Freshman redshirt Tyler Harvey and sophomore Parker Kelly did their part to keep their team alive with big starts and big nights en route to a season-high scoring night for the Eagles.
The duo combined for 45 points and 11 of Eastern Washington University’s 14 3-pointers made, and the Eagles stayed alive for a berth in the Big Sky Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament following their 87-73 romp past Idaho State Thursday (March 7) at ICCU Court at Holt Arena in Pocatello, Idaho.
The victory over ISU made Eastern’s slightest glimmer of hope of advancing to the postseason a bit brighter, as Eastern head coach Jim Hayford won for the 279th time in his 400th game as a collegiate head coach. It was Eastern’s second-largest margin of victory this season, trailing only the 23 points the Eagles won by against Northern Arizona on Jan. 10. The Eagles won for only the second time in 14 tries on opponent home courts this season.
The victory, coupled with losses by both Northern Arizona and Sacramento State, kept EWU in the hunt for the postseason. But for that to happen, EWU still needs a win in its final game at Weber State, as well as losses by three other conference teams to earn a berth.
“This was a good win and it shows the character of our players,” said Hayford, whose team suffered an overtime loss and a four-point setback at home last week. “After the close, disappointing losses down the wire last week, we put in a great team effort. We’re really, really proud of them, and I’m a very happy coach.”
Harvey scored 15 of his 17 points in the first half, staking Eastern to an early 40-19 lead. Kelly had 22 of his points in the second half, including a pair of 3-pointers to open the second half that helped Eastern regain a 19-point lead. Harvey finished with five 3-pointers and Kelly had a career-high six, as EWU’s 14 treys were its third-highest of the season. Eastern’s previous season high point total was 86 against Southern Utah on Feb. 16.
“I thought our defense in the first 15 minutes was just outstanding and that set the tone,” said Hayford. “Tyler was shooting it well in the first half and Parker was shooting it like crazy in the second half. Those two players really played well.”
Eagle senior Jeffrey Forbes had a career-high eight assists as he earned sole possession of the school record for career games played, now with 120. Also with a school-record 106 games started in his career, Forbes broke the previous records held by Marc Axton (2002-05) of 119 games played and 99 starts.
Harvey also finished with a career-high eight rebounds and had seven assists, and Forbes had five points and four rebounds. Inside the paint, sophomore Martin Seiferth had 13 points, nine rebounds and a pair of blocked shots in just 19 minutes of action, and true freshman Venky Jois chipped in 11 points and seven rebounds. Senior Jordan Hickert came off the bench to hit a pair of 3-pointers and finish with six points and three rebounds.
“Jeffrey did a really good job of making the extra pass and had eight assists,” praised Hayford. “Martin was saddled with foul trouble, but put together another complete game inside the paint while he was in there. When we needed some baskets and were getting some pressure, Venky made some baskets inside. And Jordan came in and hit a big 3 and gave us some good minutes.
“When you are start talking about that many players with a good game, that’s great,” he continued. “Up and down the roster we had players playing up to their ability, and that will make you very happy as a coach.”
Eastern never trailed and the game was never tied, as Harvey scored 12 early points to give EWU a 22-4 lead thanks to a 15-0 run in which the Bengals were scoreless for 4:39. The Eagles used an 8-0 run to open a 21-point lead at 40-19, as ISU went another 2:34 without scoring.
Eastern finished 14-of-26 from beyond the 3-point arc against Idaho State’s zone defense. Eastern made 54 percent of its shots from both the 3-point stripe and overall.
“They played 75 percent of their season in that zone, and we felt like we knew how to beat it -- and our guys did it,” said Hayford. “It’s one thing getting the shots, but it’s another thing to make them. We made them.”
The Eagles led 42-29 at half, but bumped that back out to a 19-point led early in the second half. The Eagles led by 21 at 64-43 with 10:34 to play, and the closest ISU came after that was 13 points late in the game.
The Eagles, now 7-20 overall and 7-12 in the league, ends its regular season at second-place Weber State, a team still with hopes of winning the regular season title and hosting the seven-team Big Sky Conference Tournament March 14-16.
If EWU wins on the road at Weber State, Southern Utah wins at North Dakota, Northern Arizona loses at Montana and Sacramento State loses at Montana State, respectively, the Eagles, NAU and Sac State would finish in a three-way tie for seventh at 8-12. The teams would be 2-2 amongst each other, therefore, the seventh and final berth would go to EWU by virtue of its victory over Weber State.
All other scenarios, including four-way ties, would not go in Eastern’s favor – thus necessitating Southern Utah’s win at North Dakota. Eastern is trying for its third-straight tournament berth, and 13th in 26 years as a member of the Big Sky Conference, with 12 previous appearances (1990, 98, 99, 2000, 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 11, 12).
Weber State, which enters the week just a half-game behind Montana for the Big Sky lead, is 16-2 in league games and 22-5 overall heading into its game Thursday at home versus Portland State.
Back in December, the Eagles fell 74-53 to Weber State. Eastern is just 4-28 all-time in Ogden, but did end the regular season in 2011 with a 75-59 win in Ogden.