Big Sky Conference Notebook
by Nicholas Lozito
Eagles take third place at NABC Classic
The media poll and coaches’ poll selected Eastern Washington to win the Big Sky Conference on Wednesday. Two days later the Eagles were blasted, 81-55, in the first round of the NABC Classic in Madison, against Wisconsin.
The Eagles defeated Winthrop, 75-61, in the tournament’s consolation game to take third place in the four-team tourney. Winthrop has made the NCAA Tournament the past four years as members of the Big South Conference. As of Nov. 16, Eastern Washington is the only Big Sky team who has played a regular season game.
Junior college transfer Brandon Merritt, who was making his Eagles debut, scored all nine of his points in the first half against the Badgers on Wednesday. Point guard Alvin Snow led the way for Eastern Washington with 20 points, six rebounds and two assists.
Last year’s Big Sky Newcomer of the Year, Chris Hester, was held in check most of the night, scoring six points while only attempting five shots.
Eastern Washington was selected to win the Big Sky in both the preseason media poll and coaches’ poll. The Eagles received 15-of-22 first-place votes in the media poll, while receiving 5-of-8 first-place votes in the coaches poll.
On Saturday, Snow scored 19 points en route to All-Tournament honors. Power forward T.J. Williams recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Hester scored 10 points as well.
The Eagles announced the signing of Matt Nelson, a 6-foot-8 forward from Skyline High School in Issaquah, Wash., and Eric Henkel, a 6-foot-4 guard from Sentinel High School in Missoula, Mont.
Nelson averaged 20.3 points and 11.1rebounds his junior season. Henkel, a McDonald’s All-American nominee, averaged 23.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.5 assists as a junior. (All signees are eligible to play in the 2003-04 season)
The Eagles will next face San Diego State in San Diego on Nov. 23.
Idaho State – The Bengals lost their first exhibition game, 72-68, to Albertson College on Nov. 12. Redshirt freshman David Shroeder Idaho State with 14 points in the loss. The match-up was a regular season game for Albertson, who came back to win after trailing 24-11. Freshman point guard Marquise Poole and senior forward Ray Munyagi both finished with 13 points. Idaho State’s leading scorer from last season, Jeremy Brown, scored 10 points. The Bengals signed Doug D’Amore, a 6-foot-5 swingman from Scottsdale Community College. D’Amore currently averages 15 points and 11 rebounds at SCC. The Bengals open up their regular season with a Nov. 22 game against Texas, San Antonio in Marquette, Wisconsin.
Montana – In head coach Pat Kennedy’s debut, the Grizzlies defeated Rocky Mountain College 67-64. Senior sharpshooter David Bell led Montana with 25 points. Bell and Brent Cummings are the only two returning starters for Montana, and Cummings hasn’t been able to practice with a back injury. The Grizzlies defeated Son’s Blue Angels 95-76 in their second and final exhibition game. Junior college transfers Steve Horne and Kevin Criswell led the team with 22 and 19 points, respectively. Point guard Derrick Mansell dished out seven assists. Montana opens up their regular season on Nov. 22 with a home contest against Northern Iowa.
Montana State – The Bobcats knocked off the University of Regina, 79-54, in their exhibition opener. Last year’s Big Sky MVP Jason Erickson scored 11 points with four assists and four rebounds. Shooting guard Pete Conway led the team with 16 points, while Bo Segeberg had 14 points and nine rebounds. JC transfer Calvin Ento had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. The Bobcats won their exhibition finale 98-82 over the Australian Institute of Sports. Conway connected on six 3-pointers in the game.
The Bobcats signed two front court junior college players — Matt Towsley and Dennis Woodall. Towsley, a 6-foot-11 center from Cabrillo Junior College, is averaging 21 points and nine rebounds so far at the JC level this season. Woodall is a 6-foot-5 forward from Murray State College, who averaged 9.2 points and 3.8 rebounds last season. Montana State opens their regular season with a Nov. 24 game at the University of Washington.
Northern Arizona – The Lumberjacks defeated the Seattle Stars, 102-83, in their only exhibition contest. Senior Ryan McDade led Northern Arizona in the win with 19 points and nine rebounds. Five other Lumberjacks scored over 10 points — Chris Ferguson (16), Stephen Garnett (16), Kodiak Yazzie (15), Kyle Feedback (15) and Aaron Bond (12). Northern Arizona will kick-off their regular season at the Mohegan Sun Classic in New Britain, Conn. against High Point College on Nov. 22.
Portland State – Seth Scott is the real deal. Portland State is probably not. Scott, a JC transfer, scored 30 points and pulled down 10 rebounds in his Viking opener, but Portland State lost 73-63 to the Australian Institute of Sport. Senior guard Jeb Ivey recorded 13 points and six assists. Seamus Boxley and Ben Coffee both sat out with injury. The Vikings won their final preseason game, 77-51, over Northwest College. Scott scored 27 points, while grabbing 10 boards.
The Vikings added two San Bernadino Valley Junior College players, Will Funn and Blake Walker. Both Funn, a 6-foot-2 guard, and Walker, a 6-foot-5 forward, earned all-league honors last season. Portland State opens their regular season on Nov. 22 at home against Cal State Northridge.
Sacramento State – The Hornets lost their exhibition opener to EA Sports 83-80. Senior forward Derek Lambeth led the team with 18 points and nine rebounds. Redshirt junior Brandon Guyton scored 14, while Jimmy White contributed 10 points and eight rebounds. Freshman point guard Deshawn Freeman looked shaky at times, but settled down as the game went on. The Hornets signed two players, one high school player and one Junior College player, to letters of intent.
Jason Gilzene, a 6-foot-6 swingman, averaged 10 points and six rebounds last season as a junior at Fairfax High School. Aaron Perry is a 6-foot-8 forward from Wayne Community College in Detroit, where he averaged 11.8 points and 9.8 boards per game last season. The Hornets will conclude their exhibition season on Sunday against Tribe Called Sweat. The team opens their regular season on Nov. 25 at Loyola Marymount.
Weber State – In the Wildcats first exhibition game they defeated EA Sports Southwest All-Stars 115-92. Senior All-Big Sky guard Jermaine Boyette led Weber State with 29 points, while Ohio State transfer Slobodan Ocokoljic (power forward) scored 24 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in only 25 minutes. Guard Stevie Morrison contributed 13 points. A Boyette lay-up with three seconds remaining gave Weber State a 70-68 win over Global Sports in their exhibition finale. Boyette scored 17 points, while Ocokoljic scored 25 and grabbed eight rebounds. Weber State will open their regular season at the Top of the World Classic in Alaska, where they will face UC Santa Barbara on Nov. 22.