Lillard, Wildcats next for Eastern

THURSDAY, JAN. 5, 2012

Eastern Washington has played some solid basketball in Jim Hayford’s first season, but few Eagles fans have seen it firsthand.

That will change tonight, when EWU, 7-7 overall, plays only its fifth home game of the year against Big Sky preseason favorite Weber State and the leading scorer in the nation, junior guard Damian Lillard. Plenty of good seats are available, as students are still on winter break.

“We’ve had some big games, but they’ve been on the road, so I would say this is our biggest home game yet,” Hayford said.

The Wildcats won two straight Big Sky titles before finishing third last year, while losing Lillard to a foot injury. This year he’s averaging 25.2 points a game.

“He will be a pro,” Hayford said. “People who know the league say he’s the best player to come out of the Big Sky since (former EWU guard and current NBA player) Rodney Stuckey.

“The bad news is, I’m the guy who has to figure out a way to defend him.”

Reserves on notice

Ken Bone was a little stingier with the minutes he assigned his bench players the last time the Cougars took the floor.

And while Bone said in a conference call Tuesday that it’s possible the rotation could continue to shrink, he also didn’t rule out the possibility of those lesser-used players getting more minutes against Utah and Colorado this weekend than they did against Oregon State on Saturday.

Mike Ladd and D.J. Shelton were the only Cougars players to receive significant playing time off the bench in WSU’s 81-76 win over OSU. Former starter Faisal Aden, working his way back from injury, played just nine minutes. So did Abe Lodwick.

“It’s probably more to come in regards to keeping the rotation a little bit,” Bone said. “There’s some guys on the team that did not get in that game that have obviously helped us throughout the season, so I’m sure there will come a time even this weekend, maybe (the) Utah game, maybe Colorado, maybe both, where those guys that did not play the other day will get in the game. Because they can play a part and they can help us out, there’s no doubt about it.”

Steady Edi

GU small forward Guy Landry Edi has been eligible for five games and he’s making more of an impact with each passing week. Edi scored a season-high nine points in the victory over Portland and logged a season-high 20 minutes while contributing four points, six rebounds and two steals in a win over Xavier.

“He had a heck of a defensive game,” Bulldogs coach Mark Few said. “It was more what he was doing off the ball, in the help lanes against (Xavier’s Tu) Holloway, taking charges, lots of deflections and steals.

“Now we’ve got 40 minutes of two really good defensive players (Mike Hart and Edi) at that spot that can rebound and fly around. We don’t necessarily have to go small (with three guards).”

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