January 30, 2014 | Vol. 117 -- No. 41

Eastern men split with Southern Utah, Portland State

Harvey's free throws lead Eagles at home to win; Turnovers turn tide on road loss at Portland State

A perfect and record performance at the free throw line last Thursday night helped keep Eastern Washington's league record unblemished at home.

Paul Delaney
Eastern Washington\'s Tyler Harvey delivers an off-balance shot in last Thursday\'s Big Sky Conference basketball win over Southern Utah. Harvey had a career-high 36 points in the Eagles\' 90-83 win, plus he set a new school and conference record with a perfect 20-for-20 night at the free throw line.

However, careless ball handling this past Monday kept the Eagles winless on the road this season.

Sophomore guard Tyler Harvey set a Big Sky Conference record, going 20-of-20 at the free throw line and finished with a career-high 36 points as Eastern staved off the strong effort of the Southern Utah Thunderbirds 90-83 at Reese Court.

But Monday night at the Stott Center, Eastern saw a 10 point halftime lead vanish amidst 11 second half turnovers that led directly to 21 of Portland State's 62 points in the final 20 minutes in a 92-83 loss.

Eastern fell to 3-5 in Big Sky Conference play, 8-11 overall suffering its 10th loss in 10 road games this season. The Vikings evened their record at 4-4, 9-8 overall. The Eagles return home for a pair of games at Reese Court versus North Dakota tonight (Thursday, Jan. 30) at 6:05 p.m. and Northern Colorado on Saturday at 2:05 p.m. The Eagles are unbeaten at home in conference play, and are 6-1 overall at home this season.

Eastern led 40-30 at the break Monday night, but turnovers early in the second half helped Eastern go without a field goal for the first 4 minutes, 52 seconds. An Ognjen Miljkovic (pronounced "Ohg-nehn Meal-ko-vich") basket with 11:59 remaining gave Eastern its last lead, 52-51.

"We have to hold the game plan for all 40 minutes and that's not what we're doing," Eagles' head coach Jim Hayford said in the postgame. "We didn't have an answer for the pressure and the five little guys that were playing."

The Eagles finished with a season-high 19 turnovers leading to a 35-11 Viking advantage in points off turnovers for the game.

Miljkovic, a freshman from Belgrade, Serbia, had a career-high 32 points, including 17 in the first half where Eastern shot 70 percent. Miljkovic made 11-of-14 shots with four 3-pointers. Sophomores Tyler Harvey added 18 and Venky Jois 11. As a team, Eastern shot 49.2 percent.

"Obviously O.G. is back and healthy with 32 points," Hayford said. "I don't like the seven turnovers too much, but that was because they got into him and pressured him."

Harvey, the Big Sky Conference's leading scorer with a 21.2 points-per-game average struggled to get his final numbers. He made 4-of-9 from 3-point range, but was just 1-of-7 from inside and 4-of-7 at the free throw line after his eye-opening effort Thursday.

Portland State, which shot 39 percent in the first half answered with a 66 percent shooting effort in the second 20 minutes and 52.6 for the game. The Vikings got 23 points from Andre Winston.

"We're here learning a lesson instead of celebrating a win," Hayford said.

Thursday night against the 1-15 T-Birds (0-7 in Big Sky), who entered the game having lost 15 straight, Eastern led early, 19-4 at one point, but watched as SUU battled back to lead at the half 39-38. SUU, which made just two of its first 10 shots, hit 14 of the last 20 in the half to lead at the break.

Eastern shook off Southern Utah with an 8-2 run to open the second half and never trailed, but never got the Thunderbirds out of their rearview mirror and bumper until Harvey sunk six consecutive free throws, the first of 10 straight that advanced the Eagles lead to 90-80 in the final 10 seconds.

"Our game plan was to put the ball in his hands because he is making plays," Hayford said. "The defense kept fouling him, and Tyler kept making the free throws."

Harvey broke the previous school and conference records of 16-of-16 by set by Jason Lewis against Weber State in 2001. The NCAA record is 24-of-24. The Eagles finished with school records of 38 free throws made and 49 attempts.

Jois added 18 points, Miljkovic 13 and Parker Kelly 12. Miljkovic was making his first start after missing the last six games with an ankle injury. SUU's Trey Kennedy had a career-high 22 points.

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

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