Weber State puts 4-game win streak on line vs. Eagles

Deseret News

Published: Friday, Feb. 11 2011 9:18 p.m. MST

A resurgent Weber State men's basketball team takes its act on the road today when the Wildcats travel to Cheney, Wash., to tangle with Eastern Washington in a Big Sky Conference clash.

Tipoff is 8:05 p.m. MST at EWU's 5,500-seat Reese Court, where the Eagles have managed a solid winning record of 7-3, which is much better than their dismal 8-15 overall mark. And although EWU is just 5-6 in Big Sky play, the Eagles have won four of their five Big Sky home games.

Tonight they'll take on a Weber State squad which has won four straight games, raising its season record to 13-9, 7-4 in the Big Sky. In their last three games — lopsided victories over Montana, Montana State and Northern Arizona — the Wildcats have won by an average of 21 points.

Eastern Washington coach Kirk Earlywine, a former Weber State assistant, has his team in position to claim a Big Sky postseason tournament berth following its narrow road win over Idaho State last weekend.

And the young Eagles, who don't have a senior on their roster, realize that a win over the Wildcats would greatly enhance their postseason chances.

"All of our remaining games are important," Earlywine said. "We have five league games left and we need to win them.

"It's a big game — we're still chasing them with the possibility of catching them," he said of the Wildcats. "We're still not out of the woods to make the conference tournament, but beating Idaho State put us one step closer to getting a home game as well. It just ratchets up the importance of the next one.

"We have a few things to still add offensively, and we'll start to get ready for Weber State. They've gone through an unbelievable transition in losing (last year's league player of the year Damian) Lillard, and now they are starting to find their way. They have determined their role definitions and who is going to take their big shots."

Those guys taking — and making — the big shots for the Wildcats are Scott Bamforth, who scored a career-high 27 points — including seven 3-pointers — in Thursday night's victory over NAU, and Kyle Bullinger, who had 18 points, 15 rebounds and six assists against the Lumberjacks.

WSU coach Randy Rahe is wary of Eastern Washington, which makes a return trip to Ogden in the two teams' regular-season finale on March 2.

"It's taken a while, but coach Earlywine has this team primed to make a positive run," Rahe said. "They have four of their last six at home, where they have played very well all season.

"Glen Dean (12.2 points per game), Kevin Winford (11.4 ppg) and Jeffrey Forbes (10.6) are each solid players on both ends. They have added a couple of really athletic big men up front, and they force you to play honest perimeter defense."

Wildcats on the air

Weber State (13-9, 7-4 Big Sky) at Eastern Washington (8-15, 5-6)

Tonight, 8 p.m. MST

Reese Court, Cheney, Wash.

TV: none Radio: 1430 AM

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