After nearly upsetting third-seeded Kansas in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament last season, it appeared as if Eastern Washington was a program on the rise.
But within weeks, everything unraveled.
Coach Shantay Legans left for Portland and Groves brothers Jacob and Tanner, who combinedfor 58 points against the Jayhawks, transferred to Oklahoma.
David Riley was promoted to head coach and he brought in 12 new players.
The Eagles (2-3) will continue their rebuilding process when they travel Saturday to Pullman, Wash., to take on Washington State (5-0).
"There was a lot going on this offseason, especially this spring," Riley said. "It's been a whirlwind, but it's been really fun."
EWU is coming off an 81-74 loss to Texas State in the championship of the Good Sam Empire Classic at Northridge, Calif. The Eagles defeated host Cal State Northridge 67-64 in overtime in the tourney opener.
Steele Venters scored 23 points in the finale and was named to the all-tournament team.
"There is a lot of learning to be done. Our big thing is to keep taking steps forward," Riley said. "Now, it's time to watch the film and grow and we have a really big test against Washington State."
The Cougars have won 18 consecutive nonconference games, including holding on for a 92-86 victory against Winthrop on Monday night as Michael Flowers, a transfer from South Alabama, scored 20 points, while Noah Williams added 19.
The Cougars led by as many as 24 points before Winthrop rallied late.
"It was a team in a situation we haven't been in," Cougars coach Kyle Smith said. "We gotta learn how to play at home and get confidence and know what we're doing, and they got us on our heels a little bit. ... We thought, 'Well, they'll go away,' and they didn't go away."
Williams said he thought that lesson could help Washington State when it gets to Pac-12 Conference play, which starts next week.
"Pac-12 is not easy basketball. ... Teams aren't going to give us slack. They're going to give us their very best every night. It was definitely a good experience to have that early in the season," Williams said. "So, late in the season -- when March Madness comes around, when the Pac-12 tournament comes around -- we know how to play when adversity hits."
Eastern Washington and Washington State met last season for the first time since 2012, with the Cougars pulling out a 71-68 victory.
--Field Level Media