Eagles return home next Friday and Saturday trying to clinch a Big Sky Tournament berth
It will come down to two home games next week.
Northern Arizona's Gabe Rogers came up big down the stretch and lifted Northern Arizona to a 74-71 overtime victory over the Eastern Washington University men's basketball team in a critical Big Sky Conference game Saturday (Feb. 20) in Flagstaff, Ariz.
After missing his first 11 attempts in the game from the arc, Rogers hit a game-winning three-pointer with 1.8 seconds remaining as he made four treys in the final 3:27 of regulation and overtime. The win clinched a berth in the Big Sky Conference Tournament for Northern Arizona, but EWU is still alive to garner the sixth and final berth in the tourney that starts on March 6.
"Jeff Forbes got clipped a little on the screen and that gave Rogers an opportunity," said Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine of the game-winning play. "Give him credit -- he made four when it counted the most."
It was the third overtime game in the last four outings for the Lumberjacks, with the first two yielding losses. Eastern is now 1-1 this season in OT.
Eastern used a 10-0 run to open an eight-point lead in the second half, but Rogers helped wipe that out with his first two treys. Senior Benny Valentine made a basket with 12.3 seconds left in regulation that helped send the game into overtime, and freshman Glen Dean scored with 10 seconds to play in overtime to knot the score at 71.
"I thought we made a lot of winning plays in regulation and overtime, but obviously we didn't make enough," said Earlywine. "We needed one more."
The Eagles are now 8-20 overall and 4-10 in the Big Sky to currently rank seventh in the league standings. Northern Arizona is now 7-8 in the league and 12-13 overall, having recorded an 86-85 double-overtime victory against Portland State on Thursday.
The regular season ends for EWU with home games against league-leader Weber State on Feb. 26 and Idaho State the next night. Idaho State is also fighting for one of the final two berths, and is 4-10. Portland State is 5-9 following a 64-61 loss at Northern Colorado on Saturday, and also plays WSU and ISU this week. Idaho State fell 89-64 to Weber State on Saturday.
Senior Brandon Moore led the Eagles with 13 points, 12 rebounds and a pair of blocked shots. It was the sixth double-double of the season and 12th in his career as Moore has now played in 114 games to rank third in school history behind Alvin Snow (118 from 2001-04) and Marc Axton (119 from 2002-05).
Dean chipped in 13 points and six assists, but also had six turnovers. He scored five of EWU's seven points, and assisted on the other basket, in overtime.
Valentine had 10 points, including a pair of three-pointers during the 10-0 run in the second half. He also had three assists and four rebounds.
Freshman Jeffrey Forbes scored 10 points for his 11th-straight game in double figures. He scored all of his points in the first half as the game was tied at 33 at intermission.
The Eagles made 44 percent of their shots from the field in the game, but at one point was 22-of-44 for 50 percent. Eastern made only four of its last 15 shots from the field.
The game featured 13 ties and 17 lead changes, including seven and 10 in the first half, respectively.
"We went into the game wanting to get down to last two minutes of the game tied or close to that," Earlywine added. "We accomplished that, but we still came up a little short of a victory."
Both of EWU's losses this week, including a 58-54 loss to Northern Colorado on Thursday -- as well as four during a recent seven-game losing streak -- were decided by six points or less. So far this season, 16 of 28 Eastern games have been decided by six points or less. EWU is 6-10 in those 16 nail-biters.
The Lumberjacks are 12-13 overall and have an 8-4 record at home, and registered a 73-69 victory over Eastern on Jan. 15 in Cheney, Wash. Eastern now has a six-game losing streak in Flagstaff, Ariz., dating back to Jan. 15, 2004 when Eastern was victorious 63-57.
In the previous meeting, the Lumberjacks won a game that featured 12 ties and 18 lead changes, with the largest lead by either squad five points. Northern Arizona scored 11 of the game's final 13 points in the last 2:05 as Eastern failed to come up with winning plays down the stretch in that game.