Eagle men look forward to being back at home
Eastern basketball team to play five of next six games at Reese Court
Jim Hayford has never been in this territory before as his Eastern Eagles prepare for their official home opening men’s basketball game Friday versus Cal Fullerton.
“I have never started a season as a coach with a 1-5 record,” he said. “It is not easy, but I knew it would not be.”
This after Eastern played a grueling six games in 13 nights and spent 13 of the last 16 nights on the road, including the Thanksgiving holiday. So tomorrow’s 6:05 p.m. tip-off at remodeled Reese Court with its new seats and video board is a most welcome change.
The Eagles went 1-2 in last week’s California contests, all part of the College Basketball Experience (CBE) Hall of Fame Classic at the University of Santa Clara’s Leavey Center. They opened last Tuesday with an 86-83 loss to Utah Valley State, followed Wednesday by beating the University of North Carolina-Upstate 75-70 before falling to the host, Santa Clara, 89-74 Friday.
With five straight victories Santa Clara has seemed to erase any memory of a winless 2011-12 West Coast Conference season where they ended league play 0-16. The Broncos used a 21-7 run to end the first half to pull away from the Eagles and lead at the half 47-30.
Collin Chiverton led the Eagles with 19 points, but Eastern got into trouble holding onto the ball, losing the turnover battle 17-9. Freshman Venky Jois, coming off back-to-back double-doubles, had 11 points, six rebounds and two blocked shots versus the Broncos. Jois was selected to the All-Tournament team.
Santa Clara was led by the 25 points of tournament MVP Marc Trasolini.
Eastern earned its first win of the season last Wednesday over UNC-Upstate when senior Jeffrey Forbes hit a 3-pointer with 18.5 seconds remaining to give the Eagles some breathing room and a five-point lead. Then point guard Justin Crosgile hit a pair of free throws with 0.7 seconds to play to seal the win for the Eagles.
Chiverton pitched in a season-high 19 points in just 18 minutes of playing time before fouling out with 6 minutes, 20 seconds to play. Jois had his second-straight double-double, scoring 19 points and grabbing 11 rebounds for the Eagles after a 16-point, 11-rebound effort against Utah Valley.
“It was a complete game,” Hayford said of his team’s first victory. “We shared the ball well, we played hard and we didn’t gauge our energy off of our offense -- we gauged our energy off our defense.”
Eastern built a 43-32 lead Tuesday against UVS in the tournament opener – but they could not hold it against the 3-2 Wolverines from the Provo suburb of Orem. But Eastern failed to make a field goal for more than seven minutes to open the second half as Utah Valley went on a 19-3 run and never again trailed.
“This one really does sting, but there are some players and plays that I am very, very proud of, Hayford said.
Five Eagles scored in double figures, led by the 16 points from Jois. Six-foot-10 center Martin Seiferth, the Big Sky Conference leader in blocked shots, came one away from a school record with six blocks against UVU. He also finished with 14 points and nine rebounds. Chiverton, Forbes and Crosgile each finished with 13.
“There were some really good performances,” Hayford said. “We took care of the ball, and Venky and Martin looked very solid tonight.”
So as Hayford looks forward to playing at home in five of their next six games, including a visit from the University of Idaho Dec. 6 he puts out some new numbers.
The Eagles are hardly alone with a slow start. “A look around the Big Sky, our league is 9-29 against other D1 schools,” Hayford said. “Most of our competitors are in the same situation as us.”
“We are home for 37 of the next 40 nights,” he said. “We have 25 more regular season games, we have our second win ahead of us.
“We need to get in the gym and practice, practice, practice; we will get better,” he predicted.
Paul Delaney can be reached at email@example.com.