GAME NOTES: Eastern Washington heads back to the hardwood after a week off to challenge the slumping Southern Utah Thunderbirds in Big Sky Conference play at Centrum Arena.
Currently a game under .500 on the season, the Eagles have been playing well in the last several weeks with back-to-back wins and victories in four of the last five contests overall. The squad last played a week ago when it crushed Northern Arizona, 84-65, at home. The Eagles have done well at home in 2013-14 with nine wins in 11 chances, but on the road the squad is a dismal 1-11.
Speaking of dismal, that's the only way to describe the season for the Thunderbirds who are struggling through a massive 23-game losing streak. Since defeating Arizona Christian, an NAIA program, in the season opener, Southern Utah has been spinning out of control, although there have been a few close calls that could have earned the team a win over a Division I foe for the first time in nearly a year. Thursday night was one of those times as the team came up short in an 86-79 final versus Portland State at home.
Needless to say, at 0-15 the Thunderbirds are all alone at the bottom of the conference standings.
The Thunderbirds actually lead the all-time series with EWU by a slim 4-3 margin, taking all three of the previous matchups played here in Cedar City. However, the Eagles captured a 90-83 win in the first meeting of the season at home to close the gap.
Tyler Harvey exploded for 37 points, shooting not only 13-of-22 from the floor, but also 9-of-16 behind the 3-point line for the Eagles as they took down Northern Arizona last weekend in Cheney. Also scoring in double figures for the hosts were Parker Kelly and Drew Brandon with 12 points apiece, the latter handing out nine assists as the team recorded assists on all but seven of their 27 field goals and connected on a season-high 16 triples.
Harvey is one of the top scorers in the conference through 25 games with his 21.6 ppg, converting a sensational 94 3-pointers, on 206 attempts, which is almost half the team's entire total of 3-pointers on the campaign. Although he did not score in double figures last weekend, Venky Jois is still a valuable commodity with his 12.6 ppg and inside presence which has resulted in a team- best 7.9 rpg.
Trey Kennedy and Casey Oliverson both tallied 19 points two nights ago, the former doing so off the bench and the latter hitting all but one of his seven field goal tries as he also added a team-best 10 rebounds. John Marshall contributed another 15 points, thanks in large part to his 9-of-11 showing at the free-throw line where the Thunderbirds were 27-of-36. Unfortunately, further away from the basket the team was just 2-of-8 beyond the arc.
A starter in all but three games this season, Kennedy is responsible for 9.7 ppg, the top average for Southern Utah, a team which is one of the lowest- scoring programs in all of college basketball with just 57.5 ppg. The squad is shooting a mere 39.9 percent from the field, is being beaten on the glass by 8.1 rpg and outscored by close to 17 ppg, which explains why the victories have been hard to find.
The Eagles may have their issues on the road this season, but still SUU has given little indication that it is ready to finally make it into the win column for the first time in almost four months.
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