BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Eastern Washington celebrated its March moment four months early -- and at one of college basketball's most iconic venues.
If they play things right this season, Monday night's stunning win at Indiana could propel them to an even bigger celebration later this season.
Drew Brandon scored a career high 27 points Monday to help Eastern Washington storm back from a 12-point second-half deficit and spurred a late 9-0 run to stun the Hoosiers 88-86. Afterward, Eagles players and managers hugged, hooted and hollered near midcourt as Assembly Hall fell eerily quiet.
"We just never stopped believing," coach Jim Hayford said. "We really don't look at the scoreboard till there's three or four minutes left because that can go up and down and we just play through runs. That didn't happen overnight. These guys have developed a lot of confidence, growing up together the last two, three seasons."
For the Eagles (4-1), who until now might be best known for the school's bright red football field, it was a monumental achievement.
They ended a 13-game losing streak against Big Ten teams, getting the school's first win ever against that conference.
They snapped a 20-game losing streak in front of big crowds, and are now 1-20 all-time when the attendance is 10,000 or more.
They ended the Hoosiers' 43-game home winning streak against nonconference foes. Only Duke (111) and Syracuse (53) started Monday night with longer active streaks in Division I.
How could it happen?
The Hoosiers failed to put the game away when they had chances early in both halves and they couldn't protect a three-point lead in the final 2:12, either.
Instead, Eastern Washington beat the big name school at its own game.
The Eagles had a 48-38 scoring advantage in the paint, had a 20-16 edge on second-chance points, shot 61.3 percent from the field in the second half and simply refused to let the Hoosiers pull away.
And they made most of the big plays. If Brandon wasn't making driving layups, Tyler Harvey or Venky Jois were causing problems for the Hoosiers in other spots. Harvey finished with 25 points and four rebounds, while Jois finished with 20 points and 14 rebounds -- one short of his career high.
"It was great to be on this team," a more subdued Brandon said after the postgame celebration. "I love my team and it just, it felt great to come in here and we deserve it. We work hard every day and it just felt great to finish with a win."
It was an odd night.
The Hoosiers, who were trying to start 5-0 for the fifth straight year, were in control most of the night. They jumped to a 14-2 lead in the first three minutes, gave away that lead, then charged back ahead 39-28 before allowing the Eagles to close to 41-35 at the half.
The second half followed a similarly strange script.
After Ognjen Miljkovic fouled out with 17:22 to go Indiana pushed the lead to 54-42 on Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell's driving layup with 15:30 to go. Ferrell finished with 27 points, but the Hoosiers still couldn't pull away.
Eastern Washington scored eight straight to get within four, fell behind again 61-52 and then took a 73-69 lead when Harvey hit a 3-pointer with 3:45 left.
Colin Hartman then hit a 3 for the Hoosiers, bringing the crowd to its feet. Ferrell and Troy Williams then came up with back-to-back three-point plays, giving Indiana a 78-75 lead with 2:12 to play.
But Brandon scored on back-to-back baskets to start the 9-0 run that made it 84-78.
Indiana had a chance to tie it with 14 seconds left, but instead of taking a tying 3, Ferrell drove the lane and missed the layup.
"I know we're going to get in the film room and watch film. It's not going to be a happy film session, but that's something that we need for our team and our team to grow," Ferrell said. "You know practice is going to be rough, but I feel like that's what we're going to need. Just get out there and play defense and tell everybody we'll be OK."
Eastern Washington: Hayford is closing in on a coaching milestone. He needs two more wins to reach 300. But it's a good bet win No. 298 will be much more memorable for Hayford.
Indiana: How stunning was the win? Coach Tom Crean was a perfect 32-0 in November games at Assembly Hall before Monday's loss. And the Hoosiers' non-conference home winning streak was the third longest in the nation behind only Duke, which started the night at 111, and Syracuse, which started the night at 53.
Eastern Washington hosts Northern Kentucky
Indiana hosts UNC-Greensboro on Friday.
- Paul Szelc
- Lewis Garrison
- Tim Stewart