Southern Utah University men’s basketball team just won the Palms Division of the Rocket Mortgage Fort Myers Tip-Off on Nov. 24 and is riding a two game winning streak heading into their conference opener against the Eastern Washington University Eagles.
The Eagles are also coming off of an impressive win, taking down Pac-12 opponent Washington State 76-71. This win has the Eagles sitting at 3-3, the same record as the T-Birds.
Eastern Washington won the Big Sky Conference tournament last year and had the opportunity to participate in March Madness, where they gave #3 seed Kansas all they could handle. But the Eagles lost a lot in the off season.
The most notable departures were that of reigning Big Sky Conference MVP Tanner Groves who transferred to the University of Oklahoma and Eastern Washington’s head coach, Shantay Legans, who took the head coaching job at the University of Portland.
The Eagles are a fairly green team, only returning one player from last season, Casson Rouse, who played over 10 minutes per game. Rouse has only started two of their six games this year and is averaging just 10 minutes per game.
However, the new head coach for the Eagles is not new to the program at all. David Riley was an assistant coach for the last 10 years at Eastern Washington and will now be at the helm for the Eagles as they start their 2021-22 season.
The Eagles are led by redshirt freshman Steele Venters, a 6-foot-7-inch forward that is averaging 17 ppg and shooting over 50% from the field and 44% from the three.
Linton Acliese III, a redshirt senior who has started 80 games at the collegiate level, is averaging 16 ppg and 8 rpg in his first season for the Eagles.
Keys to Victory
Start fast and strong
The half court sets have not necessarily been a strength of the Thunderbirds so far this season but, if they are able to get in transition with John Knight III and Tevian Jones pushing the ball at a fast pace, they can score a lot of points quickly.
Match the three ball
Dre Marin and Aanen Moody have been the best three-point threats this season and will need to continue to shoot the ball well as Eastern Washington has three players who are shooting the deep ball at over 40%.
The game is on Thursday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. in Cheney, Washington and can be watched live on ESPN+. The Thunderbirds will then close their road stretch at the University of Idaho on Saturday, Dec. 4.
Article by: Parker Haynie
Photo Courtesy of SUU Athletics