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Eagles hit milestones in win over Eastern Oregon

UPDATED: Sun., Nov. 30, 2014

The Eastern Washington basketball team reached a few milestones Sunday afternoon – the perfect moment to pause and enjoy the moment. After playing seven games in 17 days, a five-day break is made to order, Eagles coach Jim Hayford said after a 104-87 win at Reese Court over scrappy Eastern Oregon. “The next 72 hours we are going to let the players get fresh legs again,” Hayford said after his 300th career victory, which also included a career-high 38 points from junior forward Venky Jois. After that, Eastern will go through the wringer again, even as student-athletes cope with final exams: five road games in two weeks, beginning Saturday at Seattle University. Other stops include San Francisco, Washington, Sam Houston State and California – all of it designed “to prepare us for Big Sky play,” Hayford said. As far as enjoying the moment, the Eagles are 6-1 for the first time in 38 years, with most of those wins coming more easily than Sunday’s victory over the NAIA Mountaineers from La Grande, Oregon. “With all we have been through … I thought we showed a little bit of mental fatigue, and maybe that showed on the defensive end,” said Hayford, whose Eagles led by only eight points early in the second half before pulling away in front of 1,017 fans. In particular, Eastern Oregon forward Bryan McGriff gave the Eagles fits by hitting 12 of 25 shots, scoring 32 points and pulling down a game-high 10 rebounds. But the Eagles countered inside, with Jois and forward Ognjen Miljkovic combining for 56 points, 11 rebounds and five blocked shots. The Eagles dominated the boards 37-27, had just five turnovers and shot 36 for 64 from the field, a 55.6 percent clip. One more bonus was Eastern’s best foul-shooting game this season, a 26-for-29 effort that may have been earned earlier in the day. Jois, a 36.4 percent free-throw shooter going into the game, was matched against forward Kyle Reid while teammates chose sides for a shooting session. “The guys backed me up and I got a win there as well,” laughed Jois, who was 8 for 8 from the line Sunday. Eastern twice took seven-point leads against Eastern Oregon, but the visitors forged a 27-27 tie before the Eagles pulled away again. The lead was just 63-55 with 14:33 left, but guard Tyler Harvey drilled a 3, Garrett Moon tipped in a missed shot and Parker Kelly nailed another trey to push the score to 71-55. Eastern led by double digits the rest of the way, including a 94-70 advantage after Jois’ layup with 5:35 left. Harvey finished with 25 points while hitting 9 of 15 shots. The game was an exhibition for Eastern Oregon, which came in 6-2. Eastern’s next home game is on Dec. 22 against Lewis-Clark State. The Eagles open Big Sky Conference play with a home game on New Year’s Day against defending champion Weber State.
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