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Eastern Washington University Basketball

Washington State, Eastern Washington will face off in NIT first-round game on Tuesday

Washington State guard TJ Bamba rebounds the ball against Eastern Washington guard Deon Stroud (5) during their Nov. 21 game at the Spokane Arena. WSU won the game 82-56.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
By Dan Thompson For The Spokesman-Review

After winning the Big Sky Conference but losing in the opening round of the conference tournament, Eastern Washington’s consolation is a rematch with a familiar foe: the Washington State Cougars.

The Eagles (22-10) and Cougars (17-16) will play at 8 p.m. Tuesday in Pullman in the opening round of the 32-team National Invitation Tournament. The field was announced Sunday evening, soon after the NCAA Tournament bracket.

Last year Washington State advanced to the NIT semifinals, where it lost to Texas A&M.

This will be just the second time Eastern has played in the NIT. The program’s previous appearance came in 2003, when it lost its first game to Wyoming, 78-71.

Presently, this matchup between the regional rivals serves as an in-season rematch after Washington State beat Eastern 82-56 on Nov. 21 in a game played at Spokane Arena.

Last season, Eastern scored a notable victory over the Cougars, 76-71, in Pullman. It was the Eagles’ second victory in the two teams’ all-time series.

This will be the first time the two have played a postseason game against each other.

The Cougars are seeded fourth in their quadrant of the bracket; the winner of Tuesday’s game in Pullman will face the winner of Wednesday’s game between No. 1 Oklahoma State (18-15) and Youngstown State (24-9).

As the Big Sky’s regular-season champion, Eastern Washington was guaranteed a spot in either the NCAA or the NIT. The Eagles lost in the Big Sky Tournament quarterfinals, 81-80, to ninth-seeded Northern Arizona, which won that game on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.

Landing in the NIT, then, is a consolation of sorts for the Eagles, who at one point had the longest Division I winning streak in the country at 18 games and started the conference season 16-0 before losing their final two regular-season games.

Montana State, which won the Big Sky Tournament as the No. 2 seed, earned a No. 14 seed in the NCAA Tournament and will open against No. 3 Kansas State.