Eagles Snap Montanas Five-Game Winning Streak With 69-68 Victory
Dean and Forbes combine for 41 points as Eastern wins its second-straight game and stays in the hunt for a Big Sky Conference Tournament berth
The Eagles are back in the hunt.
The Eastern Washington University men's basketball team made 12-of-19 three-point shots as it won its second-straight game with a 69-68 victory over red-hot Montana Sunday (Feb. 14) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash. The victory snapped a five-game winning streak for the Grizzlies and was the first time since Nov. 21 that the Eagles have won back-to-back games.
Freshmen Glen Dean and Jeffrey Forbes combined for 41 points, and between them made 9-of-12 three-point shots. Dean, who finished with 23 points and seven assists, made a free throw with 2.5 seconds left to provide the final margin in a game that featured eight ties and 16 lead changes. Forbes finished with 18 points and five rebounds.
"We were able to jump up and knock them in -- that's what you hope you do at home," said Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine of his team's three-point shooting. "It was beyond my wildest hopes to go 12-of-19, but you expect to shoot a little better at home."
The Eagles improved to 8-18 overall and 4-8 in the Big Sky Conference, having just ended a seven-game losing streak with a 74-69 victory two days earlier versus Montana State. The weekend sweep helped keep EWU's hopes alive of garnering one of six berths in the Big Sky Conference Tournament that starts on March 6. The Eagles still trail sixth-place Northern Arizona (5-8) by just a half game in the league standings.
Eastern plays its final road games of the season at Northern Colorado on Feb. 18 and Northern Arizona on Feb. 20. The regular season ends for the Eagles with home games against league-leader Weber State on Feb. 26 and Idaho State the next night. Idaho State is 4-9 in the league and is also fighting for a playoff berth.
Montana had entered Sunday's game having won its last five games and eight of its last nine after a 1-3 start. Now 9-5 in the league and 18-8 overall, the Grizzlies began that current run with a 79-66 victory over the Eagles on Jan. 8 in Missoula. In that game, Eastern had 22 turnovers to just seven for the Grizzlies. It was the largest turnover margin of the season for EWU, which allowed Montana to score 32 points off those miscues.
Eastern allowed 24 points off turnovers this time on 16 miscues, and was out-scored in second chance points 14-3. But the Eagles had season-highs for overall field goal percentage (50 percent, 23-of-46) and three-point field goal shooting (63.2 percent and total of 12). Dean made 4-of-5 treys and Forbes sank 5-of-7.
A third freshman, Kevin Winford, chipped in five points after a 19-point effort in EWU's win over MSU two nights earlier.
"They just keep doing it for us," said Earlywine. "It's to the point where I'm not surprised anymore. Kevin Winford's numbers weren't as good as they were Friday against Montana State, but I thought he played a good game. Glen and Jeffrey got the shots tonight."
Senior Mark Dunn had 13 points with a pair of three-pointers. Sophomore Laron Griffin came off the bench to add eight points and six rebounds.
"We shot the ball really well," said Earlywine. "Coming into the game, we talked about how important it was to score a few baskets in the paint in order to help our guys on the perimeter. That gave us the opportunity to get some fairly clear looks from the arc."
Forbes scored 14 of his points in the first half as the Eagles led by eight at halftime, 36-28. He made four three-pointers before intermission as EWU made 6-of-9 as a team. Eastern forced nine turnovers in the first half, but Montana had an 18-12 rebounding advantage and scored nine second-chance points to Eastern's none.
There were four ties and 10 lead changes before Eastern scored 15 of the last 21 points of the half.
But the Eagles missed their first eight shots in the second half, including three blocked shots by the Grizzlies, as UM regained the lead. The Grizzlies led by as many as eight before Dean rallied the Eagles with three treys in the last 9:52. He scored 15 of his points in the second half.
Two days after Eastern lost to Montana in January, Eastern registered a huge 75-73 victory over Montana State in Bozeman when freshman Glen Dean made a driving layup with 3.8 seconds remaining. Eastern didn't win again until Feb. 12, when Dean scored seven of his 12 points in the final 1:06 as Eastern pulled out a win by scoring 13 of the game's final 17 points.
The Eagles led by seven in the first half and 12 after halftime, but in both cases allowed MSU to go on runs to regain advantages of five (first half) and four (second half) late in each half. Eastern had 15 turnovers, leading to 15 points off turnovers by the Bobcats.
With three freshmen now in their starting lineup -- Glen Dean, Jeffrey Forbes and Kevin Winford -- four of EWU's losses during its seven-game losing streak were decided by six points or less. So far this season, 14 of 26 Eastern games have been decided by six points or less. EWU is 6-8 in those 14 nail-biters.