Eagle men on postseason bubble


Kevin Winford drives to the basket in the Eagles’ win over Montana State. Photo by Nic Olson


Key player Jois injured with sprained ankle

By Josh Friesen

The injury to Eastern freshman forward Venky Jois in the Eagles’ win against Montana State cost them in their loss against Montana on Feb. 2.

The Grizzlies own the top of the conference, having a perfect record against the rest of the Big Sky. The loss dropped the Eagles to 6-16 overall and 4-8 in the conference, coming in at ninth in the Big Sky. The top seven teams are invited to play in the Big Sky Tournament at the end of the season.

The choice whether or not to play Jois, who went down with just over three minutes to play in the game against the Bobcats, was a game-time decision going into the game against the Grizzlies. Head coach Jim Hayford opted against sending him in.

Jois, who was toying with a triple-double before he went down on Jan. 31, took a hard hit and slammed onto the hardwood. His face was in a pained grimace as he clutched his left ankle. Eagles head coach Jim Hayford was still unsure about Jois’s status after the game

“I didn’t even talk to our trainer yet,” Hayford said immediately following the game against Montana State. “My first thought is, ‘Are we going to have a game plan with or without him against Montana on Saturday?’”
Hayford decided against sending in the freshman, who suffered a sprained ankle, knowing that his presence would be sorely missed. Jois leads the Eagles in nearly every significant statistical category: points, blocks, rebounds and steals.

Hayford is confident that Jois will be well enough to play at Sacramento State on Feb. 7.

“We expect Venky to play on [Feb. 7],” Hayford said. “I had to make a tough decision. Do I make him play today and risk further injury, or do I say he needs 48-72 hours? I gave him until Monday for next week. That was a tough decision.”
Jois has established himself as a contender for All-Big Sky accolades, including Freshman of the Year and Newcomer of the Year. He has nine double-doubles this season, which leads the Big Sky and ranks 15th in NCAA Division I. He is the league leader in both rebounds per game, with 9.7, and blocks per game, with 2.4.

The Eagles were also without senior guard Jeffrey Forbes, who is dealing with a hand injury.

The Eagles did well in the first five minutes of the game, jumping out to an 11-2 lead. That would be the largest lead Eastern held as Montana roared back and stifled the Eagles. Montana took a 30-18 lead into halftime. They held the Eagles to just 7-18 from the floor in the first half.

The Eagles tried to climb back into contention, getting to within eight points of the Grizzlies on a layup and free throw from Eagles sophomore guard Parker Kelly early in the second half. That would be the closest Montana would allow the Eagles to get as they continued to run the court fluidly.

The Eagles’ offensive woes continued, going just 11-30 from the field in the second half. Freshman forward Thomas Reuter was the only Eastern player to score in double figures with 11 points.

“We didn’t have all the answers, and Montana will show you where your weaknesses are,” Hayford said. “I see a lot of positives in our team, and it is going to make this game in future years a real exciting game in Reese Court.”