Eastern Washington hopes to join the list of unheralded men’s basketball teams that have escaped Berkeley, Calif., with non-conference wins this season when the Eagles visit California on Wednesday night.
The Golden Bears (0-9) opened Pacific-12 Conference play last week with losses to Southern Cal and Arizona, the latter occurring Sunday on the road.
The conference sweep came after going 0-7 against non-conference competition, including losing four straight at home, three to the likes of U.C. Davis, Southern and Texas State.
The Aggies, Jaguars and Bobcats have gone on to go 14-12, so the Golden Bears are hoping the 10th time is the charm as they welcome the Eagles (3-5) to town.
Eastern Washington has yet to win on the road, having fallen at Santa Clara, Hawaii and Florida International. The Eagles are coming off a 78-70 home win over North Dakota State in which Steele Venters exploded for a career-high 33 points.
Venters hadn’t scored more than 20 in any previous game.
Eastern Washington coach David Riley says he learned something about the sophomore guard in his big game.
“It’s all about mind-set for him,” Riley noted. “I’ve got to do a better job early in games of just finding ways to get him to the rim and finding ways for him to assert that aggressiveness. When he does that, it’s pretty fun to watch.”
The same could be said of Cal’s Devin Askew at Arizona on Sunday, when he went for a season-best 25 points in an 81-68 defeat.
“I think we took a big step forward,” Golden Bears coach Mark Fox said after the loss. “Devin Askew played with a big heart and great poise. He was terrific.”
The Texas transfer had 23 points earlier in the week in Cal’s most recent home game, a 66-51 thumping at the hands of USC.
Eastern Washington and Cal last met in 2014, with the Golden Bears winning at home, 78-67.
–Field Level Media