It seemed the further away the Eagles shot the ball, the better they were.
Fueled by a season high 16 3-pointers – including nine by Tyler Harvey on his way to a 37-point outing – the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team completed a weekend sweep with an 84-65 victory over second-place Northern Arizona Saturday (Feb. 15) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.
Eastern led the entire way for the second-straight game as the Eagles improved to 7-7 in the Big Sky Conference and 12-13 overall. In addition to a wire-to-wire 85-72 victory versus Sacramento State on Thursday (Feb. 13), the Eagles will move into at least sixth in the league standings, and perhaps as high as fifth, depending on the outcome of games later Saturday.
Junior Parker Kelly had four of the 3-pointers and finished with 12 points. Junior point guard Drew Brandon also finished with 12 points, and had nine assists, seven rebounds and two steals. Sophomore Venky Jois chipped in nine points and seven rebounds.
“We needed to defend our home court this weekend, and we did that,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. “It is a very gratifying feeling as a coach. What we are starting to see from our team is more consistency in the performance from each individual, and as we get that we are going to be more competitive in every game.”
Northern Arizona fell to 8-6 in the league and 11-14 overall. Earlier this season, the Eagles lost on the road to NAU (84-65) and Sac State (75-64).
Eastern will return to the road next Saturday (Feb. 22) to face Southern Utah before hosting Portland State the following Monday (Feb. 24). The Thunderbirds are 0-13 in the league thus far heading into Saturday’s home game with Idaho State.
The Eagles finished 16-of-30 from the 3-point line versus NAU, coming just two made treys from the record of 18 set against New Hope on Dec. 4, 2010. Eastern also had 16 treys in a 94-90 overtime win over Northern Colorado on Feb. 1.
“We recruit to shoot,” explained Hayford. “If players are three-point shooters, they want to come here. We let it fly and we are among the nation’s leaders in that.
“What we need to recognize is when they take away the three we need to balance that with attacking the rim,” he continued. “I think our guys are starting to find that balance. If they are going to let us shoot it, we’ll shoot it because we have some guys who are really good shooters.”
The 53 percent shooting night from the 3-point arc exceeded EWU’s shooting everywhere else on the court -- Eastern made only 11-of-28 (39 percent) from 2-point range, and was also only 14-of-23 (61 percent) from the free throw line.
Eastern also had a 41-33 rebounding advantage over the Lumberjacks and finished with just 12 turnovers. Brandon had a 9-to-1 assist to turnover ratio for the second-straight game.
“We really challenged our front line to take it at them, and we out-rebounded them by eight,” said Hayford. “We had a few more turnovers than I liked in the second half, but we have been keeping that number pretty low. We played a complete game, and that is why we are here.
“Drew this weekend had 18 assists and two turnovers,” he added. “When you are getting that kind of play from your point guard you are going to be hard to beat.”
Harvey came one away from the individual record 3-point record he shares with Kevin Winford, who had 10 versus New Hope. Harvey made 10 treys on Feb. 1 versus Northern Colorado en route to a career high 38 points.
“They went to a box and one on Tyler, but Tyler just had another special day,” said Hayford. “He is an outstanding player, and I am really pleased with his performance.”
Eastern made 8-of-13 3-pointers in the first half and used a pair of big runs to open up an 18-point first-half lead. Harvey scored 16 of his points in the first half on 4-of-8 shooting from the 3-point arc.
Harvey hit a pair of early treys and the Eagles jumped out to a quick 11-1 lead. After NAU cut the margin to five, the Eagles went on a 21-6 run and opened a 32-14 lead with 5:21 to play. Harvey scored seven points in that run, and four different Eagles made 3-pointers.
Eastern made only 6-of-19 2-point shots and 3-of-11 free throws in the first half, otherwise, EWU’s 39-26 halftime lead would have been much larger. Northern Arizona’s Len Springs had all six of his school-record six blocked shots in first half.
Harvey hit a pair of 3-pointers to open the second half and the Eagles took a 46-26 lead. A 10-2 NAU run cut the lead to 12, but Harvey then hit three more treys to put the Eagles up 59-40.
Later, Kelly hit a trio of 3-pointers and the Eagles took a 70-51 lead with 8:22 remaining. The Eagles led by as many as 22 and no less than 16 the rest of the way.