How good were the Eastern Washington shooters Thursday night at Reese Court?
Less than halfway through a 112-83 romp over Portland State, the students were celebrating the free tacos guaranteed after the Eagles made nine 3-point shots.
By rights, they should be getting seconds, because Eastern went on to set a school record with 20 3-pointers in the best marksmanship coach Jim Hayford has seen in four-plus years in Cheney.
“What a shooting performance,” Hayford exclaimed after the Eagles hit 67 percent from the field and 62 percent from beyond the arc.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever coached a team that has made 20 threes … and we did it against a really good opponent,” Hayford said.
In the process, Hayford got double-figure scoring from six players, including 25 from guard Austin McBroom and 23 from forward Venky Jois.
The Eagles also played tough defense, at least in the first half. Coming off a pair of road losses in Montana, they held the Vikings to 34 percent from the field while taking a 56-32 halftime lead.
“We really focused this week on defense, and it seems like we’re getting better every day,” said guard Sir Washington, who finished with 10 points.
Washington also provided the 3-point shot late midway through the fourth quarter that broke the school record of 18 set in 2010 against New Hope College.
Eastern improved to 10-10 overall and 4-4 in the Big Sky Conference by doing what it’s done in all seven home games this season: seize the momentum from the opening tip.
Eastern hit its first five shots en route to a 16-4 lead before PSU got back in the game at 23-13. Seemingly able to hit the accelator at will, the Eagles responded with a 10-0 run over the next 91 seconds.
“As good as we were offensively, we were that good defensively in the first half,”Hayford said. “It’s hard to keep the intensity in the second half, but we were really good in the first half.”
One of the best plays came with Eastern leading 24-13. McBroom corralled a loose ball following a missed shot and then whipped the ball to Julian Harrell for a 3-point shot as the shot clock was winding down.
Seconds later, McBroom hit a 3, and Bogdan Bliznyuk got a steal and fed Jois for an easy layin.
“Our mindset was to come out with a good win,” Washington said.
Indeed, it got even better in the second half. Felix Von Hofe and McBroom opened the half with 3-pointers and Jois added a dunk that gave EWU a 64-32 lead with less than 18 minutes left.
Led by a game-high 37 points from reserve forward Cameron Forte, the Vikings (7-11 overall, 3-4 Big Sky) began to find the range in the second half. PSU hit 65 percent of its shots over the last 20 minutes, but never seriously threatened.
Eastern’s led by as many as 36 in the second half and never by fewer than 21 against a PSU program that had won five of its last seven games in Cheney. The 20 3-pointers are the most allowed by PSU, which gave up 100 points for the first time in more than four years.
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