How about a little senior leadership when the basketball game gets tight? Not at Eastern Washington.
Without a senior on the roster, coach Jim Hayford turned to his veteran underclassmen to pull away from Pacific, 87-58, in the season opener Sunday afternoon at Reese Court.
After a 15-point Eagles lead had dwindled to 10 early in the second half, it fell to junior Parker Kelly and sophomores Venky Jois and Tyler Harvey to restore some order on the court against the Division III school from Forest Grove, Ore.
And while the Boxers may not be a good measuring stick for the big dogs coming up next – Eastern’s next game is at Washington on Sunday – Hayford liked what he saw.
“The most important thing was to get the first-game jitters away and to play together, stay true to our identity as a team,” said Hayford, now in his third year in charge.
That identity starts with forward Jois, whose 22 points and 11 rebounds were both game highs. Jois also had five assists in his first game as a team captain.
“As far as leadership goes,” Jois said, “for me it’s bringing energy. I’d I play like that with energy, no matter what happens. If we can get the guys, playing with energy, then good things will happen.”
They certainly did Sunday. The Eagles shot 57 percent from the field, outrebounded the Boxers 38-21 and committed just 10 turnovers. Guards Kelly and Harvey scored 15 and 13, respectively, while center Martin Seiferth had three blocks and 10 points.
The only blemish: a 6-for-20 effort (30 percent) from 3-point range.
Sunday’s game drew an appreciative crowd of 1,179, boosted no doubt by the $2 admission price for anyone with a ticket from Saturday’s football game. Many eyes were on point guard Drew Brandon, a junior-college transfer who started slowly but ended with 15 points, five steals and three assists.
“I feel like I played pretty well,” said Brandon, whose highlight play may have been a crisp pass upcourt early in the second half that Jois caught in full stride and slammed home for a 61-43 lead.
Brandon was 7 for 12 from the field and he committed just one turnover in 32 minutes of game time.
The Eagles will be stepping up in competition when they play the Huskies.
“Our guys are really looking forward to the challenge,” said Jois, whose first regular-season game as an Eagle was an 88-69 loss a year ago at Washington State.
Recalling that game, Jois said: “We came out a little scared and a little timid. Now it’s a different story – everyone is more excited than nervous.”
The Eagles’ next home game is Nov. 19 against Walla Walla University.
Pacific (58) — Wettig 7-9 0-0 18, Zitani 8-17 0-1 16, Hayes 1-2 0-0 2, Proctor 2-5 0-0 6, Moore 0-1 0-0 0, Grandinetti 1-2 0-0 3, Batey 0-4 0-0 0, Campbell 0-0 0-0 0, Littlefield 5-11 1-2 11, Zerkel 1-1 0-0 2, Hagaman 0-1 0-0 0, Ahern 0-1 0-0 0, Anderson 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 25-54 1-3 58.
Eastern Washington (87) — Seiferth 3-4 4-6 10, Jois 10-13 2-2 22, Harvey 5-11 0-0 13, Kelly 5-6 3-3 15, Brandon 7-12 0-0 14, Miljkovic 2-5 0-0 4, Reuter 2-4 1-2 6, Moon 0-2 1-2 1, Von Hofe 1-4 0-0 2, Totals 35-61 11-15 87.
Halftime—EWU 42, Pacific 27. 3-Point Goals—Pacific 7-18 (Wettig 4-6, Proctoer 2-3, Moore 0-1, Grandinetti 1-2, Batey 0-3, Littlefield 0-3). EWU 6-20 (Jois 0-2, Harvey 3-8, Kelly 2-3, Brandon 0-1, Reuter 1-2, Moon 0-1, Von Hofe 0-3). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Pacific 21 (Wettig 4), EWU 38 (Jois 11). Assists—Pacific 16 (Moore 5), EWU 21 (Brandon 6). Total Fouls—Pacific 14, EWU 10. Technicals—None. A—1,179.
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