December 20, 2012 | Vol. 116 -- No. 35

Ready or not, Eastern men open Big Sky basketball play

The 2012-13 Big Sky Conference season begins for the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team this week, and their opening games are sure to be a challenge.

Facing the top two teams in the league’s preseason polls in its first three Big Sky games, Eastern faces Weber State tonight (Dec. 20) at 6:05 p.m. at Reese Court in the league opener for both schools. This Saturday, Eastern hosts Idaho State in an afternoon game starting at 2:05 p.m.

After a week off for the holidays, the Eagles resume conference play at Big Sky favorite and defending champion Montana Jan. 3. Entering conference play, Weber State is 4-3, Idaho State is 1-7 and Montana is 4-4.

Eastern enters the opener with a 2-8 record following a 87-65 loss to UC Davis as the Eagles closed out their non-conference schedule this past Monday on the road.

 “Two of our first three are Weber State and Montana, so we’ll find out,” Eastern head coach Jim Hayford said of his team’s level of preparedness. “We will be ready and we are going to keep getting better and better. There are a lot of things we can learn from, and we’ll do that.”

With a starting lineup consisting of two freshmen, a sophomore and a first-year junior point guard, Hayford’s team has lost its last three games and is 2-8 overall. The team’s lone senior starter – guard Jeffrey Forbes  -- has a foot injury and played just seven minutes in EWU’s most recent outing, an 87-65 road loss at UC Davis.

 “It’s early in the process – we are game 10 into 120 or 130 games with a majority of these players,”Hayford explained. “But we can’t keep making the same mistakes. We have to learn from the positives.”

Against UC Davis, the Eagles were out-scored 40-4 inside the paint and 19-6 in points off turnovers. Eastern made 17-of-41 3-point attempts for 42 percent, but were only 3-of-19 inside the paint for 16 percent.

“We’ll keep our head up and use it to get better,” Hayford said. “But we are going to have to develop more of an inside presence here.”

Sophomore Parker Kelly equaled his career high with 17 points to pace the Eagles, making 5-of-8 3-point shots. Junior Justin Crosgile scored 15 and freshman Thomas Reuter added 10.

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