The NCAA basketball season officially kicked off on November 14th at 11am, with a game between the Texas Southern Tigers and the Eastern Washington Eagles. For a first game of the season, we couldn’t have asked for much more, especially at 11am.
Texas Southern was coming off a season where they advanced to the NCAA Tournament after winning the SWAC tournament title. The Tigers are projected to contend for the conference title again this year, coming in 3rd in the preseason polls.
The Eastern Washington Eagles were coming off a 15 – 16 season in 2013-14, which is not what they would like to see. Entering the 2014-15 season, the Eagles are a trendy pick to top the Big Sky conference. The Eagles came in 2nd in the preseason polls, just behind the Weber State Wildcats.
The opening game for the 2014-15 season was going to be a good one, but little did we know that the Eastern Washington Eagles would make a big statement on their home floor.
The Eagles couldn’t have asked for a better start to their season.
Despite a slow start, and a few shaky offensive sets early on in the first half, the Eagles managed to take a 32 – 30 lead into the second half. The second half is where the Eagles took over control of the game, and took it to the Tigers.
The Eagles used a 20 – 6 run to put distance between themselves and the Tigers, and never looked back. The Eagles trounced the Tigers, 86 – 62, to open the 2014-15 season.
Fans were on triple-double watch, as senior guard Drew Brandon was having himself a great opening day. Check out his stat line for the game:
Drew Brandon: 31 mins, 10 points, 12 rebounds, 9 assists, 4 steals, 50% shooting
One assist shy of a triple-double, which would have been a great way to kick off your senior campaign.
Sophomore guard Tyler Harvey has high expectations around him, after his stellar freshman campaign. Last season, he averaged 21.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 2.7 assists. In 2014-15, he picked up right where he left off, chipping in 21 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists in the win.
Overall, four Eagles scored in double-digits, as forward Venky Jois had a team-high 22 points, and guard Parker Kelly added in 12 points. The Eagles’ balanced scoring attack was the key to their opening game victory.
The Tigers, however, weren’t as fortunate as the Eagles on the offensive end. Despite a game-high 23 points from Tonnie Collier, the Tigers only had five players score in the game. Three players played 16 or more minutes (Giovanni Mack, Malcolm Riley, and Nevin Johnson), and didn’t record a single point.
Losing Aaric Murray from last year’s team is going to be tough for the Tigers to overcome. If they want to bounce back from their opening game beating, they will need to find a way to come together as a team and work together to replace Murray’s production.
The road doesn’t any easier for the Tigers, as their next four games are also on the road. They go to Assembly Hall to take on the Indiana Hoosiers on November 17th, followed by dates with Tennessee, Norfolk State, and Southern Methodist. It’s not a stretch to predict an 0 – 5 start for the Tigers, with the tough road trip ahead of them.
Eastern Washington’s next game is at home, also on November 17th, against the Utah Valley Wolverines. The Eagles’ first test looks to come on November 22nd, when they take to the road for the first time to take on Southern Methodist.
The Eagles are off to a great start in the 2014-15 season. If this is any indication of things to come this season, they have a great chance of knocking Weber State off the top of the Big Sky standings and advancing to the NCAA Tournament.
Yes, I know it’s only one game, but it was an impressive statement by the Eagles. The Big Sky conference has been put on notice.