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Sports >  EWU basketball

Eastern Washington continues ‘amazing’ winning streak at rival Idaho

Feb. 10, 2023 Updated Fri., Feb. 10, 2023 at 4:15 p.m.

Eastern Washington guard Steele Venters shoots against North Dakota State guard Jacari White at Reese Court last December in Cheney.  (James Snook/For The Spokesman-Review)
Eastern Washington guard Steele Venters shoots against North Dakota State guard Jacari White at Reese Court last December in Cheney. (James Snook/For The Spokesman-Review) Buy this photo
By Dan Thompson For The Spokesman-Review

When the men’s basketball teams from Eastern Washington and Idaho last met, each was beginning a stretch of four games in eight days.

Eastern beat Idaho 95-74 and won the next three games over that span – part of the Eagles’ 14 -game winning streak, the longest active one in Division I – and the Vandals won two of their next three in what was one of their best stretches of the season.

For playing that cluster of contests last month, each team got its payoff leading up to Saturday’s rematch in Moscow: a seven-day gap between games.

“It’s amazing,” EWU coach David Riley said of the week.

Eastern and Idaho, both rested, will open the final third of their Big Sky schedule against each other, scheduled to tip off at 3:30 p.m. at ICCU Arena.

Their game is part of a women’s and men’s doubleheader, following the 1 p.m. matchup between the programs’ women’s basketball teams.

The Eagles (18-7 overall, 12-0 Big Sky) need to win four of their next six games to clinch the No. 1 seed in the Big Sky Tournament.

Second-place Montana State (10-3), lost to third-place Weber State (8-4) 73-63 on Thursday.

Idaho is 9-16 overall and 3-9 in Big Sky play, ninth in the 10-team conference. But the Vandals are coming off an 82-76 overtime win against Sacramento State last weekend, and each of their previous four losses came by fewer than nine points.

While the Eagles are far ahead of the rest of the conference in scoring (82 points per game in Big Sky play, nearly 10 points ahead of the next-highest scoring team Northern Colorado), the Vandals are fourth i (71.8) and have kept up with the Eagles some in previous matchups.

Eastern won the first game last year in Cheney 96-93, but lost the later game in Moscow 83-80.

They won more comfortably earlier this year, outshooting the Vandals 61% to 38% in that 95-74 win.

Shorthanded EWU women take on new roles

Down two of their top scorers, the EWU women are looking to distance themselves from the Vandals in the tightly clustered Big Sky conference standings.

They’re doing so without leading rebounder Jacinta Buckley, who has missed the team’s past four games, and top scorer Jaydia Martin, who missed both games last week.

The duo has combined for 27.2 points and 12.4 rebounds per game this year, about a third of the team’s usual production in each category.

Coach Joddie Gleason said earlier this week that both are still questionable to play Saturday.

“There are some big shoes to fill, that’s for sure, but I think our team has battled,” Gleason said. “We have people stepping up and playing out of position at times. We know it’s not going to be easy, but I feel like they have taken on that role. … Nobody else is going to feel sorry for us.”

One player who has stepped up for the Eagles is sophomore Andie Zylak. The Lewis and Clark High School grad started 26 games last year but was coming off the bench this season until Martin’s injury.

In two starts, Zylak has averaged five points and 2.5 assists while playing 20 minutes per game.

“Andie has been the epitome of a team player this year when her role definitely changed significantly,” Gleason said. “… During (this) process she has always been positive, worked extra hard and has been ultra competitive.”

The Eagles have won two of their past four games and are 7-5 in Big Sky games (14-8 overall), tied for fourth in the conference standings. The Vandals, 5-7 in the Big Sky (9-14 overall), have won three of their past four following a six-game losing streak.

That streak included a 74-59 loss to the Eagles in Cheney on Jan. 14.

Montana State (17-8 overall) leads the Big Sky with a 10-3 record.

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