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Eastern Washington men focus on bouncing back after emotional defeat in Seattle

Eastern Washington guard Sir Washington  shoots against Seattle forward Scott Ulaneo on Dec. 3, 2017 (Courtney Pedroza / AP)
Eastern Washington guard Sir Washington shoots against Seattle forward Scott Ulaneo on Dec. 3, 2017 (Courtney Pedroza / AP)

By now, the Eastern Washington men’s basketball players should be in the right state of mind.

That wasn’t the case on Sunday at Seattle University, where coach Shantay Legans said his Eagles were “tight” for an emotional reunion with former Eastern coach Jim Hayford.

“They really wanted to win the game … but I have to make sure that the guys are in the right state mentally,” said Legans, who watched the Eagles lose by an 84-65 score that wasn’t that close.

The Eagles trailed by as many as 32 as they fell to 3-5.

That was the Eagles’ seventh road game in a stretch of 10 straight. Game eight is Thursday night at San Francisco.

Road weariness isn’t a factor, said Legans, who also discounted the effect of finals week on his players’ performance.

“It wasn’t,” Legans said. “We have a lot of smart kids, and they were studying on the bus ride home (from Seattle.”

At the same time, Legans and his staff were doing their homework on USF, an improved program that’s was picked to finish fourth in the West Coast Conference – or the “Gonzaga Conference,” as Legans calls it.

GU has dominated the WCC for years, but the Eagles have had surprising success as well, especially against the Dons.

Eastern is 3-1 against USF, winning 96-90 a year ago in Cheney. The three prior meetings were in the Bay Area, with EWU winning in 2014 and 2015.

Another win would be huge boost for a team that’s lost four of its last five. In losses at Utah and Seattle, the Eagles shot 39 percent from the field and 20.3 percent from beyond the arc.

In the Seattle game, star forward Bogdan Bliznyuk was held to four points, dropping his average to 17.

“We have to play hard and bounce back from the Seattle loss,” Legans said. “I think our team will do that and will be mentally ready to go.

“We’ll get them revved up to play this next game with more emotion, more defense and we’ll be ready offensively. That’s something we’ll get accustomed to the rest of the season.”

The Dons (4-3) are in the midst of their busiest stretch of the season so far, with four games in 10 nights. USF is coming off a 78-76 home win Monday over Central Arkansas.

Two days earlier, USF lost 75-57 at No. 20 Arizona State.