Redshirt freshman Tyler Harvey came off the bench to score 14 points off of 5-of-6 shooting, including 4-of-5 from three, to spark the Eagles to a 77-74 overtime win on Feb. 9 against the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks.
Harvey came into the game at the 8:31 mark with the Eagles down by 16. The Lumberjacks increased that lead to 18 with 7:35 left.
That was when the Eagle rally began.
Rejuvenated by Harvey and sophomore guard Parker Kelly, the Eagles began a ferocious comeback where they outscored NAU 26-8 in the last 6:34 in regulation. Harvey, who had only been averaging 4.8 minutes in the 13 games he has played so far this season, did not actually score until he laid the ball in at the 3:31 mark with the Eagles down by 11.
“We said, ‘Alright Tyler, let’s go,’” head coach Jim Hayford said. “We wanted to start chipping away and cut it to 10, then get it cut down more. And it started happening.”
Following his first basket, Harvey stole the ball from NAU and drained a 3-pointer. The momentum began to shift rapidly as Kelly buried another 3-pointer just 49 seconds later. Kelly led the Eagles with 19 points, a career-high.
“When Parker missed a couple of threes in the second half, he came out of the game and said, ‘Coach, I will make those,’” Hayford said. “He was really certain of that, and he did.”
The Eagles piled on more points as Kevin Winford got into the mix in the closing minutes of regulation. He hit a 3-pointer with 1:52 remaining to bring the Eagles to within five.
Trailing by three and with time dwindling, the Eagles needed a bucket. Kelly got the dish from Winford and nailed a jumper from downtown with 15 seconds remaining to tie the game.
In overtime, Harvey was good for two more 3-pointers. Jeffrey Forbes sealed the Eagle victory by hitting two free throws with nine seconds remaining to give Eatern the 77-74 decision. “I’m really proud of our team,” Hayford said. “What a great day for all of our players. You couldn’t write it up to be any more dramatic.”
Hayford had nothing but pride for his redshirt freshman, who added two rebounds and two steals on the night.
“What inspiration from Tyler,” Hayford said. “He has amazing character and is an outstanding young man. So it’s great for him to have this moment — the team had him on their shoulders in the locker room passing him around, yelling and cheering. That substitution brought some inspiration, and then the rest of our team was playing at the top of their level.”
The win brings the Eagles to within a game out of seventh place in the Big Sky, which would guarantee a spot in the postseason. They improve to 7-17 overall and 5-9 in the league. Their conference record is tied with Northern Colorado.
“It’s just a fantastic win for us,” said Hayford. “When you look at where it puts us in the race to achieve our goal of making the Big Sky Tournament, it’s even more dramatic. So I’m really, really happy for our players.”
Eastern returns to Cheney for four of their next five games as they attempt to break into the top seven of the Big Sky. Three of those home games are against Big Sky opponents.