Eastern Washington going to NCAAs for just 2nd time
NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS
Mar. 16, 2015
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Eastern Washington coach Jim Hayford's early memories of the NCAA Tournament include using pencils and paper as a child to make his own bracket.
Now, he can add another fond memory.
"To see your name there for the first time ever is a really cool moment," said Hayford, whose Eagles heard their name called when the brackets were announced Sunday.
No. 13 seed Eastern Washington, perhaps best known as the perennial FCS football power with the red turf field, is in the tournament for the first time since 2004 and only the second time in its 32-year history as a Division I program. The Eagles will play fourth-seeded Georgetown on Thursday in Portland, Oregon.
Eastern Washington (26-8) needed a big second half comeback fueled by Tyler Harvey, the nation's leading scorer at 22.9 points per game, to beat Montana in the Big Sky Conference title game Saturday and advance to the NCAA Tournament.
Harvey was pleased with the 13th seed and the opponent.
"They gave us a lot of respect," Harvey said of the selection committee. "We are fortunate for that."
Harvey was also pleased by the enthusiastic crowd that gathered at Eastern Washington's campus in Cheney for Selection Sunday. The Eagles averaged 1,900 fans per game at home this season.
"From where we were four years ago to now, it's nice to see the people come out," Harvey said.
The Eagles, who set a team record for wins this season, have a thin tournament history.
The 2004 squad was the first to make it to the NCAA Tournament, where the Eagles lost 75-56 to Oklahoma State. The 2003 team lost to Wyoming in the first round of the NIT.
By comparison, the opponent Hoyas (21-10) are in it for the eighth time in 11 years.
"We have our hands full, but our team is fearless," Hayford said. "It didn't matter what team came up on that board."
Hayford said it's a plus that Eastern Washington will be playing its first game in Portland, about a five-hour drive from campus.
"We wanted to go to Portland or Seattle, and I was kind of hoping we would be in the same facility as Gonzaga so the community could cheer both teams on," Hayford said.