College basketball is not a dish best served the first thing in the morning. It's a sport that requires kids between the ages of 18 and 22 be functioning at a high level, and that's counting the kids in the stands, too.
The thing is, college kids prefer not to strive for any goal beyond the edge of their mattress at eight in the morning, which is when Eastern Washington tipped of its season this morning with the intention of being the first college basketball game of the season
. Well, mission accomplished. And surprisingly, 1,600 fans, including an impressive number of not-so-bleary-eyed students, showed up to eat a wide offering of breakfast foods and cheer on what's looking to be a super-entertaining Eagles squad.
And Eastern won big, too, which made that "what-the-hell-am-I-doing-outside?" walk across campus in sub 20-degree temperatures worth it. They knocked off Texas Southern, a squad coached by former Indiana boss Mike Davis that made the NCAA tournament last year, by a score of 86-62. It's not entirely clear why Texas Southern agreed to indulge EWU's novelty-fueled decision to tip off at a time before most folks have brushed their teeth. "Hey, wanna travel a few thousand miles to our semi-rural campus and play early in the morning against our a team that's going to be a lot better than you, even if you don't know that yet?" Yeah, sure. Let's do it.
The experiment didn't get off to a great start. Neither team shot well, especially not the Eagles, aside from Tyler Harvey
, a guard so exciting that I'd watch the dude tie his shoes if he let me, who hit five threes in the half. He'd hit a couple more in the second half, for 21 points on the day. The Eagles were down 26-18 with four minutes left in the first half, but the caffeine or circadian rhythm or something kicked in and EWU finished the half up 32-30.
From there, the Eagles slaughtered the Tigers from faraway Houston in the second half. Venky Jois, the bearded, bulky Australian, woke up, too. He was all over the rim, pouring in 20 of his 22 points in the second frame, despite missing all his free throws (ya, need to work on that, mate.)
Leaving the game, I couldn't have been the only individual wondering what the hell to do with his day. I'd already seen a college basketball game, complete with the pep band and a mascot dressed in pajamas, and did the YMCA dance with my son and spilled soda on my shoes. But now it was time to go...to work? Talk about a letdown. It was like having a birthday party on a Monday morning and having to act competent at your job with a belly full of cake. But yes, I'd do this again. Count me in for next year, Eastern.
A final note — it's pretty damn refreshing to waltz up to the box office at EWU and get to see high-quality college hoops. As opposed to the selling of a semi-essential organ or entrance into indentured servitude required to gain entrance into Gonzaga's McCarthey Center.
But the Machine that is GU hoops continues to roll forward, so don't expect that to change, especially not tonight when the much-hyped No. 13 Zags
take on Sacramento State. Quick lesson, Sac State (as the kids call it) is in the Big Sky with EWU and finished 14-16 last season. Their mascot is a Hornet! Cute!
That game tips at 6 pm and is televised on KHQ, which is where you'll be watching it unless you're one of the Fortunate Few who will enter the Kennel's hallowed gates this evening.