I was out of town at a wedding on Saturday, so I didn't get to watch the games firsthand. However, after reading about the games and checking out the box scores, here are some observations or things you might have missed:
- It wasn't pretty again, but Eastern Washington survived for the 65-57 win over Idaho State, as the Eagles had one of their worst offensive games of the year. Tyler Harvey is human (16 points), but the frontcourt picked up the slack, with Venky Jois (16 and 8), Bogdan Bliznyuk (17 and 7), and Felix Van Hofe (9 points and 4 assists) plating well. The freshman Bliznyuk has made important contributions in two straight games for the Eagles. ISU did a nice job of slowing down the pace, as it was played well under EWU's season average number of possessions per game. However, they just weren't able to hit enough shots.
- EWU's PG Drew Brandon played just seven minutes, leaving early due to back spasms. He's been battling the back issues all year, which has possibly contributed to a poor start shooting the ball, and this is something to watch. EWU needs him as healthy as possible, or else the Big Sky race could look completely different.
- Idaho moved to 2-0 with an 86-84 home win over Weber State, as they got a bucket from Mike Scott with less than five seconds to play to win it. He also hit a 3/4 shot to end the first half, and he finished with 14 points and 5 assists. The other star for the Vandals was sophomore Sekou Wiggs, who turned in his best game of the year. He had 22 points, but he did it by shooting 7/9 from the floor and 8/10 from the stripe (he is fantastic at getting to the line). Idaho is second in the Big Sky in offensive efficiency, and the over/under for their battle with EWU on Saturday could be about 180 points. That should be fun.
- Weber State, meanwhile, is 0-2, but that could be the toughest roadtrip in the conference, and they were in both games. Jeremy Senglin had 22 points to go with 6 assists and just one turnover, which is big for them. The last two games they have had good scoring efforts, which is important for them after the struggled a bit to create shots early in the year. They will be fine.
- Montana took care of business at home, beating North Dakota 74-63. Not really too many surprises in this game, as UND didn't have the interior presence to slow down Martin Breunig, who had 23 points. Though holding UND to 0.97 PPP is not as impressive as what they did in the opener against Northern Colorado, it is the second straight solid defensive performance for the Grizzlies.
- As noted yesterday, Northern Arizona only played seven guys, but they still went on the road and beat Portland State, 73-60. All five Lumberjacks starters were in double figures, led by 18 from Ako Kaluna. Kris Yanku also was big, with 13 points, 11 assists, and 7 rebounds, a good sign for someone that may be their most important player.
- There was a lot of optimism for PSU this year, especially after their opening win at USC, but they have looked like a mess lately. They allowed 1.24 PPP to NAU, which is a concern because the Jacks had struggled to score at many times this year. According to KenPom numbers, they aren't just the eighth best team in the Big Sky so far, they're closer to the bottom than they are even to seventh. Collectively, they have enough talent to be a top six team, but I wouldn't be shocked to see a bit of a freefall from them over the next three weeks.
- Sacramento State followed up their opening offensive explosion against NAU by just getting whatever they wanted against Southern Utah. They scored 1.48 PPP, and if you're not familiar with how that rates, just know that it is spectacular. They had 25 assists versus three turnovers, which is impressive no matter how you slice it. Last week I said Dylan Garrity had become more of a shooting specialist than he had been in past years - so he followed that statement up by dishing out nine assists. This is the Hornets team we expected to see.
- SUU was offensively abysmal defensively (and they have been very bad on that end), but positive offensive signs continued to emerge. They shot the ball well from the field, and took good care of the ball. Four guys were in double figures for them. They are 0-2, but they will be a tough out more often than not.
- Lastly, Northern Colorado went on the road and took care of business with a 62-54 road win over Montana State. It's way too early to call anything a must win or anything along those lines, but you have to feel like there would have been some panic in Greeley if they had lost that game. MSU wasn't able to hit from the outside, making just 6/22 from downtown, and only going 6/13 from the stripe.
The Bears were terrors on the offense glass, led by six offensive rebounds from Tim Huskisson. Their offense has slowed down from the potential it showed early in the year, but every team in the conference will take a road win however they get it. With two home games followed by a trip to North Dakota on the docket, the Bears have a real chance to be 4-1 by the time we hit late January.
- Now that we have 12 teams in the Big Sky, I have to say I love the nights where there are six games going, and all of the teams are in action. It doesn't get much better than that!
Anything else you have noticed so far this year?
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