By Amye Ellsworth
The Eagles took a break from Big Sky Conference play on Feb. 23 to take on the Sam Houston University Bearkats in an ESPN BracketBusters game.
Although the Eagles ended the first half with a 41-25 advantage over Sam Houston, the Bearkats refused to quit. They came back strong during the second half, and the lead got as narrow as two points within the last seconds of the game.
Sophomore forward Martin Seiferth said that he did not want to be too confident at the end of the first half.
“We’ve had a couple of games where we lost the second half,” Seiferth said. “You have to tell yourself, ‘Don’t give up. Keep playing, even if you’re up 20.’”
Eastern fought hard for the remainder of the half and ended the game with a new school record for 16 blocked shots in a single game. This total was divided between four players: Seiferth, freshman Tyler Harvey, freshman Venky Jois and senior Collin Chiverton. Seiferth alone had eight of the blocked shots.
“To block 16 shots in a game, I’ve never been a part of something like that in my life,” said head coach Jim Hayford. “We knew we had a height advantage, and they maybe had a quickness advantage, and it would show up somewhere.”
Seiferth was proud of this accomplishment, but he also said that blocking shots may not be quite as easy in future games because the height advantage will not be there.
Senior guard Jeffrey Forbes hit a milestone of his own during the game. He surpassed 1,000 career points, ending the game with a grand total of 1,004, after scoring 11 points. Forbes is the 16th player in Eastern history to make 1,000 career points.
Because this was not a conference game, Hayford and the team went in with a different mindset.
“We approached today like our best practice for our big game Thursday against Northern Colorado,” Hayford said. “I thought our guys had a lot coming at them — a very athletic team — and [they] kept enough poise to finish.”
Hayford also commented on Harvey’s performance as starting guard in place of Kevin Winford, who is sitting out due to surgery from compartment syndrome. Harvey started the season as a fourth string point guard, but he helped lead the team to a big win over the Bearkats.
“The best thing Tyler did today was eight defensive rebounds, and some of that was chasing down blocked shots,” Hayford said. “Tyler continues to step up and seize the opportunity. It’s a lot of pressure on a freshman point guard.”
Putting Harvey in the lineup this game marks 13 different starting lineup changes throughout the course of the season. Jois, who is still recovering from an injured ankle, said that his team has never been 100 percent healthy at the same time during any point in the season.
In terms of his own health, Jois said he is operating at about 85 percent.
“When I went for the dunk, my ankle was hurting so badly after that. Hopefully come Thursday, I’ll be at 95 [percent],” Jois said.
Despite these setbacks, the Eagles still made impressive percentages from the field and from behind the arc. Their field goal percentage was 60.5 and their 3-point percentage was 55.6 for the game. In comparison, Sam Houston was 33.3 percent from the field and 30.4 percent from behind the arc.
Hayford said this shows significant improvement in his team’s offensive abilities, which is something he thought they struggled with earlier in the season.
“Our theme today was great effort, great execution and great efficiency,” Hayford said. “As we’re nearing the most important games of the year, we’re starting to play complete games, and I thought today was a complete game.”