Idaho State (9-20) at Eastern Washington (14-16)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 3, 5:00 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Reese Court (6,000) -- Cheney, Washington. Television: None. Home Record: Idaho State 5-8, Eastern Washington 8-4. Away Record: Idaho State 4-12, Eastern Washington 6-12. Neutral Record: Idaho State 0-0, Eastern Washington 0-0. Conference Record: Idaho State 7-9, Eastern Washington 8-8. Series Record: Eastern Washington leads, 36-27.
GAMES NOTES: Playing for the third time in just over a week, including Tuesday's regular season finale, the fifth-seeded Idaho State Bengals will travel to Reese Court to take on the fourth-seeded Eastern Washington Eagles in the first quarterfinal matchup of the Big Sky Conference Tournament on Saturday.
These squads met on both January 23 and January 28 with both games resulting in a win for Eastern Washington. Those wins turned out to be vitally important as the teams finished within a game of each other in the standings and allowed the Eagles to host this quarterfinal matchup. In terms of the all-time series the Eagles now lead 36-27.
Idaho State has nobody to blame but itself for its lower seeding as the Bengals fell apart down the stretch losing six of their last seven games, including both losses to Eastern Washington, ending the year with a 7-9 mark in conference play to go along with a poor 9-20 overall record.
Eastern Washington stumbled to the fourth seed in the conference tournament by trading wins and losses over its last six games. On the season the Eagles have been doing just about the same thing with the longest winning streak being three games and its longest losing steak reaching four. Eastern Washington ended the season the regular- season series with a pair of routs, posting a 95-53 decision at home on Jan. 16, and an 86-63 victory at Florida Gulf Coast on Feb. 11.
Despite simply treading water both in and out of the conference, Florida Gulf Coast is efficient, coming into the postseason shooting a healthy .458 from the floor. That being said, there isn't a great deal of depth, with Sherwood Brown and Bernard Thompson representing the top offensive threats, finishing the regular season with scoring averages of 12.8 and 11,8 ppg, respectively.
Florida Gulf Coast got 14 points from Brown and 13 from Christopher Varidel in edging out Mercer in semifinal action on Friday. The Eagles, who shot a modest .438 from the floor in the game, also received nine points from both Chase Fieler and Brett Comer.
Belmont has overpowered opponents with offensive firepower this season, ranking among the nation's best in scoring (81.5 ppg), field-goal percentage (.484) and scoring margin (+14.2). Four of the team's five starters earned all-conference honors. Senior Drew Hanlen and juniors Ian Clark and Kerron Johnson picked up First-Team recognition, while senior Mick Hedgepeth was named to the Second-Team. Johnson shoot .531 from the floor and leads the team with 14.1 ppg. Clark is a close second at 12.4 ppg, followed by Hanlen and Scott Saunders with 11.1 and 10.3 ppg, respectively.
Belmont used a 9-0 run early in the second half to provide some breathing room, catapulting the Bruins past East Tennessee State and into the title game. The Bruins overcame a sluggish first half to shoot 58 percent from the floor after the break and finished the game converting 12-of-28 from three- point range. Clark hit five three-pointers en route to a team-high 19 points. Johnson added 12 points, while Hanlen finished with nine.
The Bruins just have too many weapons for Florida Gulf Coast to counter. Belmont won the regular-season meetings with ease and while a double-digit win is probably expected once again, expect the Eagles to be a little more competitive.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Belmont 79, Florida Gulf Coast 64
03/03 10:42:57 ET