Even on the road, the Eastern Washington basketball team is never far from its comfort zone.
The Eagles got another boost after last week’s 89-86 win at Idaho. Besides the obvious benefit of a 3-0 start to the Big Sky Conference season, the game showed something else:
That in the minds of the players, last year’s 3-7 Big Sky road record is a thing of the past.
“We know that to be a great team, we have to win on the road,” EWU guard Tyler Harvey said. “It meant a lot to win that game.”
And they have to do it with a target on their backs, a new phenomenon in Jim Hayford’s fourth year coaching in Cheney. Alone in first place, the Eagles (12-4 overall, 3-0 Big Sky) go into tonight’s game at Portland State with a little swagger.
“We know every team’s going to come after us with their best shot,” said Harvey, who also figures to get some special attention as he leads the nation with a 23.4 scoring average.
“You want other teams’ best efforts, because that makes you a better team,” Harvey said.
In some ways, this is the toughest road trip the Eastern Washington basketball team will face all year. PSU plays in the 1,500-seat Peter W. Stott Center, and Saturday’s opponent, Sacramento State, plays in the cozy 1,012-seat Nest, where fans are up-close-and-personal with the opposing team.
An added incentive? Eastern is 1-5 in those gyms under Hayford.
“For coaches, the meaning of happiness is road wins,” Hayford said. “With each road win you gain more and more confidence.”