Northern Arizona (5-9) at Eastern Washington (3-11)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 10, 9:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Reese Court (6,000) -- Cheney, Washington. Television: None. Home Record: NAU 3-3, EWU 2-3. Away Record: NAU 1-5, EWU 0-7. Neutral Record: NAU 1-1, EWU 1-1. Conference Record: NAU 2-2, EWU 1-3. Series Record: NAU leads, 33-24.
GAMES NOTES: The Northern Arizona Lumberjacks will kick off a four-game road trip on Thursday night when they visit the Eastern Washington Eagles for a Big Sky Conference matchup at Reese Court.
Northern Arizona has lost four of its last five contests after a 90-77 defeat to Southern Utah this past Saturday. The setback pushed the Lumberjacks to 5-9 this season and 2-2 in Big Sky action. The Lumberjacks are a meager 1-5 in away games. The next stop in the four-game trip comes at Portland State.
Eastern Washington is also in a slide of late with losses in five of its last six contests. Losses have come frequently for the 3-11 Eagles who are just 1-3 in league play and a less than impressive 2-3 at Reese Court. The Eagles' most recent setback was a 70-68 overtime loss to Montana State.
A year ago Eastern Washington swept the season series between these programs, but Northern Arizona still holds a 33-24 series lead.
In its loss to Southern Utah, Northern Arizona allowed the Thunderbirds to shoot at a 56.8 percent clip, while pouring in 33 points from the free throw line and 21 from beyond the arc. On the other end the Lumberjacks managed to shoot just 41.3 percent including a 3-of-17 effort from beyond the arc.
On the season the Lumberjacks are suffering from a -10.9 scoring differential as they let up 77 points per game on 46.7 percent shooting. The Lumberjacks do move the ball well and rank second in the Big Sky in assists (14.1 pg). Dewayne Russell (16.6 ppg, 3.6 apg) and Gabe Rogers (14.9 ppg) have formed a solid backcourt tandem, although Rogers has shot at just a 31.3 percent clip overall. After those two there isn't much scoring punch left with only Max Jacobsen (8.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg) netting more than six points per game.
Eastern Washington led by as many as 15 points in the second half against Montana State but was unable to hold on to defeat the Bobcats after the Eagles allowed a 10-0 run late in the game to surrender that advantage. In the extra period the Eagles hit just 2-of-9 shots from the floor, including misses on all three attempts from beyond the arc to surrender the lead.
The 68 points the Eagles put up against the Bobcats was actually the most they scored in nearly a month. The recent downward trend has been an alarming one for Eastern Washington, which scores 70.1 points per game, despite shooting below 40 percent. The major reason for that is the Eagles' reliance on shots from long distance as they have attempted the fifth most 3-pointers n the country (380) but rank just 122nd in 3-point field goal percentage (.350). Eastern Washington also hasn't helped itself on the defensive end as they allow 79.4 points per game to opponents which is among the 10 worst marks in the country. Justin Crosgile (14.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 5.5 apg) leads the team in scoring and is also the Big Sky leader in assists. Venky Jois (13.2 ppg, 9.1 rpg) anchors the team down low.
If Eastern Washington can begin to hit shots at a higher rate the Eagles have a chance to keep themselves in games. Bringing in a Northern Arizona team that hasn't defended well should allow Eastern Washington to pick up a win at home.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Eastern Washington 72, Northern Arizona 67
01/10 10:35:24 ET