Eastern Washington University returns to the basketball floor following a short holiday break tonight, taking on Boise State University in a non-conference game that tips off at approximately 7:15 in the Broncos' Taco Bell Arena in Boise.
The games will serve as the nightcap of a women's-men's doubleheader, with BSU entertaining Arizona in the 5 p.m. opener.
This would seem to be another big test for the Eagles, who head back into Big Sky Conference play in earnest on Friday, when they face Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, Ariz.
The chemistry that seemed to be such a big factor in Eastern's quick start seems to have dissolved with the return of Adris DeLeon and addition of Chris Busch, who were both ineligible for the Eags' first eight games.
Coach Kirk Earlywine admitted prior to giving DeLeon and Busch their first minutes of the season against Hawaii back on Dec. 13, that having to change lineups, rotations and playing time to accomodate them might present some problems, and it has.
Because of a snow-imposed early deadline, I was able to talk with Earlywine only briefly following his team's less-than-stirring effort in a 90-87 home win over NAIA Division II opponent Evergreen State College in the Eagles' last outing on Dec. 22.
I asked about Benny Valentine, the team's starting point guard and leading scorer, wondering how come he didn't start in the road loss to Washington and home loss to Missouri-Kansas Cit (a game I was unable to cover becaue of poor road conditions).
I asked whether Valentine's lack of playing time was the result of an injury (he limped through much of the second half against Washington) or some kind of disciplinary action.
Earlywine explained Valentine had "tweaked and ankle" early in the second half against the Huskies, but refused to offer any other details about not starting the 5-foot-6 junior.
"It was a coach's decision," he said, following a long pause. "We're just going to leave it at that."
In any envent, Valentine was back in the starting lineup against Evergreen State and played 30 solid minutes, finishing with 16 points, four assists two steals and a couple of rebounds. And if the Eagles are going to make any noise in the Big Sky the rest of the year, they're going to need him on the floor -- and on Earlywine's good side.
Feel free to leave any thought you might have on the matter right here, and check back later tonight or Tuesday morning for links to any stories I can find about the EWU-Boise game.