GAME NOTES: A pair of Evergreen State rivals will tip off the season at Beasley Coliseum tonight when the Washington State Cougars host the Eastern Washington Eagles as apart of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic.
Eastern Washington enjoyed a five-win increase from 2010-11, improving to 15-17 overall last year and 8-8 in the Big Sky Conference, capping it off with its first conference tournament game since 2006. The Eagles will play four road games and two neutral court games before finally playing their first home game on Nov.30.
Washington State played very well at times but was ultimately inconsistent in the Pac-12 last season, finishing 19-18 overall and 7-11 in conference play. The Cougars missed out on the NCAA Tournament for the fourth consecutive year, but they were invited to the College Basketball Invitational, where they made a great run before falling to Pittsburgh in the three-game championship series.
Washington State has a stronghold on the all-time series over Eastern Washington, winning 54-of-65 matchups. The Eagles have not defeated the Cougars in Pullman since 1952.
Jim Hayford's first season as Eastern Washington's head coach was anchored by a veteran squad, but now it will have to move on from one of the Big Sky's best players last year in Cliff Colimon (16.5 ppg, 5.0 apg) as well as starting forwards Cliff Ederaine (10.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg) and Laron Griffin (8.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg). Still, the Eagles aren't completely void of veteran talent. Senior guard Jeffrey Forbes (6.9 ppg) has 82 starts under his belt in his career. Forward Collin Chiverton will likely assume the role of the primary scoring option, as he earned the Conference Newcomer of the Year award last season by averaging 13.9 ppg, while connecting on more than 40 percent of his three-point attempts. EWU's most intriguing players this season may be its two former transfers who were redshirted last season. Justin Crosgile is a point guard formerly of Saint Joseph's who will be inserted into the starting lineup, and former Oregon Duck Martin Seiferth (6-10, 230) brings much-needed depth to the frontcourt.
Washington State had a difficult time putting points on the scoreboard last season, scoring just 68.1 ppg, but the good news is that it has a chance to improve upon that number in 2012-13 with the return of the Pac-12's leading scorer. In his junior year, Brock Motum narrowly edged out Oregon State's Jared Cunningham for the conference's scoring crown with 18.0 ppg and did so on 55.4 percent field goal shooting. The 6-10 forward was also the team's leading rebounder (6.4 pg), but he didn't do much on the defensive end of the floor with just 14 blocks and 19 steals in 34 games. The other two Cougars to score in double digits last season are gone (Faisal Aden, 14.5 ppg, and Reggie Moore, 10.2 ppg), meaning there will be more opportunities for DeVonte Lacy (8.5 ppg), Mike Ladd (5.4 ppg), and D.J. Shelton (4.7 ppg) to improve upon last season's scoring totals. Royce Woolridge (6-3, 175) was redshirted last season but will begin the year in the starting lineup.
The presence of Motum is certainly a plus, but with the loss of several other key players, Washington State appears to be in for another frustrating, up and down season. Eastern Washington is starting to turn heads in the Big Sky, but that said, the Cougars hold a strong homecourt advantage in Pullman and will come out of this matchup with the win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Washington State 73, Eastern Washington 64
11/10 10:33:26 ET
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