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EWU basketball hosts Montana schools this week

Eastern Washington’s Jacob Wiley is averaging 14.3 points and 7.7 rebounds. (Cliff Grassmick / Associated Press)
Eastern Washington’s Jacob Wiley is averaging 14.3 points and 7.7 rebounds. (Cliff Grassmick / Associated Press)

After taking a big win on the road last week, Eastern Washington gets a chance to protect its perfect home record this week against the Montana schools.

The Eagles also have a chance for some payback.

A year ago, Eastern lost to Montana State and Montana on the road in the lone meetings with those teams, and later in the season was swept at home against Idaho State and Weber State in the only games EWU played against those squads.

Coupled with a 1-2 record against Idaho, Eastern was just 1-6 last season versus its first five conference foes of the 2016-17 season.

“Each of these teams believe they are better this year than they were last year. We lost our two all-conference players (Venky Jois and Austin McBroom) so we’re probably the underdog,” EWU head coach Jim Hayford said.

The Eagles’ 69-62 win at Idaho sets them up to improve on their perfect 7-0 record at Reese Court against the Montana schools, who are both 1-1 in the Big Sky and 6-9 overall.

First up is MSU, which comes into Reese Court on Thursday night with the sixth-best 3-point shooting team in NCAA Division I, averaging 10.7 per game. Eastern is 65th at 8.9 per outing.

The Bobcats are led by sophomore guard Tyler Hall, who is averaging 23.1 points and 3.73 3-pointers per game to both rank sixth nationally.

On Saturday, Montana brings one of the best guard tandems in the conference in Ahmaad Rorie and Walter Wright, who combine to average 28.1 points and 6.6 assists.

The Eagles (9-5) rank 82nd in RPI, the highest mark in the conference. No one else is higher than Northern Colorado at 179.

Eastern comes in with the highest-scoring frontcourt in the league with Bogdan Bliznuk (19.8 points, 6.1 rebounds), Jacob Wiley (14.3 ppg, 7.7 rpg) and Felix Von Hofe (14.1 ppg, 38.9 percent from 3-point range).

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