Eastern Washington’s once and future basketball rivalry with Idaho doesn’t mean much to most of Jim Hayford’s new players.
“Right now our focus is just to keep getting better, so I haven’t addressed it,” said Hayford, whose club faces Idaho tonight in a nonconference game at Reese Court. “But the veterans, they know.”
Senior Jeffrey Forbes, for one, hit a trio of 3-pointers in a 73-66 win last year in one of Hayford’s first big wins as head coach. And with the Vandals due to return to the Big Sky Conference in 2014-15, Hayford said he’s looking forward to a “richer rivalry.”
For now, it’s a chance for the 2-5 Eagles to build on last week’s 79-75 win over Cal State Fullerton, which included strong outings for several newcomers.
Redshirt freshman forward Venky Jois had an award-winning, 22-point, 13-rebound effort against the Titans; he’s this week’s honoree in the Big Sky. Freshman forward Thomas Reuter added 16 points in the absence of Collin Chiverton, who is on indefinite leave for personal reasons.
“We always thought Thomas and Venky were college-ready,” Hayford said. “The guys we saw against Fullerton are the guys we’re going to see this season.”
Then there’s point guard Justin Crosgile, a junior transfer from Saint Joseph’s, who finished with 16 points, 10 boards and six assists against the Titans. Nice numbers, but they tell just part of the success story.
“We like to push it in transition,” Hayford said of Crosgile. “That comes with a lot of freedom but a lot of responbsibility, but Justin is getting a grasp of the offense and the reads in transition.”
The Vandals are 2-4 and coming off a 73-66 win over UC Davis, a team Eastern will face on Dec. 17 in California. Stephen Madison scored 21 points in that game, his fourth as the team scoring leader.
Vandals forward Kyle Barone averages 15.7 points and eight rebounds.
This will be the Vandals’ third game this season against a regional rival; they fell 66-63 at home to Montana on Nov. 17 and lost 64-55 at Washington State on Nov. 28.
On Monday, Eastern will conclude a three-game homestand against Seattle University.
Seattle is coming off an 87-64 home loss to Boise State. The Redhawks (2-3) own wins over Division III Pacific Lutheran (58-49 on Nov. 21) and Montana State (87-72 on Nov. 11).
Eastern played both teams a year ago in Hayford’s first season. The Eagles lost 91-78 last year at Seattle.