Men’s basketball defeats Texas Southern and Utah Valley

By Elohino Theodore, Senior Reporter

The EWU men’s basketball team hosted Texas Southern University and Utah Valley University on Nov. 14 and 17 in the first two home games of the regular season.

Head coach Jim Hayford said playing an 8 a.m., regular season basketball game on Nov. 14 to kick off the college basketball season was a unique experience.

“It’s great being the only coach 1-0 in the nation right now,” said Hayford. “I think it brought attention to our team, which I’m really happy with any attention that our team gets, it’s deserved. They’ve worked hard to become who they are with this promising season ahead of them.”

In the beginning of the first half, the Eagles got off to a slow start by allowing TSU on a 5-0 run. Eastern managed to stay competitive with the help of 3-pointers made by junior guard Tyler Harvey. He shot 55 percent behind the three point line for the first half.

TSU led by as many as eight points, however, with two minutes remaining in the first half, Eastern cut the Tigers’ lead. The Eagles ended up with the lead at halftime, 32-30.

In the second half, the Eagles turned on the switch offensively with the help of junior forward Venky Jois. He scored 22 points in the second half with 11-of-12 shooting.

“I’m always kind of an emotional player,” said Jois. “As soon as I get one or two [baskets], I start getting hyped. I don’t think [TSU] had a low post presence that could compete.”

Eastern went on a 23-2 run to lead 59-36 halfway through the second half. The Eagles led by as many as 31 points. The Eagles finished the game with 28 points in the paint. In a blowout win, Eastern defeated TSU by 24 points, 86-62.

In the second half, Jois had 22 points, seven rebounds and three blocks. Harvey finished with 21 points, while senior guard Drew Brandon had 10 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists, one assist shy of a triple-double.

Photo by Anna Mills

On Nov. 17, EWU defeated Utah Valley University in another blowout victory, 75-50.

“It was a really good win. Utah Valley is a very very well coached team and they’re a tough team,” said Hayford. “We matched their toughness, early we had really good offensive flow and rhythm.”

In the first half, the Eagles jumped out to a 15-2 lead at the 14:24 mark. Sophomore forward Ognjen Miljkovic lead all scores in the early going with 11 points. Eastern led by as many as 13 points in the first half and had a halftime lead of 38-25. Harvey ended up leading all scorers at halftime with 13 points.

“We were getting really good looks because the guys were executing the offense,” said Hayford. “[Miljkovic] gave us some really good separation there early.”

In the second half, the Eagles increased their lead at the 19:29 mark with a layup by Jois. The Eagles would continue to build their lead throughout the half. EWU would lead by as many as 26 points.

For the game, the Eagles led the Wolverines in points in the paint, 36-20. Eastern also led in field goal percentage, 54.5-35.2. Eastern also shot 80 percent behind the free throw line.

The top performers were Harvey, who finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists, and Miljkovic, who finished with 16 points. Jois was shy of a double-double with 13 points and nine rebounds.

Miljkovic said the team’s offense flowed well throughout the game.

“We didn’t force the ball at all,” said Miljkovic, “We just kind of read the game and kept on going.”

EWU will play Walla Walla University on Nov. 19 at Reese Court.