After a weekend full of big performances and key plays made by several members of the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team, sophomore forward Venky Jois and sophomore guard Tyler Harvey have been rewarded.
Jois is this week’s co-Big Sky Conference Player of the Week, while Harvey earned the same honor from College Sports Madness. They helped Eastern register a home sweep to even their league record at 2-2, beating Montana 69-62 and Montana State 77-72 at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.
Jois finished the weekend with 28 points, 17 rebounds, six assists, four blocked shots and three steals in 67 minutes of action, while making 56.3 percent of his field goals (9-of-16) and 62.5 percent of his free throws (10-of-16).
Jois, who shared this week’s honor with Northern Colorado’s Tim Huskisson, also was a BSC Player of the Week last season when he was selected as the league’s Freshman of the Year.
“Venky has been consistent through four conference games,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford, whose team takes a 7-8 overall record to Northern Arizona (Thursday) and Sacramento State (Saturday) this week. “It’s neat when you feel like you have one of the premier frontcourt players in the Big Sky Conference and he’s playing that way. So my hat is off to Venky."
In EWU’s 77-72 win over Montana State which was MSU’s first league loss, he had two important blocked shots in the last 1:25 of the game to help rally EWU from an 11-point second-half deficit. He finished with his fifth double-double of the season and 14th of his career with 14 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots. In a 69-62 triumph over two-time defending Big Sky champion Montana, Jois had 14 points, seven rebounds, five assists and a blocked shot, as he came three boards from another double-double.
The Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year in the 2012-13 season, Jois is EWU’s second-leading scorer with a 12.9 average. He is also averaging a team-leading 8.1 rebounds, as well as 2.4 assists and 1.5 blocks per game. So far he has five double-doubles this season. He had nine double-doubles as a freshman to rank among the leaders in NCAA Division I, and now has 14 in his 43-game career (41 as a starter). He ranks 16th in the Big Sky in scoring, and is second in blocked shots (1.5), third in rebounding (8.1) and fifth in offensive rebounds (2.7).
“We only expect more and more from him each night out as he continues growing,” added Hayford. “He’s had lots of playing time, so he has the minutes of a junior with sophomore eligibility. He’s a leader and we count on him.”
Harvey had 44 points with nine 3-pointers and six assists in last week’s sweep, including 25 versus the Grizzlies and 19 against MSU. He ranks second in the Big Sky in scoring for all games (20.3) and is ranked first in league games only (23.3).
This week, Harvey returns to Flagstaff, Ariz., where he had the break-out game of his young career. The Eagles trailed by 13 with less than four minutes remaining in last year’s 77-74 overtime win at NAU, but Harvey scored 14 points in the last 8:31 and rallied the Eagles to an improbable win. He had only scored 17 points all season before that explosion.
“Tyler energized us and we had a miraculous comeback,” recalled Hayford. “Everything kind of went right for us and wrong for NAU, and we won in overtime. And a star was born.”
Besides leading the Big Sky, Harvey currently ranks fifth in NCAA Division I in 3-pointers made per game (3.8). He is also 20th nationally in 3-point percentage (45.2 percent) and 27th in scoring (20.3).
“The neat thing is he’s only a sophomore,” added Hayford. “(Last year’s NAU game) was a real pivotal turning point in our development as a program during a year in which we were playing five or even six freshmen. It’s great to go back to the scene of the crime.”