Senior-less Eastern falls a victory shy of a postseason berth, but the progress made has EWU eager for 2014-15 season
A near-miss left the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team only hungrier for its next opportunity.
Although they came a victory shy of a Big Sky Conference Tournament berth, the Eagles finished with three more league wins and five more victories overall than a year ago. Eastern established eight school records in the 2013-14 season, including one league mark.
Eastern was 7-4 in its last 11 league games to help EWU finish 15-16 overall and 10-10 in the league. The 15 victories equals the most for the Eagles in 10 years since EWU finished 17-13 in the 2003-04 season. With 40 victories overall and 25 league wins in three seasons under head coach 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.
The best news of all is that the Eagles had no seniors on its 2013-14 roster, and the Eagles return highly-regarded sophomores Tyler Harvey and Venky Jois. Harvey was a first team All-Big Sky selection and earned second team honors on the National Association of Basketball Coaches All-District 6 team – EWU’s first player honored on that team since Rodney Stuckey in 2007. Jois earned honorable mention accolades for the second-straight year, as well as being the 2012-13 Freshman of the Year in the league. College Sports Madness named Jois (third team) and junior point guard Drew Brandon (second team) to its All-Big Sky Conference squad, and Jois earned first team All-BSC honors from College Hoops Daily.
“We were the youngest team, but starting next season you won’t hear me say that anymore,” said Hayford. “We have balanced classes, depth and experience. We are going to have upper classmen next year and will start juniors and seniors. We have the building finished and had the two premier underclassmen in the league this year.”
Eastern Washington ended the season with a 72-68 loss to Weber State in which the Eagles rallied from an 18-point second half deficit only to miss potential game-tying and game-winning shots in the final seconds. The Eagles finished in a head-to-head tie with Sacramento State for seventh, but were eliminated in the tiebreaker for the final berth in the league tourney because the two teams split their season series and the Hornets picked up a tie-breaking victory over Weber State.
“We were right there,” said Hayford. “Unfortunately our conference tournament is one where every team doesn’t qualify. I can’t judge this year’s team on not going to the postseason tournament, although our goal is to be a perennial playoff team. Last year a 10-10 record tied for fourth in the league, and in my first year we were at .500 (8-8) and hosted a first-round game. Go figure.”
Under Hayford, Eastern Has Best Three Seasons All-Time for Most 3-Pointers and Fewest Turnovers . . .
En route to leading the Big Sky in scoring with an average of 76.2 points per game, Eastern finished with the third-most 3-pointers made in school history (251). The top two marks – 283 in 2012 and 264 in 2013 – came in Hayford’s first two seasons at the helm. The previous record was 242 in 2011.
And the Eagles did it while averaging only 12.0 turnovers per game, ranking only behind the 11.8 the Eagles averaged in Hayford’s first season as EWU’s head coach. Again, Eastern’s top three seasons in school history have come under Hayford, having averaged 13.4 in 2013 (the previous record before 2012 was 13.5 in 2000).
Harvey’s 109 3-Pointers Headlines List of School Records . . .
Harvey was the Big Sky’s leading scorer with a 21.8 average, and ranked in the top 13 nationally in four categories. Through games of March 9, his scoring average ranked eighth, and his combined ranking of 18th in 3-pointers per game (5th, 3.52) and 3-point shooting percentage (13th, 43.3) was third in NCAA Division I. He was also 10th in free throw percentage (89.7).
Harvey set the school’s single season record for 3-pointers made on Feb. 27 when he had seven against UNC, breaking the previous record of 103 set by Shannon Taylor in the 1998-99 season. He finished with 109 for the season, ranking second in Big Sky Conference history behind the league record of 124 (Stephen Sir, Northern Arizona, 2006-07).
Jois, the Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year as a freshman, finished with averages of 13.4 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.6 blocked shots per game while making 52.8 percent of his shots from the field. He established a new school record for career blocked shots, with a current total of 115.
Harvey’s perfect 20-of-20 free throw performance against Southern Utah on Jan. 23 was both a school and conference record, and his 20 free throws made was a school mark. He also had 10 3-pointers versus Northern Colorado to set a school record.
The other school records established included the career shooting percentage for Martin Seiferth (currently 64.4 percent to rank ahead of Ron Cox at .629 from 1974-77), and team records for free throws made (38) and attempted (49) versus Southern Utah on Jan. 23, 2014.
“I want to shine a light on all our players,” added Hayford. “I was proud of all of them.”
* The Eagles led the Big Sky Conference in scoring offense (76.1), 3-pointers made per game (8.1), rebounds (36.8), and blocked shots (4.3); were second in defensive field goal percentage (.446); and finished third in assists (13.45) and defensive 3-point field goal percentage (.345).
On All-Big Sky Performers Tyler Harvey and Venky Jois: “Tyler had an outstanding season. He was one of the top perimeter shooters not only in the Big Sky Conference, but in the whole country. It’s fitting for him to be recognized as a first team All-Big Sky player who led the Big Sky in scoring. We’re proud of him. And most importantly, Eagle fans are excited we have to more great seasons ahead with Tyler. I’m glad Venky was recognized as a sophomore too. To have two underclassmen recognized in the all-conference voting really bodes well for where our program is headed.”