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Rebounding, defense spark EWU’s win over Northern Colorado

This is what Eastern Washington basketball coach Jim Hayford means by program-building. With star forward Venky Jois out with an ankle injury and his Eagles warming up Thursday night to the strains of “It’s a Hard-Knock Life,” Hayford didn’t flinch.

Four corners: Idaho

Coming up: Tonight vs. North Dakota, 7; Saturday vs. Northern Colorado, 7 p.m. Outlook: Coming in on a three-game losing streak, the Vandals are all of a sudden facing a must-win scenario if they want to feel like making the Big Sky tournament is a safe proposition. North Dakota visits the Cowan Spectrum with a 1-4 record. After that, three of Idaho’s next four games will come against teams that enter this weekend at 4-1 in conference. Tonight will be Idaho’s first home conference game with school back in session.

Four corners: Eastern Washington

Coming up: Tonight vs. Northern Colorado, 6:05 p.m.; Saturday vs. North Dakota, 2:05 p.m. Outlook: As January games go, it’s hard to top tonight’s action at Reese Court. The Eagles are coming off their first Big Sky Conference loss of the year and are facing a Northern Colorado team that’s won four straight. EWU forward Venky Jois (18 ppg, 7.5 rpg) is questionable with an ankle injury suffered last week at Portland State. At stake is a share of first place, as EWU and UNC are two of the four one-loss teams in the Sky. Tyler Harvey is averaging 23.2 points and leads the nation in 3-pointers made. He figures to get a lot of attention after he scored 69 points in two meetings last year with UNC. The Bears counter with senior guard Tevin Svihovec (13.6 ppg, 3 apg), who’s coming off a 24-point, 10-rebound effort in a win over North Dakota. In five conference games, the Bears are holding opponents to 44.2 percent shooting; Eastern ranks ninth at 46.6 percent. On Saturday, the Eagles host a young North Dakota team that’s lost three straight but fell by only two points on Jan. 8 to league-leading Sacramento State. UND is shooting only 30.8 percent from beyond the arc, easily the worst in the conference.

Eastern Washington counts on its versatile bench

More than ever, Jim Hayford is going to his bench. And more importantly, Eastern Washington’s men’s basketball coach is going there not by necessity, but by the virtues of his backups.

Eastern expects Venky Jois to return this week

Eastern Washington forward Venky Jois is a “possibility” to play Thursday night against Northern Colorado, coach Jim Hayford said Tuesday. Nine minutes into the Eagles’ 92-85 win at Portland State on Thursday, Jois stepped on a PSU player’s foot and injured his right ankle. He missed the rest of that game and sat out Eastern’s 90-77 loss two nights later at Sacramento State.

Sacramento State takes over first place from EWU

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – It’s hard to make a statement when you’re missing one of your standouts. Playing without leading rebounder, and second-leading scorer Venky Jois, Eastern Washington’s reign as the top team in the Big Sky Conference came to an end after a 90-77 defeat to Sacramento State Saturday night.

Big Sky men: Vandals drop third consecutive game

Braxton Tucker and DaShaun Wiggins had 19 points each Saturday as Portland State pulled away late to defeat Idaho 85-73 in Big Sky Conference play at Portland. Mike Scott nearly missed a triple-double scoring 15 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds, Sekou Wiggs scored 12 and Bira Seck added 10 for Idaho.

Women’s basketball: EWU posts seventh consecutive win

Eastern Washington pushed its winning streak to seven on Thursday night, cruising to a 101-54 Big Sky Conference victory over visiting Portland State. The triple-digit point total was the third highest in team history for a regulation game.

Sacramento State surges in second half to defeat Idaho

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Mikh McKinney hit five 3-pointers and finished with 32 points, including 27 in Sacramento State’s 46-point second half, as the Hornets came from behind to defeat visiting Idaho 79-76 in a Big Sky Conference game Thursday night. Idaho (7-8, 2-2) led 41-33 at halftime, but McKinney’s second-half outburst, coupled with 17 turnovers, led to the Vandals’ demise.

Big Sky roundup: Harvey’s 23 points lead EWU to 4-0

Tyler Harvey scored 23 points on 7-of-15 shooting from the field and added six rebounds and five assists to lead Eastern Washington to a 92-85 victory over Portland State on Thursday night in Portland. The victory was Eastern’s (13-4, 4-0 Big Sky) fifth straight, and kept the Eagles atop the conference standings.

Eastern Washington outlasts Portland State

PORTLAND — Tyler Harvey scored 23 points on 7 of 15 shooting from the field and added six rebounds and five assists to lead Eastern Washington to a 92-85 victory over Portland State on Thursday night.

Four corners: Idaho Vandals

Coming up: Today at Sacramento State, 7:05 p.m.; Saturday at Portland State, 7:05 p.m. Outlook: If Idaho is going to keep up in the conference race following its 89-86 loss to Eastern Washington on Saturday, the Vandals will have to win their first road game outside of the Palouse all season. Idaho’s lone road triumph came 8 miles away from home, beating Washington State 77-71. Getting senior point guard Mike Scott back on track should be crucial. Scott, who came in to last Saturday’s loss averaging only a turnover per contest, turned it over four times against the Eagles. Idaho hasn’t played Sacramento State since Nov. 24, 2009, a 77-65 win in Moscow. Idaho played at Portland State last season in a nonconference 76-75 win.

Four corners: Eastern Washington Eagles

Coming up: Thursday at Portland State, 7:05 p.m.; Saturday at Sacramento State, 7:05 p.m. Outlook: The Eagles are alone atop the Big Sky Conference, which only enlarges the target on their backs. This week they visit two of the league’s tougher venues – at least for coach Jim Hayford, who is 0-6 in games at PSU and Sacramento State. Tonight, EWU faces a PSU team that has five players averaging double figures. Guard DaShaun Wiggins averages 15.7 points and is fourth in the Sky in 3-point shooting at 49.1 percent. The Vikings, who own a win over USC, also are good at taking care of the ball. They’re a plus 2.6 in turnover margin. On paper, the tougher game will come Saturday: Sacramento State is one of five teams that is one game behind EWU. In conference games only, the Hornets lead the league in shooting (51.8 percent) and assists (16.8). Eastern guard Tyler Harvey still leads the NCAA with a 23.4 scoring average.