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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 23, 4:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Reese Court (6,000) -- Cheney, Washington. Television: None. Home Record: SHSU 8-5, EWU 6-5. Away Record: SHSU 6-7, EWU 1-12. Neutral Record: SHSU 0-0, EWU 1-1. Conference Record: SHSU 7-7, EWU 6-10. Series Record: Eastern Washington leads, 2-0.
GAME NOTES: The Sam Houston State Bearkats will take a break from Southland Conference action and journey to Reese Court for a bout with the Eastern Washington Eagles as part of the annual BracketBuster event.
EWU is 2-0 all-time versus the Bearkats. The two schools have not played each other since Nov. 16, 1997, when the Eagles won 80-77 at Reese Court. EWU won 69-66 in Huntsville, Texas, the year prior in the only other men?s basketball game between the two schools.
SHSU dropped a 50-44 decision to Stephen F. Austin on Wednesday to make it six games in a row it has alternated wins with losses. The Bearkats dropped to 14-12 on the season after they connected on just 33.3 percent of their field goal tries in the contest. James Thomas posted 14 points and eight boards to lead the squad, but the Lumberjacks hit on 38.3 percent of their shots from the floor to pull away for the six-point decision.
Coach Jason Hooten employs a very deep rotation that features players averaging 14.6 minutes per game or more. As a result, Darius Gatson is pacing the team with a mere 8.7 ppg on 36.8 percent shooting from the field. SHSU's utilization of the majority of its roster allows it to keep fresh bodies on the floor to benefit the defensive effort. The Bearkats are second in the Southland Conference in scoring defense with only 60.9 points allowed per tilt, but they are just seventh on the offensive end of the court with 65.0 ppg.
As for the Eagles, they are returning home after being dealt an 89-80 loss at Portland State on Monday. EWU had plenty of offensive production in the setback as Tyler Harvey tallied 23 points, Venky Jois added 17 and Martin Seiferth netted 16 points. Jois and Seiferth also grabbed nine rebounds apiece, but the Eagles allowed Portland State to connect on 66 percent of its field goal tries in the opening 20 minutes to build a 12-point lead by the intermission. EWU was unable to overcome the deficit as it went 4-of-20 from beyond the arc in the game.
Jois leads Jim Hayford's team in minutes (33.3), points (12.7), rebounds (9.5) and blocks (2.4) from the forward slot. Collin Chiverton is contributing 10.4 ppg, but he has played only 10 minutes in each of the last two games. Although EWU is in the middle of the Big Sky offensively with 68.0 ppg, it is last in the conference in free-throw shooting (0.641) and allows the second most points per game (74.2).
Although the records may suggest these teams are far apart in talent, this one could end up going down to the wire due to EWU's homecourt edge. The significance of this game is greater to the Eagles, as they are much more desperate for wins at this point. SHSU is gearing up for a run in the Southland Conference Tournament, but it will need to make sure it does not look past EWU or it could be handed a surprising loss.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Eastern Washington 62, Sam Houston State 58
02/23 10:38:02 ET