GAME NOTES: With a berth in the Big Sky Conference Tournament still up for grabs, the Bengals of Idaho State take to the road to do battle with the Eagles of Eastern Washington on Thursday night.
Idaho State beat Sacramento State in an 80-67 final at home last Saturday night. That victory snapped a three-game losing streak for the Bengals, who sit in 10th place in the Big Sky, but just a game out of sixth place.
Eastern Washington lost a close one at North Dakota last Saturday, 69-67, but has still won four of its last six. The Eagles are in a four-way tie for sixth in the Big Sky, with only the top seven teams in the league getting to continue on to the conference tournament.
EWU has won the last 11 meetings with Idaho in Cheney, dating back to a 65-63 Bengal win on March 1, 2003. Prior to losing earlier this season in Pocatello, the Eagles had won eight consecutive games in the series, which they lead by a 40-28 margin.
Jeffrey Solarin registered a double-double consisting of 14 points and a game- high 18 rebounds as the Bengals defeated the Sacramento State Hornets. Leading the offense for the Bengals was Chris Hansen with 21 points as he converted 10-of-11 shots at the free-throw line, followed by Tomas Sanchez and Andre Hatchett with 18 and 11 points, respectively. After knocking down only 36.4 percent from the floor through the first 20 minutes of action and trailing 36-32 at the break, the Bengals jumped up to 53.6 percent in the second half in order to take control and secure the home win.
Taking the lead in the scoring department this season for the Bengals is Hansen (16.7 ppg, fifth-best in the Big Sky), boosting it slightly in conference play (17.0 ppg) as he shoots a shade over 40 percent from behind the 3-point line. Sanchez checks in with 15.1 ppg and while he is converting only 39.9 percent of his field goal tries, makes up for that by having dished out 114 assists. Andre Hatchett (14.1 ppg) and Jeffrey Solarin (10.2 ppg) round out the scoring attack. As a collective unit, the Bengals are scoring 70.8 ppg and giving up 69.7 ppg.
Troy Huff knocked down a jumper as time expired to lift North Dakota to a 69-67 win over the Eagles, who came up short despite receiving double-doubles from both Venky Jois and Martin Seiferth. Jois posted 22 points and 11 boards, while Seiferth added 13 points and 15 rebounds. Ognjen Miljkovic scored 13 points and Tyler Harvey contributed 11 points, which he accompanied with six assists. North Dakota led, 64-57, with just under three minutes left before a late rally by EWU. Harvey made a game-tying 3-pointer with 16 seconds left in regulation for the Eagles, but they allowed Huff to grab an offensive board off of a missed 3-point attempt by Webb which set up the game-winning jump shot.
Harvey has been an offensive beast this season, leading his team and the Big Sky with 21.8 ppg, while shooting 45.5 percent from 3-point distance. Harvey adds 4 rpg and 2.6 apg to his stat line. Jois checks in at second in scoring with 13.6 ppg on 52.8 percent shooting from the floor, and tops the Eagles in rebounding with 8 rpg. Drew Brandon is the third and final double-digit scorer for EWU this season at 11 ppg. The Eagles are the top scoring club in the Big Sky, averaging 76.1 ppg but unfortunately they are giving most of that right back, allowing opponents to score a league-worst 75.1 ppg. They are also the top rebounding team in the conference, pulling down 36.7 rpg.
In spite of their defensive issues, the Eagles have been able to win of late by lighting up the scoreboard. The Bengals have been able to produce at the offensive end as well, but they shouldn't be able to keep up with the Eagles playing on their home court with postseason play on their mind.
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