After defeating Multnomah 95-56 on Wednesday night at Reese Court, the Eastern Washington men’s basketball coaches gathered and discussed the state of their team.
They looked at the statistics, and head coach David Riley suggested they throw out their first two games – losses to UC Davis and Nevada.
“That’s not even close to who we are now,” Riley said.
NAIA Multnomah (6-6) may not have provided a particularly stiff test, but the victory did push the Eagles back over .500 overall (6-5) one week ahead of their final nonconference game on the schedule, at No. 25 Texas Tech on Wednesday.
“(We’re) a lot different,” said senior Angelo Allegri, who scored a season- and game-high 23 points. “We’re really young, but because of what we’ve been through, being on the road, I don’t feel like that’s normal circumstances. But it made us a much better team, and we’ve really grown and matured a ton.”
After scoring 14 points in Saturday’s 76-60 victory at North Dakota, Allegri put together his second consecutive double-digit scoring effort on Wednesday and finished 8 of 16 from the field, including 6 of 12 from 3-point range.
He was one of three Eagles to score more than 10 points. Freshman Mason Landdeck scored 15 along with a game-high six assists, and center Ethan Price added 12 points and nine rebounds.
The Eagles set a single-game rebounding record with 68, and yet no one finished with a double-digit total, largely because they rotated in so many players.
Eastern led 26-25 with 6 minutes to go before halftime, but it went on a 9-0 run that eventually became a 36-8 run spanning the break. With the game comfortably in hand, Riley ran the bench and gave every active player at least 6 minutes of playing time.
Freshman Steele Venters, the team’s leading scorer, did not play, but Riley indicated it was precautionary. Venters is averaging 18.5 points per game and shooting 51.2% from the field. He also leads the Big Sky Conference in 3-point percentage (48.3).
Without Venters, Eastern shot 41% from the field and had 24 assists, their second most in a game this season behind the 26 in a 111-71 victory over Walla Walla – another NAIA school and the Eagles’ only other home nonconference opponent – on Nov. 15.
“It’s good to get guys out there and build some trust in their game, and get guys minutes to where they feel comfortable coming out,” Riley said, “because there’s going to be a time when we need them. Someone’s going to go down, someone’s going to get into foul trouble, whatever that might be.”
Eastern has won three of its past four after a 89-76 home loss to Southern Utah, the only Big Sky team it has played.
Texas Tech (8-1) will play fifth-ranked Gonzaga (8-2) in Phoenix on Saturday before hosting the Eagles in Lubbock four days later. After that game, Eastern will return to conference play for the rest of the regular season, starting on the road at Portland State on Dec. 30.
“We talked about it just now in the locker room, where we’ve got to have our best four or five practices of the year coming up,” Riley said. “ We’ve grown a lot (this season). We can evaluate where our shortcomings are and get better at those, and we’ve got four or five days to really grow as a team.”
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