Friday, January 2, 2015

EWU Eagles rally to take down Weber State; open conference play 1-0

Tuesday I had a chance to interview Coach Hayford for the 3rd edition of the EWU Eagle Eye Podcast, during the interview we talked about the tremendous production of Tyler Harvey and Venky Jois.  Coach Hayford told us that they really just need a third scorer on any night to keep things flowing for the other two.

Last night it took the entire team to produce 1/3 of the teams 84 points, Tyler and Venky handled the rest.  The points are just the start, check out this highlight video of Tyler Harvey (video courtesy of David Riley's YouTube page), then click through to read the rest of the recap.

The Eagles stepped up to a big challenge, during their non-conference schedule they were 9-4 overall, however they were out rebounded 7 times during that stretch and went 3-4 in those games.  They won against LC State, at San Francisco and at Seattle despite losing the rebounding battles.

Last night the Eagles dominated the boards 42-28 and that more than any other factor allowed them to win despite the lack of a viable third scoring option for most of the night.

Tyler Harvey is hitting 72% of his three point attempts the last 4 games.  He's hitting 51% on the season and that's on 9 attempts per game.  In the words of Jon Reed ( "[that's] almost ridiculous."  Tyler's step back 3 was featured on Sports Center, but his best play of the night happened so fast the camera couldn't keep up as he stole a pass and broke away to dunk with 16:52 remaining and tied the game at 44.

Venky Jois is nearing ridiculous levels as well with 18 points, 8 rebounds and 5 blocks on a night when he missed several minutes with a banged up knee and was going against one of the better interior defenders in the Big Sky, Joel Bolomboy.  Despite going 9 for 20 last night, Jois is hitting nearly 60% of his shots on the season.  Venky picked up two key blocks in the final 2 minutes to spark first Parker Kelly's 3 to take the lead for good and the second to set up Tyler Harvey who extended the lead to 7 points with 19 seconds to go.

The rest of the Eagles struggled mightily in the first half as a team they were 2 of 12 from the field and Eastern held just a 2 point lead 38-36.  In the second half Ognjen "OG" Miljkovic provided and early spark with 8 points and 2 rebounds before fouling out with 10 minutes to go.  Freshman Bogdan Bliznyuk filled in admirably with 4 points and 8 rebounds all in the second half.  Parker Kelly added 6 points and 3 rebounds in the 2nd half giving him 6pts, 6 rebounds and 1 assist on the game.  Drew Brandon finished with 7 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 1 steal.  In the second half he went off for 5 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists and 1 steal.  Kyle Reid rounded out the Eagles scoring with 2 first half points, but was limited by early foul trouble.

For the Wildcats, Freshman Guard Ryan Richardson did his best Tyler Harvey impression going off for 22 points making 6 of 8 3 point attempts.  Sophomore Guard Jeremy Senglin put in 17 points with 9 rebounds and 7 assists.  Joel Bolomboy added 10 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks.  The Eagles held him to just 2 of 7 from the field on the night.  Senior Center James Hajek gave the Eagles fits early with 2 blocks and 2 steals early but was limited to 11 minutes by foul trouble.

This was not a pretty win for Eastern, but they managed to pull together in the second half behind their stars to get what Coach Hayford called a "gut check win."

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