RENO, Nev. – Eastern Washington is looking for a few answers from its shooters.
Sacramento State needs to find an answer to Jake Wiley.
The team with the best answer will probably will win their Thursday afternoon quarterfinal in the Big Sky Conference tournament at the Reno Events Center.
The Eagles (21-10) are a confident bunch but hardly cocky after a 15-point loss at Northern Arizona that also cost them a share of the regular-season title.
In that game, Wiley, the league MVP, was double-teamed to the point where he had just one shot in the second half. He finished with just five points, his lowest output of the conference season.
That tactic left the Eagles open from the outside. However, they couldn’t capitalize, shooting 6 for 21 from beyond the arc in the first half.
That probably got the attention of Hayford’s longtime friend, Sacramento State Brian Katz, who watched his Hornets give up 38 points to Wiley in a 77-72 Eagle win on Feb. 2 at Reese Court.
In that game, the Hornets simply had no answer for the 6-foot-7 Wiley, who gave up 4 inches and 30 pounds to Hornets post Eric Stuteville but outplayed him in every way.
Quicker bodies didn’t help the Hornets, who succumbed to Wiley’s athleticism not only in the paint but also on the open floor.
Now the Hornets (13-17) are back following a 91-76 first-round win over Idaho State on Monday.
Expecting tighter defense in the paint, Hayford said he expects to “use Wiley more as a drive guy than a post-up guy” against Sacramento State.
At the other end of the court, Hayford is worried about the Hornets’ athleticism and offensive rebounding. Senior forward Nick Hornsby ranks third in the conference in rebounding at 8.0.
“They’re very efficient in their offense,” Hayford said. “They’re picky when they do get their shots, but when they take them, they’re very efficient.
“They’re not going to beat themselves.”
This is the Eagles’ second postseason matchup with Sacramento State in the last three years. Two years ago in Missoula, Eastern beat the Hornets 91-83 in the conference semifinals.
The winner will face Weber State or Southern Utah in Friday’s semifinal round.
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