Wiley & Bliznyuk lead Eags in exhibition

A 12-3 run in the second half helped opened a comfortable cushion as the Eastern Washington University men's basketball team opened its 2016-17 season Sunday (Oct. 30) with an 80-69 exhibition victory against Saint Martin's Sunday (Oct. 30) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.

Double-doubles were recorded by newcomer Jacob Wiley and veteran Bogdan Bliznyuk, with Felix Von Hofe adding 13 points. The Saints were coached by former Eastern assistant coach Alex Pribble, and Eastern head coach Jim Hayford presented former Eagle Fred Jorg with a ball recognizing the 7-footer for playing for the Eagles for two seasons. Jorg scored eight points and had four rebounds for the Saints.

"It was a really good exhibition game to be able to play a program like Saint Martin's," said Hayford. "There weren't a lot of secrets there – they were very well-prepared for us and that will only make us better in the end."

"We were able to get some separation and hang on to that," he added. "We played really good defense, but we will shoot the ball better than we did today. We took care of the ball, rebounded well and played good defense. When you put on your uniform you want to win, and we did do that."

Won-Lost Records . . . 
* The game does not count in the season record or statistics for either team.

What It Means . . .
* The debut was actually the extension of preparation for the Eagles, who had the added benefit of a summer team tour to Australia that included seven games and a scrimmage. That became important as EWU replaces the four-year contributions of Venky Jois, who concluded his Eastern career as the school's all-time leading scorer with 1,803 points. Eastern also must replace the Big Sky's leading scorer a year ago in Austin McBroom.

What's Next . . .
* The Eagles officially open their season on Nov. 11 versus Linfield in a Veteran's Day matinee at noon at Reese Court.

Keys to Game . . .
* The Eagles held Saint Martin's to 35.3 percent shooting in the game, and to 29.7 percent from the 3-point stripe (29.7). Both teams had 10 turnovers and the Eagles had a 43-40 rebounding edge.

Top Performers . . .
* Senior Jacob Wiley, a graduate transfer, had 25 points, 14 rebounds and four blocked shots in his Eagle debut. He was an All-American at Lewis-Clark State in the 2015-16 season. He made 8-of-9 shots from the field and 9-of-11 from the free throw line.
* Junior Bogdan Bliznyuk, who until recently was out with a broken wrist, made only 5-of-15 shots but sank 7-of-8 free throws. He had 17 points and 11 boards.
* Senior Felix Von Hofe had 13 points and four rebounds, sinking 3-of-9 from the 3-point stripe. Von Hofe was 17th in NCAA Division I a year ago with an average of 3.18 treys per game.
* Junior Sir Washington had six points and three each of rebounds, assists and steals. But he played only 16 minutes before fouling out.

Turning Point . . .
* Ahead just 55-50, the Eagles followed with a 12-3 run to open a 67-53 lead with 7:27 to play. Wiley and Bliznyuk combined for nine of the points, and Jesse Hunt had the other three with a 3-pointer. Eastern led by no less than eight the rest of the way.

Key Stats . . .
* The Eagles made 45.3 percent of their shots from the field, including a 54 percent shooting performance inside the 3-point arc. They made just 5-of-18 3-pointers after ranking fifth in NCAA Division I a year ago with an average of 10.5 3-pointers made per game. Eastern also ranked 15th in NCAA Division I in scoring offense (81.4 points per game), 16th in overall field goal accuracy (48.3 percent) and 25th in accuracy from the 3-point stripe (38.5 percent).

Team Highlights . . .
* A total of 14 Eagles saw action, including the Eagle debuts for Wiley, Mason Peatling and Geremy McKay. All 14 scored.

Notables . . .
* Besides Pribble, who coached under Hayford for two seasons from 2013-15, two former Eagles are on the Saints roster – 7-foot Fred Jorg played in 31 games for EWU in two seasons (2012-13 and 2014-15), and was a part of the school's NCAA Tournament appearance in 2015. The other former Eagle is Rico Nuno, who played in 17 games last season as a junior college transfer. Pribble coached Saint Martin's to a 15-13 record in his first season at the helm, including a 9-11 mark in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. Jorg averaged 10.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 0.5 blocked shots last season.
* Eastern's 2016-17 roster includes three returning starters who were all honored on the College Sports Madness preseason All-Big Sky Conference squad. Junior forward Bogdan Bliznyuk was chosen as a first team selection by that organization, and seniors Felix Von Hofe and Julian Harrell were both picked to the fourth team. Last year, Bliznyuk averaged 12.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game, and registered the first triple-double in school history. Von Hofe averaged 13.0 points and 3.1 made 3-pointers per game, and Harrell chipped in 8.3 points and 2.8 rebounds after missing 13 games with a hand injury.
* EWU's 16-player roster includes four other returning letterwinners, one transfer who sat out last season (Geremy McKay), three other players who redshirted in 2015-16, four incoming freshmen and Lewis-Clark State transfer Jacob Wiley, who began his career at Montana.

More Comments from Head Coach Jim Hayford . . .

On First Half: "We built a good lead early in the first half. I may have over-substituted, but it made it a better game for everybody. Give Saint Martin's credit – they competed and they are a well-coached team."

On Benefit of Oct. 30 Game: "The best part is we have some video that we can use to really teach our guys and show them what they can do to get better. We'll get guys playing together in the kind of combinations we're going use, and continue to build chemistry and unity."

On Wiley: "Jacob is an outstanding player. He had 25 and 14, and there are going to be a lot more of those kinds of nights. It took him about 10 minutes to get it all going too. He's going to be playing against some good post players, so he'll have his work cut out for him."

On Backcourt: "Sir had zero turnovers, but he played only 16 minutes because of foul trouble. With that, you want your players to be aggressive and make things happen. But we need Sir on the floor and not on the bench in foul trouble. Julian will play a lot better than he did today."

On Missing Players: "We weren't able to play Luka (Vulikic), but he'll be back in three days and that will help. We were running a little thin sometimes at the point. I thought Bogdan played really good when we played him there. We decided to redshirt Jacob Davison – we think he'll be a really good player and that will be the smartest use of his four years of eligibility."

On Defense/Offense: "We aren't going to be the team that just scores points in droves and all of the sudden there is a 15-0 run. We are going to have to put stops together and keep chipping away. We are going to be a tough team that has to work and probably won't put points on the board as fast as we have. With that, we'll the shoot the ball a whole lot better than we did today, and when you do that it opens up a whole lot of other things too."

KREM


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