Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Quick Preview of EWU Hoops at Sam Houston State

Tonight the Eagles take on the Bearkats of Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX.  Tip off is set for 4:30 p.m. PT.



Now that I'm done lamenting the fact that this game is being played 3 hours (one way) from my home in Cedar Park, TX on a Tuesday night (thus I can't quite make the trip!), let's take a quick look at the game.

The Eagles are fresh off a very hard fought loss to now 16th ranked University of Washington in Seattle in which Head Coach Jim Hayford's squad lead for 35 minutes and had a pair of 3 point shots in the final 10 seconds that could have changed the outcome.

The Bearkats are fresh off a very had fought loss at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.  Sam Houston led much of the first half and hung around until the Tigers hit 7 of 8 FT's in the final minute to widen the gap to 9 points.

The Eagles are 6-2 against DI opponents this season, the Bearkats are 3-4 with wins against South Dakota, Fairfield and UT Pan American and losses to UNLV, Wofford, Texas A&M and LSU.  The Bearkats are 3-0 at home this season (including two wins against lower division teams) and the Eagles are 3-2 on the road.  Eastern lost to Washington and to SMU earlier this season.

Sam Houston State features a deep rotation with 11 players getting 10 or more minutes per game, compared to Eastern Washington with just 7 players getting more than 10 minutes per game.  The Bearkats run with a lot of guards, 5 players with more than 20 minutes per game and all are guards.

Kareem Ransom (#15), 6'1" 180lb Senior Guard, leads Sam Houston in points per game (11.1), assists (4.3), steals (1.9) and minutes (30).  Demarcus Gatlin (#11), 6'4" 200lb Senior Guard, is second in points (10.1).

Michael Holyfield (#35), 6'11" 270lb Senior Center, leads the Bearkats in rebounds (7.8) and blocks (2.2) in 16.4 minutes per game.  Along with Holyfield, Aurimas Majauskas (#34) 6'7" 245lb Sophomore Forward, makes up the front court, he averages 8.4 points and 4.6 rebounds in 15.4 minutes per contest.

Last time these two teams met was February 23rd, 2013 at Reese Court in Cheney.  The Eagles won 81-76 off a 20 pt performance from Collin Chiverton and 8 blocks from Martin Seiferth.  Jeffrey Forbes added 11 points, and Thomas Reuter threw in 7 points as well.  Venky Jois finished that game with 11 pts, 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 blocks.  Tyler Harvey had 7 pts, 8 rebounds 4 assists and 3 blocks, Parker Kelly ahd 17 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists.

Sam Houston returns only three players from that team, Holyfield, Paul Baxter (#21), 6'1" 180lb Junior Guard, and Marquel McKinney (#2), 6'3" 215lb Senior Guard.  Holyfield was held to 2 points, McKinney scored 10 off the bench and added 2 rebounds and 2 assists.  Baxter led the Bearkats with 19 points and added 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and 1 block.

The bottom line for tonight, is that the Eagles starting line up is superior in nearly every way to the 2012-2013 team.  Drew Brandon is a true point guard and is a really good rebounding guard.  Parker Kelly has taken over as the tenacious perimeter defender from Jeffrey Forbes and is a really good shooter from beyond the arc.  Tyler Harvey is two years better, Venky Jois is two years better and "OG" Miljkovich is a better shooter, defender and ball handler than Reuter.  That team won just 10 games all season.  This one has a very good chance to win 10 games before conference play even starts.

The Bearkats are not the same team, but they play a small quick line up and shoot under 30% as a team from beyond the arc, and only 42% from the floor.  That could spell disaster for them against this Eagles squad.  Eastern is hitting 41% from 3 point range and over 50% from the floor.

I look for the Eagles to challenge the interior against Holyfield and Majauskas to test their athleticism and endurance.  The recipe for the Eagles could be found in the second half of the game at Indiana where the Eagles led by Brandon brutally attacked the paint to take down the smaller Hoosier squad.

Be sure to listen to Larry Weir call the game tonight on 700espn.

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