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Eastern Washington - Washington St.

Eagles face familiar coach at WSU

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by EWU Athletics

It will be just like old times for the Eastern Washington University men's basketball team when they make the short trip to Pullman, Wash., to face Washington State University.

Tipoff Monday is 7:04 p.m. Pacific time in a game televised live regionally on Fox Sports Net. The EWU radio broadcast may also be heard in the Spokane area on 1510-AM. The following night, Eastern hosts Whitman College in a game that starts at 7:05 p.m. at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.

Eastern will face Ken Bone for the 10th time, but the first with him as WSU's head coach. Eastern was 5-4 against Bone in his previous four seasons with Big Sky Conference rival Portland State, but he won the last three Eagle-Viking meetings.

Bone's up-tempo teams averaged 72.6 points against the Eagles, including a 92-86 victory in 2007 and an 83-61 victory last season. He takes over a WSU team that finished 17-16 overall and 8-10 in the Pacific 10 Conference last season.

"Their athletic ability will be something that we will have to contend with," said Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine.

Eastern is coming off a 64-58 loss to Portland on Saturday (Nov. 14), while Washington State defeated Mississippi Valley State 94-66 one night earlier. The Eagles lost by just six points despite making only 32 percent from the field (15-of-47), allowing Portland to make 7-of-13 three-pointers and getting out-rebounded 37-24.

"I liked our shots -- we just didn't make them," said Earlywine. "It's hard to win when you compound getting out-rebounded with giving up 54 percent from the arc and pile on top of that shooting 32 percent. Really, it's surprising that we were in the game with a chance."

The Pilots, in fact, have been picked to finish second in the WCC this season, finishing just four points behind perennial favorite Gonzaga. Portland even received two first-place votes, and T.J. Campbell and Nik Raivio were selected as preseason All-WCC selections. They combined for 31 points against the Eagles, and Luke Sikma had a double-double with 13 points and 14 rebounds.

 "Our level of physical competitiveness was good," Earlywine said. "Our mental effort wasn't where we need to be when we gave up some of their three-pointers. It was not an abject disaster for a first game. We can build on this and we need to."

The Eagles did force 16 Portland turnovers, leading to 19 Eastern points. Seniors Benny Valentine (20 points) and Brandon Moore (14) scored 34 of the EWU's 58 points.

"We have to eliminate the mistakes we made, but I didn't think we were offensive sensitive," added Earlywine of the opener. "When things go bad on offense you still have to be gritty enough and tough enough to guard your butts off and rebound the ball. For the most part, we showed grit on the defensive end. We have to rebound better and we have to eliminate the technical mistakes that cost us some of the threes we gave up."

Eastern has played WSU just once since the 1998-99 season, with the Eagles falling 68-41 on Nov. 9, 2007, in Pullman in the official EWU coaching debut for Earlywine. The Eagles are 11-51 in the all-time series against Washington State, and 12-67 all-time against the Pacific 10 Conference.

On Tuesday (Dec. 15), in the third game in four days for EWU, Eastern plays NCAA Division III member Whitman College. The Missionaries, who will open their season against the Eagles, were 9-16 overall last season and 5-11 in the Northwest Conference.

Just a few days after that on Nov. 21, Eastern plays at Texas-Arlington. That will be the fourth game in eight days for the Eagles.

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