Wiley scores career-high 38 to lead EWU to 77-72 win over Sacram - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

Wiley scores career-high 38 to lead EWU to 77-72 win over Sacramento State

EWU Athletics

Despite playing the league's biggest team, Eagle Jacob Wiley played his biggest game with the eighth-most points in school history.
The 6-foot-7 senior graduate transfer had a double-double with 38 points and 12 rebounds as Eastern Washington University used a pair of runs in the second half to pull out a 77-72 Big Sky Conference victory Thursday (Feb. 2) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.
The Eagles used runs of 8-0 and 6-0 in the second half to take the lead for good, then held off the Hornets for their 15th win of the season. The victory moved the Eagles into a second-place tie in the league standings at 7-3, 15-8 overall. It also gave head coach Jim Hayford
his 99th victory as EWU's head coach.
The Hornets started a front line of 6-foot-11, 6-8 and 6-7, and brought a 6-8 player off the bench. But Wiley was still able to register his fourth 30-point performance of the season with 38 – two points better than his career high of 36 set against Weber State on Jan. 14. He made 14-of-23 from the field and 10-of-13 free throws, and also had four blocked shots and three assists.
"Jake could have had 50 if he shot the ball like he normally does," said Hayford of the 64.0 percent shooter entering the game. "He missed some easy ones, but he had a great night. He's doing such a great job of making the most of his opportunity and making up for lost time at the Division I level. He just keeps putting unbelievable games up that I'm sure everybody in Eagle nation loves."
With 23 points and six rebounds in the second half alone, Wiley had his fifth double-double of the season. He has had at least 27 points in five of his last seven games, and at least 21 in eight of EWU's 10 league outings. For the season, he has scored at least 20 10 times and in double figures in all but two of EWU's 23 games.
Sophomore Cody Benzel hit a 3-pointer in both of EWU's runs, which helped the Eagles open a 10-point lead with 5:51 to play. Senior Felix Von Hofe chipped in nine points and six rebounds, but it was his defense late in the game that caught the eye of Hayford.
"Cody came in and gave us two really big 3-pointers," he said. "We didn't get that spark in the first half when we lacked energy, but Cody did that for us in the second half. He deserves praise for that. Justin Strings got going for Sac State, and Felix started getting stops on him, so Felix deserves some praise as well. Who ever thought we would be praising Felix on his defense? People grow."
Won-Lost Records . . .  
* The Eagles are now 15-8 in their 34th season as a member of NCAA Division I and 7-3 in the league as they continue their 30th season as a member of the Big Sky. Eastern is now 11-1 at home and 4-7 on the road. Eastern's three league losses were by a combined 10 points (6, 3, 1).
* The Hornets are 4-5 in the league having entered the game winning four of their last five conference games. Now 7-13, Sac State's record included an 80-77 overtime victory at home against PSU last Saturday. The Hornets lost to San Francisco (77-59) and Denver (72-61) earlier this season in the EWU Classic in Cheney. Eastern defeated the same two opponents, 96-90 and 85-80, respectively.
What It Means . . .
* The Eagles jumped into a tie for second place in the Big Sky Conference standings with the victory. Weber State won again Thursday and leads the league race at 9-1, followed by idle North Dakota and EWU at 7-3 each. The top five teams secure first-round byes in the Big Sky Conference Tournament March 7-11 to Reno, Nevada. There are still eight games left to play for the Eagles in the league season.
What's Next . . .
* Eastern hosts Portland State on Saturday, Feb. 4 at 1:05 p.m. in a game televised by SWX. Eastern head coach Jim Hayford will attempt to win his 100th game as EWU's head coach. The Vikings fell to Idaho 89-72 Thursday night to fall to 11-9 overall and 4-5 in the league.
Keys to Game . . .
* After a 35 percent shooting in the first half, the Eagles made 53 percent after intermission. Eastern finished at 44.8 percent, ending its four-game streak of making at least 50 percent. Eastern entered the game ranked 63rd in NCAA Division I at 47.1 percent, and leading the Big Sky in shooting percentage in league games only at 51.0 percent.
Top Performers . . .
* Senior graduate transfer Jacob Wiley finished with 38 points, the most by an Eagle since Tyler Harvey had 42 on March 12, 2015, in the Big Sky Conference Tournament against Idaho. Wiley also had 12 rebounds, four blocked shots and three assists, and made 14-of-23 from the field (8-of-11 in the second half) and 10-of-13 from the line. He entered the game ranked seventh in NCAA Division I in blocked shots (2.86), seventh nationally in field goal percentage (.640), 74th in free throw percentage (.848) and 94th in scoring (17.9).
* Junior Bogdan Bliznyuk was the only other Eagle scoring in double figures, finishing with 11 to go along with a team-high six assists, four rebounds and three steals. He entered the game ranked 81st nationally in scoring (18.4).
* Senior Felix Von Hofe finished with nine points, making a pair of 3-pointers. He entered the game ranked 40th in NCAA Division I with an average of 2.91 3-pointers per game. He remains 14th in career 3-pointers in the Big Sky with a current total of 232, which is 28 from the school record of 260 set by his former Eastern teammate Tyler Harvey from 2013-15.
Turning Point . . .
* Trailing by five at 38-33, Eastern went on an 8-0 run to take the lead for good. The Hornets went 3:47 without scoring in that stretch, then EWU followed with a 6-0 run to take a 47-40 lead with 11:34 remaining. Eastern held at least a five-point lead the rest of the way until a four-point play with nine seconds left cut the lead to four.
Key Stats . . .
* Eastern held the Hornets to 37 percent shooting in the first half and 44 percent for the game. Eastern out-rebounded the Hornets 38-35 – the fifth time in EWU's last eight games the Eagles have had an advantage on the boards. In its first 15 games, Eastern had a rebounding advantage just three times. The Eagles are now 7-1 this season when they out-rebound opponents.
Team Highlights . . .
* Eastern held Sac State scoreless for the first 6:31 of the game and used a 13-3 run to take an early 13-5 lead. Jacob Wiley scored eight of EWU's points in the run and had 15 of EWU's 23 points at halftime. The Eagles had a stretch in the first half in which they made 6-of-8 shots, but the rest of the half the Eagles were only 3-of-18. But the EWU defense held Sac State scoreless for the last 2:30 of the half and trailed just 26-23 at intermission.
Notables . . .
* One more victory will get Eastern head coach Jim Hayford to 100 victories as an Eastern coach in just his sixth season at the helm. He could be the fastest to 100 in Eastern history, with Red Reese (470-301 in 31 seasons) achieving that feat in his seventh season. Vin Eustis (108-43 in eight seasons) hit 100 in his eighth and final year at the helm, and Jerry Krause (261-197 in 17 seasons) also reached his 100th in his eighth season. That trio and Hayford are the only coaches in the school's 109-season history to have more than 75 victories. Hayford is now 99-87 at Eastern, and is 353-171 in 18 seasons as a collegiate head coach.
More Comments from Head Coach Jim Hayford . . .
On 15th Victory of the Season:  "We got win No. 15, and we were very fortunate we were on our home court tonight. I thought we came out really flat. We missed four really easy shots to start the game, and I called a timeout to get re-grouped. But we were playing some really good defense and kind of fought our way through that first half. It was like we were moving in mud. We had a real logical timeout and said, 'hey, can we get some more passion into this game.'"
On Second Half: "Sac State answered in the second half – they were up at half and had a chance to win. They brought some fire and we answered that and got some separation. As crazy as we tried to make it at the end by giving up a pair of four-point plays, we fortunately built a big enough win to sustain the lead and win. It was a good thing we were at home tonight, because if we were that flat to start a game on the road, it would have been curtains. Hopefully we can learn a lesson, even though we won. Sometimes you need to take a loss to learn a lesson, but we won."
On Wiley's Character: "What a neat person to coach because what is behind all of that is really hard work and character. It is character he's learned through adversity in life. A lot of people might have gone the other way in life, but Jake has used that. He would be the first to give credit to a lot of different people, but ultimately it's Jake making the decisions of his life, so you see that character shine through. He's done the work and he's in the gym before everyone else, so I'm really happy to see him have these kind of games."
On Wiley Being Focal Point of Offense: "We are going to get Jake the ball, and we (ask other teams) 'what are you going to do about it?' If that doesn't get solved, we are going to keep going to him. And if that doesn't get solved we are going to go to it again. We take a page out of the Eastern Football playbook – if you can't stop Cooper Kupp we are going to keep throwing him the ball."
On Abilities of Wiley: "You can use Jake so many different ways. We use him at the low block and we use him off the drive. Then we can use him as a pressure release when teams press. And at the end of all that, if you foul him he's a really good free throw shooter."

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