Sophomore guard Tyler Harvey rebounded from his lowest scoring output of the year by making a school-record 10 3-pointers and totaling 38 points as the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team defeated Northern Colorado 94-90 in overtime Saturday (Feb. 1) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.
“Our guys stepped up and took victory out of the jaws of defeat instead of snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. “That is something we need to keep learning, so today was an important step for our program.”
Harvey made a 3-pointer that helped send the game into overtime, then made his record-tying 10th trey to open the extra period and give EWU the lead for good. He tied the record of 10 by Kevin Winford against New Hope on Dec. 4, 2010, and his 38 points equaled current Detroit Piston Rodney Stuckey for the sixth-most in school history.
Harvey finished 10-of-15 from the 3-point stripe after going just 1-of-8 from the line and finishing just seven points in his last outing against North Dakota.
“To go 10-of-15 after going 1-of-8 on Thursday night shows that Tyler doesn’t lack any confidence,” explained Hayford. “He believes in his game, and he believes in his teammates. He understands when he has a great shot it is his role to take it. There are a lot of players that would have come off of Thursday night and said, ‘oh I am not going to shoot it’. He understands what his role is.”
The Eagles, who led by as many as 14 in the second half, made a season-best 55.2 percent of their 3-pointers in the game (16-of-29). Eastern came just two away from the record of 18 set against New Hope.
Overall, Eastern made 54.4 percent of its shots – its best shooting performance since Nov. 22 and its first 50 percent night since Nov. 29.
Four Eagles scored in double figures, including 15 points, a career-high 12 assists, seven rebounds and two steals by point guard Drew Brandon. The assists performance by the Big Sky leader was the fourth-most in school history, and his third of the season with at least 10.
“There was a lot of pressure on Drew, particularly down the stretch in the second half,” said Hayford. “(It was outstanding) for him to come away with 12 assists and then make clutch free throws. He had a clutch basket in overtime which takes great maturity and that is what this team needs.”
Junior Parker Kelly, who had scored just eight points in his last two games, came off the bench to score 17 points and grab six rebounds. Junior Martin Seiferth also came off the bench and had 10 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots. The Eagles finished with a season-high 30 bench points.
“I joked with Parker after the game and told him, ‘well that solves our bench production if we take you off the bench and you play like that,” said Hayford. “It just shows you his great character. Parker has been in a slump. He is a tough kid. He didn’t complain, and there wasn’t any conversation about it. He was just like, ‘if you call my number I’ll be ready.’
“I felt like Martin is giving us a defensive adjustment off the bench we didn’t have before,” he continued. “Maybe that is part of the chemistry we are figuring out.”
Eastern is now 4-6 in the Big Sky and 9-12 overall, while the Bears fell to 13-6 on the season and 7-3 in the league. Northern Colorado was swept this weekend after leading the league and entering ranked 13th in this week’s Mid-Major top 25 poll. They were picked to finish fourth in the Big Sky by both the coaches and media, just ahead of the Eagles.
Eastern now heads back on the road to face Montana State (Feb. 6) and Montana (Feb. 8). EWU’s next home game is Feb. 13 versus Sacramento State.
Seiferth and Venky Jois continued to inch closer to the career blocked shots record on Saturday. Each had three against the Bears, and Seiferth’s 98 blocks now rank second in school history, only one behind the school record of 99 (Paul Butorac 2004-07). Jois is right behind with 97.
The Eagles and Bears are the top scoring teams in the league, but combined for just 118 in their most recent outings. Eastern scored 61 points in a 73-61 loss to North Dakota on Thursday, while UNC was held to 57 in an 80-57 loss to Portland State that knocked the Bears out of first place in the league standings. Both EWU and UNC made less than 40 percent of their shots from the field (37.7 and 39.3 percent, respectively) after entering the game with combined averages of 150.1 points per outing (UNC 75.4, EWU 74.7).
The Bears jumped out to an early 18-6 lead as Eastern made only two of its first 10 shots. The Eagles managed to pull within three, then used an 11-0 run to take a 35-28 advantage. Four different Eagles hit 3-pointers in the run as Eastern ended the half by making 12 of its last 17 shots.
Eastern shot at a 52 percent clip in the first half, including 9-of-15 from the 3-point arc. Kelly had 11 of his points plus a pair of blocked shots in the first 20 minutes. Northern Colorado made 48 percent, but missed eight of its last 10 shots.
The Eagles remained hot after intermission, and Harvey’s eighth trey of the game gave EWU a 59-45 lead with 11:59 to play. But an 8-0 UNC run got the Bears back in the game, and eventually they took a pair of three-point leads.
After Harvey’s 3-pointer knotted the game at 81, he blocked a potential game-winning attempt by UNC’s Tate Unruh that send the game to overtime. He opened the extra period with a trey, then Brandon fed Jois for a dunk and a 5-point lead.
Brandon scored EWU’s next four points with a layup and a pair of free throws, then Harvey and Kelly each hit a pair in the final 28 seconds to wrap up the victory.