While disappointed, fifth-year Eastern Washington head man Jim Hayford paid respect to the PackLine defense of Idaho that has now twice stifled his prolific 3-point shooting offense.
The Pack is simple — A match-up zone that invites 3-point looks in exchange for not allowing easy looks in the paint. The caveat is that with lengthy athletes like Perrion Callandret and Victor Sanders, Idaho doesn't allow very many treys to be released without being contested.
At least when it's ran correctly.
Eastern Washington shot a measly 9-of-32 from beyond the arc in Thursday night's 77-73 defeat to the Vandals.
"We feel like we’re a better shooting team than we showed but I think you need to credit the other team’s defense," Hayford said. "We’re a pretty good offensive team but they held us to 35 percent and 28 percent from 3. They dare you to take that outside shot, they also make it into that space where they contest it and they take away your high percentage inside looks. It’s two great teams that really battled it out, it was a great basketball game."
Sharpshooter Felix Von Hofe agreed after his 4-of-12 performances.
"I think as coach mentioned they did a good job of being in that space in the middle," Von Hofe said. "They’ve got some long defenders out there. At the end of the day we have to put our shots down."
From the perspective of the paint, Jois recognized the physicality on the boards. Idaho outrebounded the Eagles 39-35. Nineteen of those Idaho rebounds came from guards.
"I think, offensively, they try to push you around and I don’t think that was really an issue. One area I do credit Idaho and I think they do it better than anybody in the conference, it’s not just the bigs who crash," Jois said. "Their bigs do rebounding the way it’s supposed to be done. You box your guy out and you open, you’ve got Victor Sanders and Perrion who are both super athletes, they clear out the bigs and say guards go get it. They do a great job of team rebounding, that’s the way the game is supposed to be played."
Not the end of the road
Hayford announced Thursday night that Eastern Washington will receive a postseason bid, but declined to say which tournament will be courting the Eagles. Eastern Washington finishes its regular season campaign at 17-15, a year after competing in the NCAA Tournament.
"What I’m really excited about is we get to play another game. This isn’t the last game for my team. At the right time I’ll figure out when that announcement gets made. We had a great season and we’re going to continue playing basketball," Hayford said.
The most likely tournament is the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, a tournament which only invites mid-major programs.
"What Venky has come and given his life to is turning this program around," Hayford said. "When we got here as a coaching staff five years ago, I think 10 of the last 12 guys got fired and they all probably knew more about basketball than I did. We decided we were going to build on a group of guys and turn it around, it’s the two best back-to-back seasons that Eastern has had at the Division I level. To be back-to-back postseason appearances and three of the last five to be top half of the league, I think we pushed our way up the ladder. It ain’t easy, there’s a lot of parity in this league."