more points in each of the last 3 games.  And yet they come home with a 3 game losing streak.

Click through to find out what is going on and how the Eagles can turn it around going forward.

First, what's going right:  Tyler Harvey and Venky Jois.  Unless something changes drastically this blog will continue heaping near endless praise on the Eagles star Juniors.  Over the three game losing streak these two have combined for 127 points, 31 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 blocks and 11 steals.  That represents nearly 65% of the teams points.  Over the last two games, their combined 93 points is 87% of the teams 119 points.  Last night, it took until well into the 2nd half before a player other than Venky or Tyler hit a FG.  Drew Brandon hit a 3pt field goal with 16:30 remaining in the 2nd half.
So with two stars playing dominant basketball, why are the Eagles falling flat as a team?  The answer is the lack of production from anywhere else in the line up.

Senior Point Guard Drew Brandon, has been battling through back issues since at least the Seattle game.  In this losing streak he has just 5 assists total.  He's 9 of 26 from the field just 34.6% over that span for a total of 24 points.  He has nabbed 17 rebounds as well.  When the Eagles are firing on all cylinders Brandon is a nightly triple-double threat, average 8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists per night is not going to scare anyone, especially when he's doing that in 29+ minutes per game.  Hopefully Drew will be able to rest up before Big Sky Conference play, because the Eagles need him at his dynamic best leading their high powered offense.

Sophomore Forward Ognjen "OG" Miljkovic, the Eagles youngest starter has flashed great potential as the team's third option on offense, enough to earn him EWU Eagle Player of the Week honors last week.  Since his 14 point effort at Washington, Miljkovic is 1 of 13 from the field including 0 for 6 from beyond the arc.  Foul trouble and just awful shooting have kept him off the floor the past two games as well, he's averaged 17 minutes the last two games, he averaged nearly 26 minutes per game for the rest of the season.  It's tough to say, but my best guess here is that "OG" is feeling frustrated and tired from the long road trip.  Coach Hayford will need to coach him up and get him some confidence back because the Eagles need him to represent that third scoring threat if the want to challenge for the Big Sky Championship.

Senior Guard Parker Kelly, is the first four year player with Coach Hayford at Eastern Washington.  He walked on to the program his freshman year out of Gonzaga Prep and quickly earned minutes as a brilliant shooter in big moments.  Over the next couple years Kelly has become a very good perimeter defender as well.  Since his Sophomore year, the Eagles are 4 and 17 when Kelly shoots 25% of worse.  Over the Eagles three game losing streak, Parker has gone 2 of 10 from the field.  The Eagles do not need Parker to stuff the stat sheet, but they do need him to make it count when he gets the ball in his hands.  The good news is that he is a career 42% shooter and there is no reason he won't rebound and start shooting better.  Kelly's value is his defense and the fact that he can't be ignored on the offensive side so he helps them spread out the defense.  If he gets back to his usual reliable self he will help the Eagles put the skids on this bad streak and make a run through the Big Sky.

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