GAME NOTES: A replay from a meeting that took place three weeks ago in California is on-tap in Cheney today, as the Eastern Washington Eagles play host to the UC Irvine Anteaters in non-conference action.
Back on Nov. 24, the Anteaters entertained EWU and managed to crush the Eagles in an 81-58 final during which the visitors shot a dismal 30 percent from the field and just 4-of-21 behind the 3-point line. As a result of that decision, UCI now leads the all-time series by a count of 5-3.
This time around, working in favor of the Eagles is the fact that they are playing on their home floor where they are 3-0 to this point. However, EWU has dropped two of the last three outings overall, suffering an ugly 93-65 thrashing at the hands of Saint Mary's last weekend.
As for the Anteaters, they too are coming off a loss to a California-based program, having dropped a 75-69 final versus Pepperdine last weekend. The defeat was the second straight for the team, but still UCI is an even 5-5 on the campaign.
Against the Waves, UCI led by 10 at the break thanks to 57.7 percent shooting from the floor, but the team's effort dropped to a mere 33.3 percent over the final 20 minutes of action. Chris McNealy led four starters in double figures with his 16 points, followed by Luke Nelson and Alex Young with 12 points apiece, the latter handing out eight assists, while Mamadou Ndiaye pitched in with 10 points. Will Davis accounted for nine points, eight boards and four blocked shots in the setback.
McNealy heads a list of four players scoring in double figures on the season with his 12.3 ppg, followed closely by Nelson (11.6 ppg), Davis (11.5 ppg) and Young (10.6 ppg) as they make up the bulk of the unit's 80.9 ppg. Davis is the top man in terms of rebounding with 7.6 rpg, but since clearing 16 boards in the season opener versus Fresno State, he has failed to register double-digit boards any other time and yet the team is still beating opponents on the glass by more than five per game.
The Eagles had little chance to come out on top in their most recent outing, taking on an undefeated Saint Mary's team, on the road no less. The visitors fell behind by 15 points at the break as they shot only 32.1 percent from the field and never recovered. Tyler Harvey tried to give the Eagles some hope as he tallied 20 points, while Drew Brandon pitched in with 14, but no other player on the EWU roster converted more than a pair of field goals. Venky Jois accounted for 11 rebounds, seven points and a couple of blocked shots.
Keeping the starting lineup intact over eight games, the Eagles are putting up a strong 79.5 ppg, thanks in large part to Harvey with his 20.2 ppg stemming from 49.2 percent accuracy behind the 3-point line. Jois (14.5 ppg), responsible for 55.6 percent shooting from the floor, which is where his accuracy at the free-throw line currently rests, is ahead of the pack when it comes to rebounding with 7.6 rpg, just ahead of Brandon (11.6 ppg) who is good for 7.2 rpg.
The first meeting of the season between the programs was clearly dominated by the Anteaters, but when you factor in revenge and being at home this time around for Eastern Washington, there's reason to believe the Eagles could possibly return the favor.
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