CHENEY, Wash. – The Northern Arizona men's basketball team will play its first Big Sky Conference road game Thursday night against Eastern Washington at Reese Court. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Arizona time. It is the first of four consecutive Big Sky road games for the Lumberjacks.
"Anytime you go on the road, it is a challenge," said Head Coach Jack Murphy. "Going up to Cheney is always a challenge. We are excited about it."
NAU (5-9, 2-2) is the only Big Sky Conference team to not play a league road game so far this season.
Eastern Washington enters the game 1-3 in league play and 3-11 overall. In its most recent outing, the Eagles had a 15-point second-half lead before losing in overtime 70-68 to Montana State. Two days earlier, Eastern fell 81-66 to Montana.
"They are really well coached and Coach Hayford loves to play up and down," said Murphy. "They get after it and shoot a lot of threes. They are going to put pressure on our perimeter defense and our transition defense."
The Eagles are averaging a league-leading 9.5 three-pointers per game while attempting an average of more than 27 per game.
'They do a good job of making you adjust to them," said Murphy. 'We are going to have to get out on the perimeter and guard them."
Eastern and Northern Arizona have three common opponents as both played UC Davis, Montana and Montana State this year. The Lumberjacks won at UC Davis (85-82) and beat MSU at home (87-70), but lost at home to Montana (62-56). Eastern was 0-3 against all three common opponents on the road, losing to UC Davis (87-65), Montana (81-66) and Montana State (70-68 in overtime).
NAU leads the all-time series with the Eagles 34-24 but are just 12-16 in Cheney. NAU was swept in both meetings last season by EWU including a 76-59 loss in Cheney. Over the last 15 meetings, the Lumberjacks are 10-5 against EWU.
They game looks to be a high-scoring contest as NAU (332nd, 77.0) and Eastern Washington (342nd, 79.4) are among lowest 13 schools in scoring defense in Division I entering the contest.