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Venky Jois helps EWU defeat Southern Utah, reach 20 wins

CEDAR CITY, Utah – Venky Jois scored 22 points, nagging ankle injury and all, and Eastern Washington reached 20 wins for the second time as a Division I school with a 78-75 win over the Southern Utah Thunderbirds on Thursday night.

“One of our goals for this team was to be a 20-win team,” Eastern head coach Jim Hayford said. “I’m really happy the team hit that mark, and we still have five games to improve on that.”

Eastern (20-6, 11-2 Big Sky) became a Division I school in the 1983-84 season. EWU totaled 20 wins once, the 1985-86 season when the Eagles finished 20-8 as an independent.

The Eagles led 72-70 when Drew Brandon went to the foul line with 36 seconds left. He made the first free throw and missed the second, but went around the players on the lane and grabbed the ball on the baseline. He was fouled and hit both shots to make it 75-70.

After a Southern Utah basket, Brandon made 1 of 2 free throws. Tyler Harvey made two free throws to put the Eagles up 78-72 with 9 seconds left.

Harvey, who is averaging 23.4 points a game, finished with 11 on 3-of-16 shooting.

Parker Kelly made the 200th 3-pointer in his career and is ranked 18th in Big Sky history, and second at Eastern behind Harvey. Kelly is 41 points away from eclipsing the 1,000-point mark.

Trey Kennedy led Southern Utah (7-17, 4-9) with 14 points.

Eastern survived a drought of 8:20 without a field goal in the second half.

“We won the last 4 minutes, and that comes from experience,” Hayford said.

The Eagles forced 15 Southern Utah turnovers, including a season-high 10 steals.

Headed into Saturday’s game against Northern Arizona, Eastern remains one-half game up on Sacramento State and Montana in the conference with five games remaining.

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