June 27, 2013 | Vol. 117 -- No. 10

Big Dogs on Eastern's 2013-14 basketball schedule

Eagles play at UConn, Seton Hall, U of Washington, Saint Mary’s

The Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team gets to hunt some big dogs and Pirates in the 2013-14 season.

File photo
The future of EWU basketball is seen here as Thomas Reuter (right) battles for a rebound while Martin Seiferth (12), Venky Jois (55) and Parker Kelly (far left) are ready to assist. The Eagles will not have a senior in their lineup in 2013-14 as they take on some monster teams in their non-conference schedule.

The Eagles will take to the road to meet the University of Connecticut and University of Washington Huskies and the Seton Hall Pirates, using these contests to help them better prepare for Big Sky Conference play.

Third-year head coach Jim Hayford hopes those preseason tests, plus others against the likes of West Coast Conference power Saint Mary’s, will provide the proper footing for his team to return to the Big Sky postseason.

The Eagles were hampered last season with some key injuries and personnel issues and finished with a 10-21 record overall and 7-13 mark in league games. Eastern struggled both in the beginning – going 2-8 going into Big Sky play – and then in the end losing three of four and missed the conference tournament.

Along with the notable outings against regular conference and postseason powers – six EWU foes played in national postseason tournaments – plus a variety of other non-conference games, Hayford hopes it all better prepares his team for another expected tough run through conference play.

“I think the Big Sky Conference is going to be more difficult - there are many teams returning solid rosters,” Hayford said. “We have a very challenging preseason that will prepare us for a great conference season.”

The 31-game schedule includes 20 Big Sky Conference games and 14 home contests at Reese Court. Non-conference home games include Pacific University (Nov. 10), Walla Walla (Nov. 19), Seattle (Nov. 29) and UC Irvine (Dec. 15). The Eagles first conference home games are Thursday, Jan. 9 versus Montana and Saturday, Jan. 11 when Montana State visits Cheney. BSC play begins on the road Jan. 2 at Weber State and Idaho State, Jan. 4.

“The East Coast trip jumps out at you,” Hayford said. “It is an excellent opportunity for our guys to see a different part of the country and to experience playing against one of the nation’s elite programs; I know the guys are looking forward to that trip.”

UConn is a three-time national champion, winning the title in 1999, 2004 and 2011. Seton Hall was runner-up in 1989. Connecticut finished 20-10 overall and 10-8 in the Big East Conference last season, while Seton Hall was 15-18 overall and 3-15 in the league.

As for those other Huskies, “It will be the first time since I have been the head coach that we have played the Huskies and traveled over to Seattle,” Hayford said. “It is always a neat challenge to see how we stack up against the larger schools in the state.”

Eastern will return starting experience at all five positions next season, and Hayford hopes that will translate to winning more of the close games they lost in the 2012-13 season. Nine of EWU’s losses were one-possession games with less than four minutes remaining.

But following the departure of point guard Justin Crosgile who left the team after 12 games, and Collin Chiverton, who was absent periodically following the death of his mother and a close friend, Hayford pressed more youth into the lineup including sophomores Parker Kelly and Martin Seiferth, redshirt freshman Tyler Harvey, and true freshmen Venky Jois, Thomas Reuter and Daniel Hill.

That gave the group invaluable experience going into this season.

Paul Delaney can be reached at pdelaney@cheneyfreepress.com.

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