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UND (3-7) vs EWU (4-5) 12/11 1 PM


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In what has developed into a recent theme, UND started okay in the first half but then gave up a big time run in the 2nd against against a good Cal Baptist team.  Now they finally return home to finish the last 3 games of the non-conference schedule.  First up, an old Big Sky foe: The Eastern Washington Eagles.

About Eastern Washington:

It was about 10 years ago that Eastern Washington made an hire that changed the course of their basketball program.  They brought in Jim Hayford from Division 3 Withworth and in his 4th year, broke through with a Big Sky championship and an NCAA tournament appearance behind Tyler Harvey and Venky Jois (two guys that gave UND fits back in the day).  After a couple more solid years, Hayford headed west to Seattle and left the program in the hand of assistant Shantay Legans.

He brought the program to another level.  Eastern never finished lower than 3rd in the conference in each of his four years and won a BSC championship in 2019-2020.  Then COVID wiped away what could have been their chance at the dance.  However, faith had other ideas and the following year, they won the BSC tournament and made it to March Madness once again and gave Kansas all they could handle, behind the Groves Brothers.

This season:  massive changes.  After 4 great years, Legans went off to the West Coast Conference and Portland.  They also lost several of their big time players to the transfer portal.  This left new head coach David Riley scrambling to fill the voids of a once great team.  The good news for EWU?  He comes from the same philosophy as Hayford and Legans, so that kept the same consistency.  

So far the season has produced some great moments, including a 76-71 win against Wazzu and a near upset of Colorado in their last game.  They went out to Omaha and took down the Mavs by 11.   If you know one thing about the Eagles, they will score, score, score at will.

The conference season got off on the wrong foot, a set back to a good SUU team, but Eastern might just be revamping to continue their great success they have had since 2015 in the Big Sky.

About Coach David Riley (4-5 overall record, 0-1 BSC)

The 33 year old from Seattle has been with Eastern since 2011 when he came in as a grad assistant after his playing days at Whitworth (he played when Hayford was the coach).  He has been under the Hayford and Legans coaching tree so UND will know what type of team they will be getting.  Lots of scoring.  The Hayford tree has been successful in producing an NCAA tournament appearance.  Can Riley follow it up with another?  He certainly will get the time to do so.

Key Player: Steele Venters (6'7 175 Freshman)

Don't let the frame fool you, this kid can ball.  He is one of the best young players that the BSC can offer.  Has scored 20+points  in four out of the last 5 games.  This is a 3 level scorer, who is very dangerous from 3 (shooting 51% from 3!)  Can grab some rebounds but his main weapon is offense.  He fits EWU to a T and is fast becoming the next great player that Eastern Washington has to offer.

Series History:

UND leads the series 7-6 all time, but EWU has won their last 3 against UND. 


1) Defend the 3 point shot

2) Win with pace, pound them with your size

3) Play with confidence, you are back home!

The Call:

With 3 games left before conference play starts and the trip to Fargo, it is time for this team to start figuring it out.  These three are very winnable at home.  Get them all, and you might have the ship righted and confidence going into conference play.  Drop this one and Dixie?  The questions will continue to swirl.   The status of Nero will still be up in the air (haven't heard anything as to how long he will be out) but it is high time that the returning players start to step it up.  It would also be nice to see someone else step up from the newbies outside of Bruns.  UND needs to play with controlled pace and confidence.  This is the toughest of the three, but UND needs to win this one.  I think UND pulls this one off with their best game since Montana.

UND 81-77

Game is on ESPN+

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