Eastern Washington steps back into Big Sky Conference play this afternoon, hosting Sacramento State in a Reese Court showdown that tips off at 3:05.
If the Eagles hope to become a factor in the regular-season BSC title chase, they need Brandon Moore to start playing like Brandon Moore again.
Moore, a 6-foot-9, 250-pound senior center, started the year as Eastern’s top returning rebounder (6.8 rpg) and second-highest returning scorer (11.2 ppg). But he’s been all but invisible during the Eagles’ five-game losing streak that includes a humbling 94-52 loss at Gonzaga on Monday night.
Moore played 23 minutes against the Bulldogs and pulled down a team-high nine rebounds. But he failed to score after going 0 for 6 from the field and 0 for 3 from the free-throw line. That dismal shooting performance dropped his scoring average during Eastern’s recent skid to 4.4 points per game, leaving EWU coach Kirk Earlywine in search of a cure for Moore’s offensive struggles.
“When Brandon works hard enough to get deep post catches, we’re getting the ball to him,” Earlywine said. “But the ball’s not going in right now.”
In his last five games, Moore had made 6 of 21 shots from the field and 10 of 20 from the line.
“He went through a stretch like that last year – really, a six-week stretch – where he struggled to put the ball in the basket,” Earlywine said. “That makes it hard for our team, because if you can’t score the ball in the paint, the game becomes more difficult.
“It’s not for lack of effort with Brandon. He’s trying hard. He’s just missing a lot of shots right now, and we need him to start making them again – desperately.”
Eastern Washington has not adapted well to life away from Reese Court this season.
The Eagles are 3-2 at home but 1-8 in on the road, where they have been outscored by an average of 18 points per game.
They are shooting just 38.3 percent from the field in unfamiliar surroundings, while getting outrebounded by an average of 6.7 a game.
Cougs go for four
The Washington State Cougars defeated Oregon three times last season – both times in conference play and at the conference tournament. It was the second consecutive season they’ve done that to the Ducks.
With today’s game still in 2009, it gives WSU a chance to do something it hasn’t done since 1948 – defeat a school four times in a calendar year.
The Cougars used to pull off the feat quite regularly, when they would play other Northwest schools at least four times a season. WSU defeated Idaho four times in a year 10 times, the last in 1948. The Cougars have also done it to Gonzaga, Montana, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington and Whitman.
One thing all three wins over Oregon had in common last season: the Ducks’ horrendous shooting.
In six halves, the Ducks shot better than 32 percent in only one, the second down in Eugene when they hit 15 of 30 shots. Otherwise, Oregon hit 23.8 percent of its shots against the Cougars.
When Gonzaga completes an upcoming road trip to Chicago for Saturday’s game against Illinois, the Bulldogs will have traveled more than 16,000 air miles for non-conference games. The Zags logged 10,000 of those miles on trips to Maui (5,680) and New York (4,340).
In the 2006-07 non-conference season, GU had 15,865 air miles with trips to New York, Phoenix, Atlanta/New York, Seattle and Charlottesville, Va.
The Bulldogs will close in on 20,000 non-conference air miles when they visit Memphis (3,320) in February.
Opponents have started using a similar defensive strategy on GU sophomore point guard Demetri “Meech” Goodson that his predecessor, Jeremy Pargo, faced at times last season. Defenders are sagging off Goodson, who has struggled with his perimeter shooting. He was 0 of 3 on 3-pointers against Eastern Washington on Monday and he’s 1 of 12 for the season.
“If I’m open and I feel good, I’m going to take the shot because I’m a pretty good shooter,” Goodson said. “If not, I’m going to look to catch, penetrate and get Matt (Bouldin) and Steven (Gray) open looks and try not to be selfish with the ball.”
Head coach Mark Few liked Goodson’s approach Monday.
“They tried to play off Meech and not guard him and I thought he gave us some good minutes,” Few said. “He kept the ball moving and attacked when he needed to.”