Friday, January 16, 2015

Eagles hoops sink the home team PSU Vikings 92-85

7 years and 2 days before last night's game the Eagles won a game at Portland State led by superstar guard Rodney Stuckey with 24 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 blocks and Paul Butorac with 21 points 1 rebound and 3 assists.

Since then the Eagles have lost 7 times at Portland State and 5 times against the Vikings at Reese Court.  You have to go back two years to find the last time the Eagles beat the Vikings at all.

All season the Eagles have relied on the twin towers of Venky Jois and Tyler Harvey to propel them to a fantastic start (13-4 overall and 4-0 in Big Sky play).  The formula last night got changed in a substantial way.

9 minutes into the first half Venky Jois rolled his ankle and would not see another second on the court.  In his post game interview with Larry Weir, Coach Hayford said that Venky thinks he's going to be fine, however it was too early to tell the extent of the injury.

Jois has averaged more than 30 minutes, 18 points, 7 rebounds and nearly 3 blocks per game for the Eagles in every game.  His presence on the interior of the defense has been critical to making teams work hard to get points against them.  In big moments, it has been Venky along with Harvey that the Eagles have looked to for leadership and decisive plays.  Last night Jois poured in 4 points to help the Eagles off to a 10-3 lead but was unavailable for the remainder of the contest.  Ironically that 7 point lead was the same as the ultimate difference in the game as the Eagles won 92-85.

For a game in which both teams combined for just 4 points in the first 3:45 of play and didn't combine to reach double figures until 15:17 to go in the first half, this turned into an offensive shoot out in a big way.  In the last 35 minutes of action the teams combined to score 166 points, roughly 4.75 points per minute culminating in a second half where the teams combined for 106 points, or 5.3 points per minute.

For the most part the defenses on both sides were exactly as bad as the scoring rate shows.  The Vikings found some success in the second half by pressuring the ball in the half court and double teaming Tyler Harvey when he had the ball, but they still couldn't slow down the Eagles offense.  For their part, the Eagles switched to a 3-2 zone look with 3 playing the perimeter and two playing the baseline and post, which resulted in Portland State hitting some very well covered shots from beyond the arc.

Portland State's star DaShaun Wiggins was a non-factor going 1 of 7 from the floor and finishing with 5 points, but Gary Winston and Tim Douglas stepped up to fill the void combining for 45 points, more than double their combined season average of just over 20 points per game.  Tiegbe Bamba was all over the Eagles with a pair of blocks, 9 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal.

The Eagles were again led by Tyler Harvey with 23 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal and just 1 turnover.  Impressively Harvey racked up 18 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists in the second half.  His ability to consistently keep the Eagles in contention down the stretch of games is incredible.  More than any other player Tyler wills this team to contention and more often than not victory.

Drew Brandon made yet another serious run on a triple-double with 9 assists, 8 rebounds and 4 points.

Parker Kelly's veins were filled with ice water last night as the Senior Guard from Spokane poured in 19 points going 6 of 9 from long range and added 4 rebounds.

Ognjen "OG" Miljkovich, playing through a shoulder injury netted 14 points and pulled down 8 rebounds in a game the Eagles simply needed him to perform at his peak.  He delivered.

Bogdan Bliznyuk is taking the Big Sky by storm.  In four games since conference play began the Freshman Forward is averaging 13 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2 assists per contest.  Last night, with Jois out and Kyle Reid getting into immediate foul trouble, Coach Hayford had to lean heavily on Bogdan.  He delivered 29 minutes, 18 points, 2 rebounds and 1 assist.  He was flying all around on defense and helped make life difficult for the Vikings in the paint.

When Coach Hayford switched to the zone look in the second half, he relied on Garrett Moon to man the point defensively and his faith was rewarded.  Coach said after the game that he gave Moon the chance because Moon was there for last years defeat at Portland State and he felt the Senior Guard was highly motivated.  Moon responded with 12 solid minutes, 8 points, 3 rebounds and 1 steal to help the Eagles stop the Vikings late rally and hold on for the win.

Eastern finished the night shooting 50% overall and 46.4% from beyond the arc.  The Eagles hope they don't have to win many games without Venky, but last night they showed they can.  Up next for Eastern a game at Sacramento State (4-1 Big Sky, 10-6 overall) on Saturday night.

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