GAME NOTES: A pair of two-win squads try to get their season back on track Thursday night when the Idaho Vandals visit Cheney to take on the Eastern Washington Eagles at Reese Court.
Idaho is coming off a 73-66 win over UC Davis last Saturday, which was just its second win in six tries this season. The Vandals have not fared well away from home, losing both their road tilts against New Mexico (73-58) and Washington State (64-55).
EWU began its campaign with four road games and two neutral court matchups and came away with just one win in that span over USC Upstate, 75-70. The Eagles returned home for the first time this season last Friday and registered an impressive win over Cal State Fullerton, 79-75.
These two programs have become very familiar with one another over the years, with Idaho leading the all-time series, 51-24. EWU won last year's matchup on the road, 73-66.
Idaho's matchup with UC Davis was tied up at 47-47 midway through the second half, but it was able to pull away down the stretch with the help of an 18-5 run. It was a modest day from the field for the Vandals (21-of-50), but they made up for it with an impressive showing at the foul line (26-of-31). Stephen Madison scored 21 points, Kyle Barone tallied 12 points, eight rebounds, and three assists, and Connor Hill added 11 points. Idaho has made 45.5 percent of its field goal attempts on the season, but it has only resulted in 65.2 ppg, 3.3 ppg less than its opponents. Madison scores 15.8 ppg, although he has not found much success from beyond the arc (6-of-23). Barone is right on Madison's heels with 15.2 ppg and he also grabs a team-high 8.0 rpg. Hill rounds out the double-digit scorers with 10.7 ppg.
EWU was able to overcome a seven-point halftime deficit to Fullerton last Friday, and it held on to the lead down the stretch by making 7-of-8 from the free-throw line in the final 27 seconds of the game. Venky Jois was spectacular on the night, finishing with 22 points on 10-of-14 from the field while adding 13 rebounds in a performance that helped him earn the Big Sky Conference Player of the Week. Justin Crosgile was also impressive with 16 points and six assists, but he turned the ball over seven times. Thomas Reuter also scored 16 points in the win, while Parker Kelly came off the bench to tally 12 points. The Eagles have not been efficient from the field in the early going this season (.405), but their fast-paced style of play still allows them to put up 75.0 ppg, although they are also vulnerable on the defensive end, letting opponents score 84.1 ppg. Crosgile has played well with 14.4 ppg and 6.4 apg, despite a lackluster shooting percentage (.351). Jois (13.6 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 1.4 bpg, 1.0 spg) is one of the best forwards in the conference.
Both teams will be eager to win back-to-back games for the first time this season, but EWU's high-tempo style will play well in front of its home fans. The Vandals should be able to score more than they are used to, but it won't be enough to catch the Eagles.
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