Eastern Washington University will continue its grueling nonconference men’s basketball schedule tonight when it squares off against UCLA at 7:30 at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.
The Eagles (5-4) are coming off a 91-76 road loss to Cal State Fullerton on Sunday and hoping to add to the ongoing struggles of the Bruins (3-5), who suffered early-season losses to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee at the Sports Arena, which is one of two arenas serving as home venues for UCLA this winter while Pauley Pavilion undergoes a major renovation.
Eastern, which is 0-2 against Pacific-12 Conference schools after losing on the road to Oregon (73-65) and Washington State (75-49), is paced on offense by junior forward Collin Chiverton, who is averaging 17.4 points per game. But first-year Eagles coach Jim Hayford has two other players – senior guard Cliff Colimon (13.9) and senior forward Cliff Ederaine (10.9) – also averaging double figures.
UCLA, which was ranked No. 17 in the Associated Press Preseason Top 25 poll, has been plagued by a host of off-the-court problems that have resulted in several suspensions and the dismissal of junior Reeves Nelson, who was a first-team All-Pac-10 selection as a sophomore.
But Hayford is quick to point out that the Bruins seem to be adjusting to the turmoil and are playing much better than they did early in the year.
“They are one of the biggest teams in America,” he said of UCLA, which has three 6-foot-10 players – Joshua Smith and North Carolina transfers Travis and David Wear – who are sharing time on the front line. “And they are still figuring out how to play with all of that height.
“They looked really good against Penn (during a 77-73 win in Anaheim, Calif., at the Honda Center) and are improving with every outing. That’s the challenge we are given, so we’ll go take it on.”