EWU Men Fall Short in Final Big Sky Game - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

EWU Men Fall Short in Final Big Sky Game

by EWU Athletics

The Eagles rallied from an 18-point deficit in the second half, but missed two chances to tie or take the lead in the final seconds Saturday, March 8, in an 82-78 loss to Big Sky Conference regular season champion Weber State at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.

Junior point guard Drew Brandon had a potential game-tying shot blocked with seven seconds left, but got the rebound and fed Parker Kelly for an open 3-pointer that was just off the mark. The Wildcats closed the victory with two free throws with 0.6 seconds remaining, and put EWU’s postseason chances in limbo.

“We had a look to tie it, and then we had a look to win it,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. “Parker’s was a great look -- it just went in and out. We were that close to one of the greatest comebacks in college basketball. I know we were down 18, but our players showed tremendous fight.

“It was a great basketball game,” he added. “Everyone got their money’s worth today. It was just that the right team didn’t win.”

A win would have secured EWU a berth in the Big Sky Conference Tournament, which will be hosted by the Wildcats March 13-15 in Ogden, Utah. But now, the Eagles must hope for a Montana State win at Sacramento State or a Southern Utah victory at home against Northern Colorado to advance. Those games both take place later Saturday.

Eastern finished the league season 10-10 and is 15-16 overall, while Weber State finished the regular season 14-6 and 17-11 overall. But WSU had lost four of its last six heading into Saturday’s game at EWU.

Kelly scored 20 points for the Eagles and made both of his 3-pointers until his final miss. Big Sky Conference leading scorer Tyler Harvey scored 24 points and had four steals, but he was 0-of-6 from the 3-point line in only the second game this season he has not made a 3-pointer. He made 6-of-18 shots overall.

“Give Tyler six looks any other game in his career, and he will make them,” said Hayford. “Credit their defense.”

Freshman Ognjen Miljkovic came off the bench to score 11 points, and Venky Jois finished with eight points, seven rebounds and three assists.

In a battle of the league’s top offense (Eastern) versus the top defense (Weber State), the defense of the Wildcats prevailed. They held the Eagles to 39 percent shooting from the field, and just 3-of-15 from the 3-point arc (20 percent). Weber State, led by Davion Berry’s 24 points, seven assists and six rebounds, made 49 percent from the field and sank 10-of-21 3-pointers.

“You look at them and say, ‘there is a good team and they are the conference champion,’” praised Hayford. “They had a great inside game, they had a great outside game and they made some great threes.”

The Eagles forced 16 Weber State turnovers and had a season low six turnovers themselves. Seven of those Wildcat turnovers came after Weber State had opened up its 18-point advantage.

“The one place we were able to be better than them was when we turned up the pressure and forced 10 more turnovers than we committed, and, we took care of the ball,” said Hayford. “That is what made it a game at the end. I love that my guys had no quit -- I really love that. Weber State is a good team, and you have to give them credit.”

Eastern jumped out to a 9-0 lead, but Weber State answered with a 23-2 run to take a 23-11 advantage with 9:54 left in the first half. Eastern, though, followed with a 19-6 run to regain a 30-29 lead with 3:27remaining. However, the Wildcats countered with a big run of its own, scoring the last 11 points of the half and taking a 43-32 lead at intermission.

Weber State gradually built a 61-43 lead at the 10:58 mark of the second half, and at that time Eastern made just 32 percent of its shots and only 17 percent from the 3-point arc. Harvey at that point was 2-of-12, and Weber State had already made nine 3-pointers.

But EWU used a full-court press to go on a 13-4 run and pulled within 73-66 with 3:49 remaining. Weber State made their last field goal of the game at the 3:06 mark to regain a 10-point lead, but that’s when EWU made its final surge.

Eastern ended the game on a 10-2 run, with Kelly pulling EWU to within 80-78 with 48 ticks left. A missed 3-pointer by Weber State and a rebound by Brandon set the table for EWU’s final two shots.

Later on Saturday: 

Eastern Washington University was eliminated from contention for a Big Sky Conference Tournament berth when both Montana State and Southern Utah lost later Saturday, just hours after EWU suffered a heart-breaking 72-68 loss to Big Sky regular season champion Weber State. A win over WSU would have advanced EWU to the Big Sky Conference Tournament to be hosted by WSU on March 13-15 in Ogden, Utah.

Eastern finished the league season 10-10, and needed either a Northern Colorado loss at SUU or a Sacramento State loss at home to MSU to advance. Instead, UNC won 77-52 and the Hornets triumphed easily 84-59.

Eastern finished in head-to-head tie with Sacramento State for seventh, and eliminated EWU because the two teams split their season series and the Hornets picked up a tie-breaking victory over Weber State.

This year’s total of 15 victories equals the most for the Eagles in 10 years since EWU finished 17-13 in the 2003-04 season. Eastern was 8-3 in its last 11 league games.

With 40 victories overall and 25 league wins in three seasons under Jim Hayford, this is the best three-year stretch since 2005-08 when Eastern had 41 wins and the best in league play since 2001-04 when the Eagles won 30.
  • College

    • Idaho beats Santa Clara to advance in Great Alaska Shootout

      It took another come-from-behind effort but Idaho got it done in the first round of the Great Alaska Shootout, defeating Santa Clara 69-59.

    • Eagles roll past Eastern Kentucky 83-62

      Eastern Washington held the Colonels to 34.5 percent shooting from the field in improving to 3-3 on the season.

    • Eagles lose big to No. 10 Oregon, 81-40

      Eastern struggled from field goal range, only shooting 30.2% on the night while the Ducks shot 58%.

    • Alex Grinch named Broyles Award semifinalist

      Grinch, in his third year as the Cougars defensive coordinator, has taken the WSU defense into elite status. WSU enters the week No. 11 in the country in total defense (303.8).

    • Cougars to face Huskies in 2017 Apple Cup Saturday

      Washington State is 9-2 for the first time since 2003 and is looking for its fifth 10-win season in program history (1997, 2001, 2002, 2003).

    • EWU Athletic Director Bill Chaves joins SWX Tonight after playoff snub

      Despite being ranked 19th in the STATS FCS rankings, Eastern Washington fell short of and FCS Tournament berth. On Monday, just over 24 hours after the snub, Eagle Athletic Director Bill Chaves joined SWX Tonight to talk about missing the playoffs, recap Aaron Best's first year at the helm and take a look at the university's basketball programs.

    • Press Pass Pullman: Apple Cup Week

      In this week's episode of Press Pass Pullman, Mike Leach tackles important topics like how to win your family Thanksgiving football game. Before that, he talks about preparing for the Huskies with a bye week, Jake Browning, and playoffs. In the (extended) 'Fan Question of the Week,' he touches on holiday traditions, turducken, and which states are his favorite and least favorite. Theo Lawson also joins the show to discuss this year's UW squad and last year's Apple Cup.

    • Super 8 Plays of the Week 11/20

      Check out the football championship edition of our Super 8 Plays of the Week.

    • Eags fall short against Georgia State in MGM Resorts Main Event opener

      Eagle head coach Shantay Legans knew the Panthers were going to be a handful for his road-weary team, and a valiant defensive effort in the first half and game-ending 11-1 run by EWU wasn't enough.

    • Eags denied playoff spot as Sblendorio picks up final weekly honor

      By EWU Athletics A near record-breaking performance by wide receiver Nic Sblendorio earned him an honor on Sunday (Nov. 19), but earlier in the day the Eastern Washington University football team was dealt a shocking blow when it was not selected to play in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs.   Eastern wrapped up a 7-4 finish overall and 6-2 record in league play with a 59-33 romp over Portland State on Saturday, a game in which the senior caught nine ...