Eastern Washington has beaten Idaho State twice in the last week, which in terms of today’s Big Sky Conference quarterfinal game means exactly … nothing.
If this were a normal best-of-3 series, it would be over, but the winner of today’s game at Reese Court advances to the Big Sky semifinals Tuesday in Missoula. The loser is finished.
“They’ve got a fresh start, and so do we,” Eastern forward Cliff Ederaine said before the Eagles’ practice Friday afternoon. “We just can’t relax.”
Three days ago, in the regular-season finale at Reese Court, the Eagles dominated the Bengals, especially in intensity, in a 77-64 game that wasn’t even that close.
“But we’ve got to stay hungry and humble,” said senior guard Clif Colimon, who on Thursday was named to the all-conference first team.
Both Colimon and head coach Jim Hayford are mindful that the Bengals – losers of four straight – can easily break out of their slump. The Bengals are 9-20 but own a signature win over Weber State, and leading scorer Chase Grabau has twice topped 30 points.
“He can have another game like that,” said Hayford, whose team is coming off what he calls its most complete game of the season.
Colimon said it may go beyond that, noting that neither Grabau nor teammate Kenny McGowen made the all-conference first team.
“I know what they’re thinking,” Colimon said. “They’re upset about that, and Kenny’s going to come out hard.”
Eastern (14-16) owns two straight wins partly because the Eagles are breaking some season-long habits.
For one, the Eagles led at halftime Tuesday in a home conference game for only the second time all season. For another, they stayed out of foul trouble, committing just 20 personals fouls compared with 24 for ISU.
The Eagles won’t lack for confidence, but Hayford has that one covered.
“I need to talk about it,” he said. “We need to talk about how at different times we show a casualness similar to overconfidence, so I hope we’ve learned our lesson on that.”
The Eagles have prevailed in the first two meetings despite limited minutes from forward Collin Chiverton, who has played a total of 23 minutes in the last three games.
“I’m going through a little bit of pain,” said Chiverton, who led the Eagles in scoring until last week.
Idaho State’s last win at Eastern Washington was a 65-63 victory on March 1, 2003.