After five weeks and 10 games on the road, Eastern Washington coach Shantay Legans tried his best to find some humor in the situation.
“I don’t know if the guys know what the scoreboard at home looks like anymore,” Legans said after his players wrapped up practice Thursday on the unfamiliar floor at Reese Court.
The Eagles and their fans will get reacquainted on Sunday when Eastern hosts Cal State Northridge at 1:05 p.m.
Eastern hosts Providence of Montana, an NAIA school, on Wednesday.
“We are very excited to get home and play in front of our home crowd,” said Legans, whose team is 3-8 after its fifth consecutive loss.
Legans’ cup is half-full after the Eagles took South Dakota and Wyoming down to the wire last week.
Actually, the Eagles tripped on that wire on Tuesday in Laramie, blowing a six-point lead in the final 33 seconds of regulation and falling to the Cowboys 93-88 in overtime.
Legans said he took heart in Eastern’s 47-percent shooting in those last two games – a sign that the Eagles are anything but weary.
“We have a really good team,” added Legans, whose team opens Big Sky Conference play at Northern Colorado on Dec. 29 and North Dakota on Dec. 31.
“I’ve said all along that we’ll be confident once we get to Big Sky play, but I’m also confident in our next two games. Our players are ready and right there – we just have to coach them up and get them there,” Legans said.
As expected, the Eagles are leaning on senior forward Bogdan Bliznyuk, whose 17.5 scoring average is almost 10 points more than runner-up Ty Gibson’s 7.9 ppg. Bliznyuk also averages 5.4 rebounds and has a team-high 30 assists while averaging almost 33 minutes.
“I’m enjoying it, but it’s all about improving as a team and not as individuals,” Bliznyuk said.
The Eagles are getting a boost off the bench from junior forward Jesse Hunt (6.5 ppg and a team-high 6.0 rpg in 20 minutes per game.)
The biggest surprise may be Australian freshman Jack Perry, who started the last two games and shot 54 percent (10 for 18) from the field and 56 percent (6 for 11) from beyond the arc.
The Eagles take on a CSUN program ranked 349th out of 351 teams in NCAA Division I in RPI, while Eastern is 196th.
The Matadors, coached by former NBA star Reggie Theus, are 1-8 overall and 0-8 against Division I competition. Tavrion Dawson, a 6-foot-8 senior forward, leads CSUN with averages of 14.8 points and 5.2 rebounds.
“They like to get the ball down the court and they have some very talented guards who get to the free-throw line,” Legans said. “We have to be prepared not to foul. Sometimes we foul a lot, so we have to be careful.”
Providence (formerly Great Falls) is 7-5 after an 85-74 loss last week to Montana State-Billings.
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