Fifteen minutes after the game ended, Parker Kelly still had the hot hand.
Kelly’s palms were red after a big shooting night that helped Eastern Washington to a crucial 76-65 win Monday night over Portland State at Reese Court.
“That’s why I put the hours of shooting in the gym,” said Kelly, a sophomore guard from Gonzaga Prep, who equaled a career high with 17 points on 5-for-8 shooting from beyond the arc.
“I expect to shoot that way every night, even if it doesn’t always happen that way,” Kelly said.
More important, Kelly was one of four players in double figures for the Eagles in a Big Sky Conference basketball win that coach Jim Hayford called one of the most complete of the season.
It couldn’t have come at a better time for the Eagles (5-15 overall and 3-7 in the Sky), who in one night moved from the cellar to within a game of seventh place and a spot in the conference postseason tournament.
In the process, the Eagles ended a four-game losing streak in front of a vocal crowd of 1,214.
Opportunity returns to Reese Court on Thursday against third-place Montana State and Saturday against league leader Montana.
“Our team is developing confidence and there’s nothing that develops confidence like a win,” said Hayford, who was especially satisfied that the Eagles for once came out with a second half that was as good as the first.
The Eagles had blown six of nine halftime leads this year, but opened the second half against PSU with a 9-2 run that stretched a 33-25 advantage to 42-27.
“It’s been a frequently-discussed subject on our team, so it was really important to open strongly,” Hayford said of the second half.
The Vikings (5-12, 3-7) never got closer than seven thanks partly to the Eagles’ 57-percent shooting in the second half and a 20-point, 13-rebound effort from freshman forward Venky Jois.
It was Jois’ ninth double-double of the season.
PSU threatened again when Gary Winston hit a 3 that cut the Eagles’ lead to 61-52 with 6:06 left, but Jois responded with a free throw and a press-breaking alley-oop pass that Martin Seiferth slammed home for a 64-52 advantage with 5:19 to play.
Seiferth finished with 13 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots.
The lead shrank to eight with four minutes left, but Seiferth, for the last of his 13 points, scored another easy bucket as Eastern shrugged off the Vikings’ press.
Senior point guard Kevin Winford, the Eagles’ other double-digit scorer with 12, put the game away with a short jumper that made it 68-56 with 3:20 left to play.
“Venky has been our most consistent player,” Hayford said. “He is a great leader even though he is only a freshman. The biggest compliment (I can give him) is that I expect him to play that way.”
Jois went into the game ranked 21st in NCAA Division I in double-doubles, 33rd in rebounding and 37th in blocked shots, while leading the league in all three categories. He had 14 points, nine rebounds and four assists in the second half alone as he came within two points and a rebound away from his season highs.
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