As Eastern Washington deals with the adversity of a bad defensive performance last weekend at Portland State, the Eagles can grab a quick reality check by looking at their next opponent.
Big Sky Conference rival Idaho is still in the hunt for a top-four finish despite injuries to leading scorers Victor Sanders and Perrion Calladret.
"Idaho has had an amazing season battling adversity and finding their way to success," EWU coach Jim Hayford said after practice Tuesday at Reese Court. "I have tremendous respect for coach (Don) Verlin and the job he does.”
With Sanders (15.7 ppg) and Callandret (14.4) missing seven and nine games, respectively, the Vandals (17-11 overall, 9-6 in the Big Sky) still mananged to go 5-4, leaving them in fifth place going into Saturday’s home game against the Eagles at Memorial Gym. A win over the Eagles would further scramble the standings going into the final week of the regular season.
“Obviously, it shows they have something special going with their group,” said Hayford, whose team is 16-11 overall and alone in third place with a 10-5 conference mark.
“It’s got all the makings of a great game,” said Hayford, who watched the Eagles beat UI 74-60 on Jan. 9 in Cheney. In that game, they not only held Idaho to 31 percent shooting, but made 15 of 29 of their 3-point shots.
Since then, the Eagles have been torching opponents, shooting 50 percent or better in their last five games. In 15 conference games, they’ve shot under 40 percent just once.
However, they’ve been inconsistent on defense; on Saturday they watched as host Portland State shot 65 percent from the field on the way to a 107-91 upset that ended EWU’s seven-game winning streak.
“I wasn’t pleased with how I playe defense against Portland State,” forward Julian Harrell said Tuesday. “I’m focused on how I’m going to guard these players from Idaho.”
“We know what we have to do – it’s a matter of going out and doing it,” Harrell said.