Jois Leads Eagles to Win in Hoops Season Opener - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Jois Leads Eagles to Win in Hoops Season Opener

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by EWU Athletics

Getting rid of the first-game jitters was the main game plan. and Eastern Washington University's starting five did their part.

Sophomore forward Venky Jois had a double-double and EWU's other four starters scored in double figures to lead the Eagles to an 87-58 men's basketball victory over Pacific University Sunday (Nov. 10) in the season opener for both teams at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.

"The most important thing was to get out the first-game jitters," said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford, whose team never trailed. "Another thing was to play together as a team. Whatever the score or whatever is going on in the game, we need to stay true to our identity as a team. I feel like we did a very good job of that against Pacific, which is a well-coached team."

Jois, the Freshman of the Year in the Big Sky Conference a year ago, finished with 22 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, three blocked shots and three steals. He had 16 points and eight rebounds in the second half alone as EWU turned a 15-point halftime lead into a 29-point runaway. He had nine double-doubles as a freshman to rank among the leaders in NCAA Division I.

"I am never surprised when Venky gets a double-double," said Hayford. "That is the expectation he has for himself. That is going to need to be a regular event for us to be the kind of team we need to be for the amount of minutes he plays."

Junior college transfer Drew Brandon, the lone newcomer to the starting lineup, was impressive in his Eagle debut. He finished with 14 points, six assists, six rebounds and five steals. He helped engineer a 23-5 advantage in fast-break points for the Eagles.

Junior guard Parker Kelly scored 12 of his points in the first half, and finished with 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field. Guard Tyler Harvey added 13 points, five assists and three steals. Six-foot-10 Martin Seiferth chipped in 10 points and three blocked shots as he led EWU's commanding 54-24 advantage in points in the paint.

Eastern also had a 27-7 advantage in points off turnovers, with Brandon helping the most with that.

"I liked Drew getting that many steals," added Hayford. "I didn't know we recruited a thief so that was pretty exciting."

The Eagles led from start to finish, taking early leads of 13-5, 20-8 and 25-11. Eastern led 42-27 at halftime, and kept building its lead in the second half, ending the game on a 9-0 run.

The schedule gets much more difficult for the Eagles, who play at Washington of the Pac-12 Conference on Nov. 17 at 5 p.m. Pacific time in a game televised by the Pac-12 Networks. The Huskies were 18-16 a year ago overall and 9-9 in one of the toughest leagues in the country.

The Eagles return four starters and seven total letterwinners to a team that finished 10-21 overall and just missed the Big Sky Conference Tournament with a 7-13 league mark. Hayford enters his third season at the helm.

The Boxers are a NCAA Division III team from the Northwest Conference, and are in their fourth season under Tim Cleary. Last year, Pacific was 15-10 overall and 9-7 in league play.

Eastern is now 8-1 all-time against Pacific, but it was only the second time the two teams have played since 1975. That was a 49-40 victory on Dec. 17, 1992, in Cheney in EWU's only game as a NCAA Division I team versus the Boxers. Eastern has won the last six meetings dating back to its lone loss in the series by a 65-61 score on Dec. 15, 1961.

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