Faint Hopes Come Down to Home Games & Help
If things go their way on Friday against league champion Weber State and Saturday against Idaho State, Eagles could end up with a Big Sky Tournament berth
Date - Opponent - Spokane Radio Station -
Feb. 26 - Weber State at Reese Court - 1050am - 7:05 p.m.
Feb. 27 - Idaho State at Reese Court - 1050am - 7:05 p.m.
Eagles on TV/Radio/Webcasts . . .
All EWU home games (except for Feb. 14) will be televised live and/or delayed on SWX in Spokane (SWX Digital 6.2, Cheney Cable 12, Comcast 115, Time Warner 306, Charter 287). Eagle Radio Broadcasts home and away in 2009-10 may be heard live, and stations in Spokane/Cheney that may be used are 1510-AM, 1050-AM or 790-AM. The audio and video of home games is available via WWW.BIGSKYTV.ORG, which also broadcasts the audio and video of EWU road games against all other BSC opponents.
There are no multiple scenarios for the Eastern Washington University men's basketball team to garner the sixth and final berth in the Big Sky Conference Tournament that starts on March 6.
There is just one.
The regular season ends for the Eagles this week with home games against league-leader Weber State on Friday (Feb. 26) and Idaho State Saturday (Feb. 27). Both games begin at 7:05 p.m. at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash., and will be televised live in the Spokane area on SWX and broadcast via radio on 1050am. They are also available via www.bigskytv.org.
For Eastern to advance to the tournament, the Eagles must win both games and hope Portland State loses its last two games versus the same opponents. Any other scenario and either PSU or ISU will advance to most likely play at Montana or Montana State.
"This is what we've played ourselves into -- obviously there is no wiggle room," said Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine. "But we can't look at it as having to win two games quite yet. Right now we have to look strictly at Weber State -- we can't beat both Weber State and Idaho State on Friday."
The Eagles are now 8-20 overall and 4-10 in the Big Sky to currently rank seventh in the league standings. Idaho State is tied with EWU as it also fights for a berth, and is 7-20 overall. Portland State is 5-9 with a sweep this season over the Eagles, so that would eliminate EWU in case of any tiebreakers.
Weber State has already clinched the regular season title, a first-round bye and host status for the semifinals and championship game on March 9 and 10, respectively. The Wildcats, who defeated EWU 89-67 on Jan. 23 in Ogden, Utah, are 12-2 in the league and 18-8 overall.
Damian Lillard, the favorite to win the league's Player of the Year honor, scorched the Eagles for 36 points on 10-of-11 shooting from the field, 6-of-7 from the three-point arc and 10-of-11 from the free throw line. He also had six rebounds and a pair of assists.
"In my opinion, he's the best player in the league," said Earlywine of the 6-foot-2 sophomore guard. "When you start game-planning and preparing for Weber State, he's the first thing that gets your attention. The league has had unbelievable guard play this year, but he's the best of them. I believe he's a pro prospect and the best guard I've seen in the BSC along with (former Eagle) Rodney Stuckey. They are the two best I've seen in my 10 years in this league."
Idaho State knocked off Eastern 80-74 on Jan. 22 in a game in which ISU out-scored EWU 23-4 from the free throw line. Eastern was called for 24 fouls compared to 13 for the Bengals, and took 21 less free throws (10-31) to spoil a 49 percent shooting night for EWU.
Saturday's game will be the final home appearance of five Eastern seniors -- Brandon Moore, Mark Dunn, Matthew Brunell, Benny Valentine and Gary Gibson. Moore is the lone four-year letter winner in the group, and enters the weekend with 114 career games played (third in school history), 673 rebounds (fourth), 85 blocked shots (2nd) and 948 points.
Eastern is coming off a pair of road losses last week, falling 58-54 at Northern Colorado on Thursday (Feb. 18) and 74-71 in overtime to Northern Arizona on Saturday (Feb. 20). The Eagles led by at least eight points in the second half of each game before succumbing in the final seconds on game-winning three-point shots.
Both of those losses -- 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.
"They were both gut-wrenching losses," added Earlywine. "We had the lead late in both games but both teams made contested three-pointers to win. We didn't make mistakes in these games to beat us -- we made shots and winning plays in both of those games. But there is another team out there and they are trying to win too. They also made winning plays and in both cases we did what we were supposed to do defensively."
Eastern Basketball -- http://goeags.com/sports/m-baskbl/index
Big Sky Conference Basketball -- http://www.bigskyconf.com/index.aspx?tab=basketball&path=mbball
NCAA Basketball -- http://www.ncaa.com/sports/m-baskbl/ncaa-m-baskbl-body.html
ESPN College Scoreboard -- http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/scoreboard
Rodney Stuckey NBA Page -- http://www.nba.com/playerfile/rodney_stuckey/index.html
More Information and Links are Available at: HTTP://WWW.GOEAGS.COM
Recent EWU Men's Basketball Headlines . . .
February 20, 2010 - Northern Arizona Beats EWU 74-71, But Eagles Still Alive
February 18, 2010 - Another Comeback for UNC as Eastern Falls 58-54
February 12, 2010 - Eastern Defeats Montana State Again, 74-69
February 7, 2010 - Sac State Knocks Off Visiting Eagles 74-67
February 1, 2010 - Eagles Lose Another Close One, 68-62 to Seattle
January 30, 2010 - Eagles Lose Lead and Fall to Portland State 85-77
January 23, 2010 - League-Leading Weber State Romps Past Eagles 89-67
January 22, 2010 - Eastern Loses at Idaho State 80-74 in Another Close One
January 16, 2010 - Northern Colorado Rallies For 74-71 Win
January 15, 2010 - Eastern Falls Late to Lumberjacks 73-69
January 10, 2010 - Glen Dean Hits Game Winner Against League Leaders
January 8, 2010 - Eagles Fall to Grizzlies 79-66
January 8, 2010 - Glen Dean and Julie Piper are Scholar-Athletes of the Month
December 31, 2009 - Dean and Dunn Lead Eagles Past Sacramento State
December 28, 2009 - Gonzaga Grounds Eagles 94-52
December 23, 2009 - Eastern Drops Fourth-Straight With 72-67 Loss
December 22, 2009 - Eagles Roll 62-53 Loss to Chicago State in Las Vegas
December 19, 2009 - Eagles Thumped by Brigham Young 91-34
December 17, 2009 - Eagles Lose Nip-and-Tuck Game 73-70
December 12, 2009 - Eagles Prevail 100-97 in Overtime Versus Seattle
December 5, 2009 - Eastern Dealt 98-75 Loss by Portland State in BSC Opener
December 1, 2009 - Eastern Romps Past Walla Walla 89-61
November 28, 2009 - Eagles Drop 76-54 Decision to Idaho
November 24, 2009 - Eastern Falls at Home to Boise State 82-69
November 21, 2009 - Freshman Jeffrey Forbes Scores 24 in Eagle Win
November 17, 2009 - Eastern Survives for 100-88 Victory Over Whitman
November 16, 2009 - Eagles Start and Finish Fast, But Fall to Cougars 67-61
November 14, 2009 - Eastern Loses Opener to Portland 64-58
October 23, 2009 - SEASON OUTLOOK
Dean Leading Candidate for Big Sky Freshman of the Year: Newcomer Glen Dean is a leading candidate for Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year honors as he leads the Eagles in scoring, assists and three-point shooting, and ranks among the Big Sky leaders in all three.
Dean has a 12.3 scoring average as to rank 11th in the Big Sky, and his average of 4.5 assists per game is now second. He is also fourth in the Big Sky in three-point field goal percentage (43.9 percent) and seventh in free throw percentage (78.9). In Big Sky Conference play, Dean is averaging 5.4 assists to lead the BSC in league-only statistics, and his 14.9 scoring average is ninth. He has made 28-of-57 treys (49.1 percent to rank fifth) and 46-of-56 free throws (82.1 percent to rank sixth). He was selected as Eastern's male recipient of the December Scholar-Athlete of the Month Award, and currently has a 3.85 grade point average at EWU.
Dean equaled his season high with 10 assists at Portland State on Jan. 30, giving him his second double-double of the year as he also had 10 points. However, eight of his assists came in the first half as foul trouble limited him to just eight minutes in the second half. Worst of all, he had to sit out most of the stretch when PSU overcame a 14-point deficit by out-scoring EWU 40-18 in the final 15 minutes.
In EWU's victory on Jan. 10 versus Montana State, Dean finished with 23 points, seven assists and a career-high six rebounds. He made a game-winning, six-foot running bank shot with 3.8 seconds to play. Against Sacramento State on Dec. 31, Dean scored 29 points as he made 8-of-17 shots from the field and 6-of-7 free throws, and had seven assists and just two turnovers in 34 minutes of action. He tied the school record with seven three-pointers in 12 attempts, equaling the mark set on 11 previous occasions by five other players.
Dean had 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting and 10 assists in Eastern's three-point loss at Nevada on Dec. 17. He equaled the 14th-best recorded assists total in school history, and was the most since Rodney Stuckey (now with Detroit Pistons) had 10 versus Idaho State on Feb. 22, 2007.
Also a Freshman, Forbes Averaging 13.5 Points in League Play: Freshman Jeffrey Forbes is one of three freshmen guards playing big minutes for the Eagles, and is currently averaging 13.5 points in 14 Big Sky Conference games to rank 11th in league-only statistics. Besides teammate Glen Dean (14.9 league average to rank ninth in the BSC), no other freshman ranks in the top 24 in league-only scoring.
The 2009 graduate of Federal Way (Wash.) High School is averaging 11.0 points overall (16th in the league) as he has started 26 of 28 games this season. He leads the Eagles with an average of 31.9 minutes per game (35.5 in league play to rank fourth).
Although he has made only 41.2 percent of his shots overall and 34.2 percent from the three-point arc this season, those percentages have increased to 47.1 and 43.1, respectively, in league play. His free throw shooting has been steady all year, making a team-best 87.0 percent (47-of-54) that would rank fourth in the league had he met the minimum of two free throws made per game. In league games only, Forbes has made 26-of-29 shots from the charity stripe for 89.7 percent that would rank second in league-only statistics if he qualified.
His best scoring performance came in his fourth collegiate game when he had 24 points in a 72-68 victory at Texas Arlington on Nov. 21. He has scored in double figures in his last 10 league games (11 overall), including highs of 18, 17 and 18 in three-straight games versus Sacramento State (Feb. 7), Montana State (Feb. 12) and Montana (Feb. 14).
Glen Dean and Kevin Winford are EWU's other two freshmen guards in the starting lineup. Winford is averaging 7.1 points per game overall and 7.8 in league play. He had a 20-point effort versus Idaho State on Jan. 22 when he made 8-of-18 shots from the field with four three-pointers, then finished with 19 in EWU's 74-69 win over Montana State on Feb. 12.
Dunn Having Impressive Senior Season: Senior Mark Dunn ranks third on the team with a 10.7 scoring average to rank 18th in the Big Sky Conference, and he ranks among the league leaders in several other categories.
Dunn is shooting a team-best 48.9 percent from the field, which ranks 13th in the league. He has showed a deft touch from the outside by making 23-of-59 three-point shots for 39.0 percent, including 14-of-34 in league play (41.2 percent). He has made 78.3 percent of his free throws (54-of-69) and in league play he has made 25-of-31 for 80.6 percent.
Dunn has scored at least 20 points four times this season -- Whitman (21 on 11/17/09), Walla Walla (23 on 12/1/09), Seattle (21 on 12/12/09) and Sacramento State (26 on 12/31/09). He also had 17 points versus Washington State on Nov. 16, making 7-of-9 shots from the field, including 3-of-4 three-point attempts. The next night he made 7-of-12 field goals and 7-of-8 free throws to finish with 21 points versus Whitman.
Before this season, his previous career high was 14 points in games against Montana and Weber State last season on his way to an average of 5.6 points per game as a 24-game starter. However, he made only 2-of-11 three-pointers in his first 31 games as an Eagle. He helped lead Danville Area Junior College to a fourth-place finish at the NJCAA Division II National Tournament as a sophomore in the 2007-08 season. He averaged 5.5 points and 3.9 rebounds that season, with a season-high of 19. As a freshman, he averaged four points and four boards.
Brandon Moore Moves Into Third in Career Games Played: Eastern Washington University senior 6-foot-9 center Brandon Moore has moved up on EWU's career leaders lists in blocked shots, rebounding and games played in recent weeks.
His current games played total is 114 (with 69 starts) to rank third, just behind Alvin Snow (118 in 2001-04) and school record holder Marc Axton (119 in 2002-05). Moore played in his 100th game as an Eagle at Gonzaga on Dec. 28, becoming only the 12th player in EWU's 102-year basketball history to play that many games.
Moore has 948 career points, as well as 673 rebounds to rank fourth in school history (Randy Buss is third with 858 from 1970-72). His 85 career blocked shots ranks him second in school history behind Paul Butorac's (2004-07) school-record 99.
A 2005 graduate of Bethel High School in Graham, Wash., Moore is currently second in the Big Sky in rebounding with an average of 7.4 per game. He is also averaging 8.7 points per game as he has six double-doubles in his senior season and 12 in his career. His latest double-double came against Northern Arizona on Feb. 20 when he finished with 13 points, 12 rebounds and a pair of blocked shots.
He was selected as the co-Big Sky Conference Player of the Week on Dec. 14, sharing the honor with Portland State's Phil Nelson. It's the first such honor of Moore's EWU career. Moore had a career-best 26-point effort against Seattle University on Dec. 12 in which he made 10-of-19 shots from the field and 6-of-7 free throws in the 100-97 overtime win. Four of his points came in a 7-0 run in overtime, and he also finished the game with 11 rebounds and a career-high four assists. His previous career high for points came as a freshman against The Evergreen State with 23 points.
But Moore struggled after the Seattle game, averaging only 4.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game during EWU's five-game losing streak that followed. In league play thus far, Moore has made only 36.9 percent of his shots (41-of-111).
Moore had the seventh and eighth double-doubles of his career en route to having a combined 29 points and 32 rebounds in a roughly 26-hour span in November. He had 10 points and 13 rebounds in a 67-61 loss to Washington State on Nov. 16, and then had 19 points and 19 rebounds the next night in a 100-88 win over Whitman.
Moore's 19 rebounds ranks as the third-best performance in recorded school history. His previous career high for rebounds was 14 versus Portland State on Feb. 28, 2009. He also tied his career-high with five blocked shots against the Missionaries, equaling the second-best recorded performance in school history.
Trends: Eastern has improved its offensive output from last year, but so has its opponents. Eastern is averaging 68.9 points per game this year (63.5 last year), compared to 76.1 for opponents (68.5 last year).
Eastern's shooting percentages have gradually improved this season, and Eastern has now made 41.9 percent this season (41.8 last year), and 35.7 percent from three-point range (32.4 last year). Eastern is 6-5 when it makes at least 46 percent of its shots, and is 2-15 when it makes 45 percent or less, with the lone victories coming against Sacramento State on Dec. 31 (41.7 percent) and Montana State on Feb. 12 (42.3 percent).
Eastern opponents have made 46.9 percent of their shots thus far (46.7 last year), including shooting performances of 69 percent by PSU (12/5/09) and 64 percent by BYU (12/19/09). The Eagles are 1-14 when opponents make at least 46 percent of their shots, with the lone victory coming against Montana (2/14/10) when Eastern made a season-best 50.0 percent. Eastern is 7-6 when it holds opponents to 45 percent or less.
In the 17 games which EWU has shot a lower or equal percentage than its opponents, Eastern is just 1-17. In the 10 games when the Eagles have shot a higher percentage, Eastern is 7-3. In those three losses, EWU was out-scored from the free throw line a collective 65-22 as the Eagles were whistled for 69 fouls compared to just 44 for their opponents.
The Eagles have out-rebounded opponents in only nine games this season. Eastern is 5-4 in those games, and 3-16 when it has been out-rebounded or tied.
Hitting the Century Mark: The Whitman game on Nov. 17 was the 61st time in school history that Eastern has scored 100 points in a game. Eastern then scored 100 in a 100-97 overtime victory over Seattle University on Dec. 12.
Before this season, the last time EWU hit the century mark came in a 100-85 victory over Sacramento State on Jan. 25, 2007, in which current Detroit Piston Rodney Stuckey scored 31 points. Eastern had four 100-point performances that season and averaged 84.2 points per game as Stuckey finished his sophomore season with an average of 24.6 points per game.
EWU-Weber State Series History (Since 1983-84): The Eagles have lost the last three meetings, and the last four in Ogden. The Eagles have won 13 of the last 30 meetings after losing nine-straight from 1992-1996. Eastern has defeated the Wildcats three times in the semifinals of the Big Sky Conference Tournament (72-53 in 2004, 62-57 in 2002 and 83-67 in 1990). Last year, Eastern lost in Ogden 74-57 after losing in Cheney 77-69.
Since Eastern became a member of NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season, the Eagles are 19-35 against Weber State (19-36 all-time). The Eagles are 14-11 in Cheney, 3-24 in Ogden and 2-0 on neutral courts versus the Wildcats since 1983-84 (3-24 in Ogden all-time).
Eastern's lone victories in Ogden came in 2006 (76-73), 2001 (81-70) and 2000 (90-78) when Eastern snapped the Wildcats' 30-game home winning streak, which at the time was the fourth longest in NCAA Division I.
Earlier This Season . . . League-Leading Weber State Romps Past Eagles 89-67: League-leading Weber State jumped out to a 10-0 lead and never looked back as it handed Eastern Washington University its fourth-straight defeat with an 89-67 Big Sky Conference men's basketball victory Jan. 23 at the Dee Events Center in Ogden, Utah.
Sophomore guard Damian Lillard scored 25 first-half points for the Wildcats, and finished the game with a career-high 36. Eastern was led by the 16 points, five rebounds and three assists of freshman Glen Dean. Sophomore Laron Griffin chipped in a career-high 11 points and five rebounds for the Eagles.
The Eagles fell to 2-6 in the league and 6-15 overall as the first half of league play came to a close for Eastern. Lillard made 10-of-11 shots from the field, including 6-of-7 three-point attempts. He also sank 10-of-11 free throws.
"With his size, he has the ability to look right above the top of our guards," said Eagle head coach Kirk Earlywine. "There is not much more we can do -- it's partly him being the best player in the league so that's going to happen sometimes. But three or four of his baskets were as a direct result of mistakes we made. That's the hard part and hard to take."
After falling behind by as many as 13 in the early going, Eastern pulled to within 34-30. That's when Lillard took over and turned the game into a rout. The closest EWU came in the second half was 12.
"We withstood that first five minutes when we didn't play very well -- we dug and clawed and got back in the game," explained Earlywine. "But on back-to-back ball screens for Lillard, we made mistakes. They were mistakes by a couple of seniors -- I don't know what to attribute that to."
"Before tonight we started four consecutive games really well," he added of his team's slow start. "When you aren't real sharp on defense, and you have empty possessions time after time, it makes it hard."
Weber State made 56 percent of its shots in the game, including 62 percent in the first half. Eastern made just 38 percent in the first half, but made 43 percent in the game.
Eastern was able to only attempt 14 three-pointers, making eight, after entering the game with an average of more than 18 attempts per game. The Wildcats entered the game as the top three-point defensive team in league games only (.318) and had a league-leading 8.1 scoring margin advantage in the Big Sky.
"They are the No. 1 defensive team in the league and we knew that nothing would come easy on the offensive end of the floor," said Earlywine. "But when you give up 50 points in the first half, it's going to be hard to win."
EWU-Idaho State Series History (Since 1983-84): Eastern has won 18 of the past 27 meetings against the Bengals, including sweeps in the 2001-02, 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons. Idaho State swept the Eagles in the regular season in 2002-03, but Eastern won the third meeting by a 76-67 score in the semifinals of the Big Sky Conference Tournament. Last year, Eastern lost 75-70 in Pocatello after defeating the Bengals 71-65 in Cheney.
Since Eastern became a member of NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season, the Eagles are 29-26 against the Bengals, including a 20-7 record in Cheney and 8-18 mark in Pocatello (1-1 on neutral courts). Eastern lost eight-straight games to ISU from 1993 to 1997, and leads in the all-time series 32-27 (22-6 in Cheney, 9-20 in Pocatello, 1-1 neutral).
Earlier This Season . . . Eastern Loses at Idaho State 80-74: Idaho State had a 31-10 advantage in free throw attempts and went on to defeat Eastern Washington University 80-74 in a Big Sky Conference men's basketball game Jan. 22 at Holt Arena in Pocatello, Idaho.
The Eagles lost their third-straight game to fall to 2-5 in the league and 6-14 overall. The game featured eight ties and 14 lead changes until ISU took the lead for good with 6:22 to play.
Eastern was whistled for 24 fouls compared to 13 for the Bengals, leading to a 23-of-31 performance from the line by ISU while Eastern was just 4-of-10. In addition, four Eastern post players combined for 11 of the team's 15 turnovers.
"We shot ourselves in the foot too," said Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine. "It was the discrepancy in fouls and free throw shooting, as well as the 11 turnovers by our bigs, that was the difference in the game. We don't have that much margin for error where we can make up for those things."
Freshman Kevin Winford had a career-high 20 for the Eagles, senior Benny Valentine had 16 points and freshman Jeffrey Forbes added 14 for the Eagles. But the team's leading scorers this season -- Mark Dunn and Glen Dean -- combined for just 11 points after each entered the game averaging more than 12 per game. They were a combined 4-of-10 from the field as foul trouble limited Dunn to just 25 minutes and Dean to 22.
Dean, however, had eight assists and no turnovers, and Forbes chipped in three assists with no turnovers.
"Glen played terrific," said Earlywine. "If we had him on the floor more, the game would be a different story."
Idaho State finished the game with a 35-31 rebounding advantage, and had 12 offensive rebounds leading to 14 second-chance points. That and the foul trouble were too much for EWU to overcome.
"They got half of the shots they missed in the second half back on offensive rebounds," Earlywine explained. "Foul trouble played a big part in this game too. The ripple effect it had is hard for the average fan to understand the impact it had on this game."
Idaho State and the Eagles had entered Friday's game having each lost a pair of league games by four points or less. And it was close throughout, with the game knotted for the last time at 62. Idaho State then scored four-straight points to take the lead for good, and then made 8-of-8 free throws in the final 2:14 to ice the win.
Eastern shot an impressive 49 percent from the floor, but the Eagles missed four of their last six shots in the game.
"We shot 49 percent -- generally when you go on the road and shoot that well you have a chance to win," Earlywine added. "That end of the floor wasn't the problem -- it was the other end where we either got called for fouls or gave up offensive rebounds."
Eagles Sweep Montana Schools For The First Time Since 2004: Freshman Glen Dean led Eastern to a pair of victories over the Montana schools as he scored the winning points in each leg of Eastern's first conference sweep of the season and first back-to-back victories since Nov. 21. He scored seven of Eastern's final 11 points versus Montana State in a 74-69 win, and 10 of EWU's last 14 in a 69-68 victory over Montana.
For the weekend, he averaged 17.5 points and 5.5 assists while making 50 percent of his shots from the field, 5-of-9 three-pointers and 12-of-16 free throws. Eastern beat Montana for the first time in the last seven meetings, and it was the first sweep over the Montana schools since February 2004 when Eastern won a pair of road games over the Grizzlies and Bobcats. The last time Eastern swept them at home came in February 2003.
Dean, a 2008 graduate of Roosevelt High School in Seattle, scored seven of his 12 points in the final 1:06 against Montana State, including a three-pointer with 44 seconds to play that gave EWU the lead for good. That triumph snapped a seven game losing streak as Eastern hadn't won in more than a month since beating Montana State 75-73 on Jan. 10 on a shot with 3.8 seconds left by Dean.
Versus UM, Dean made a free throw with 2.5 seconds left to provide the final margin in a 69-68 victory over Montana that snapped a five-game winning streak for the Grizzlies. Dean finished with 23 points and seven assists, including 15 points in the second half and 10 in the final 5:56.
Dean made 7-of-8 free throws versus MSU as the Eagles finished 20-of-22 as a team. He made 4-of-5 three-pointers against Montana as Eastern finished with a season-best shooting night from the arc (63.2 percent and total of 12). Overall, he was 7-of-9 as EWU made a season-best 50.0 percent of its shots from the field (23-of-46).
"The plan is for him to make a play," said Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine of his late-game strategy against the Grizzlies. "If that means a good, clean look for him, then he should go ahead and shoot it. Or, he can drop it off to another player, but we want to put the ball in his hands and let him make the decision of where our shot is going to come from and what is going to happen in the last five seconds."
Winning close games helped Eastern sweep the season series with the Bobcats, and earn a split against Montana. The Grizzlies pulled away for a 79-66 win in Missoula on Jan. 8.
"It was big to avenge an earlier loss in which we had a lead in the second half," said Earlywine of the season split against Montana. "It was big to make sure you try to hold serve on your home court. And on top of all that, it was big from a confidence standpoint for our young players.
"The more times you are in those situations the more comfortable you are in those situations," he added. "We made plays down the stretch (against Montana State) that were winning plays, and we made plays down the stretch (against Montana) that were winning plays."
Quartet of Eagles Return to Puget Sound: Eagles Glen Dean, Jeffrey Forbes, Abebe Demissie and Brandon Moore returned to the Puget Sound area to play Seattle on Feb. 1. Dean is a 2008 graduate of Roosevelt High School in Seattle, and Demissie graduated the same year from Rainier Beach. Forbes is a 2009 graduate of Federal Way (Wash.) High School and Brandon Moore graduated in 2005 from Bethel High School in Graham, Wash.
Three of the Eagles won WIAA titles as seniors during their high school careers. Moore led Bethel to the 4A title in 2005, Demissie helped Rainier Beach win the 3A title in 2008 and Forbes contributed toward a Federal Way triumph in the 4A ranks in 2009.
EWU Season Recap Thus Far -- Eastern opened the season with a 64-58 loss to Portland on Nov. 14 after a pair of exhibition wins (98-61 over Saint Martin's and 67-58 over Montana State-Billings). The Eagles lost by just six points despite making only 32 percent from the field (15-of-47), allowing Portland to make 7-of-13 three-pointers and getting out-rebounded 37-24.
"I liked our shots -- we just didn't make them," said head coach Kirk Earlywine. "It's hard to win when you compound getting out-rebounded with giving up 54 percent from the arc and pile on top of that shooting 32 percent. Really, it's surprising that we were in the game with a chance."
The Eagles followed that with a 67-61 loss at Pacific 10 Conference member Washington State. The Eagles, who had a 17-9 lead early in the game, rallied with a 15-5 run late in the game to pull within one at 62-61 with 1:04 left. But the Cougars sandwiched a three-pointer and two free throws in the final 44 seconds around an Eagle turnover to score the final five points of the game.
The following night in a 100-88 helter-skelter victory over NCAA Division III Whitman College, Eastern made 50 percent of its shots from the field, had a 54-35 rebounding advantage and scored 56 points inside the paint. However, EWU finished with 30 turnovers to come one away from the school record of 31 against Washington in 1995. The game included 49 total turnovers, 56 total fouls (30 by Whitman) and 79 total free throws.
Despite playing its fourth game in eight days, the Eagles registered a 72-68 road victory at Texas Arlington on Nov. 21. Freshman Jeffrey Forbes had 24 points as the Eagles led from start to finish, opening a 16-point lead in the first half.
The Eagles followed that with an 82-69 home loss to Boise State as the Broncos took a 10-0 lead with eight early fast-break points. After BSU led by 14 at halftime, Eastern cut the lead to one in the second half. But eight-straight Bronco points helped put the lead out of reach as they equaled their biggest lead of 14 twice.
The Idaho game on Nov. 28 followed a similar pattern as the Eagles fell behind by scores of 12-3 and 36-15, and trailed at halftime 45-23. Both teams scored 31 points in the second half, and the game earlier EWU actually out-scored Boise State 39-38 after intermission.
The Eagles led from start to finish in their 89-61 victory on Dec. 1 against Walla Walla University, with Mark Dunn scoring 17 of his 23 points in the first half. In the following game against Portland State on Dec. 5, the Eagles had no answer for the 69 percent shooting night by Portland State and fell 98-75. The Vikings made 33-of-48 shots in the game, including a blistering 16-of-21 in the first half as EWU allowed its most points in nearly three years. Portland State used a 12-0 run in the first half to take the lead for good, and then scored 10 unanswered points in the second half to pull away.
The Eagles followed the PSU game with a week off, and then recorded a 100-97 overtime home victory over Seattle University on Dec. 12. The game featured 12 lead changes and seven ties, and the final time the game was knotted was at 87-all with 3:01 to play in overtime. But EWU's Glen Dean hit a driving layin, followed by a pair of baskets by Brandon Moore. Dean closed the 7-0 run with a free throw to give EWU a 94-87 advantage with 1:09 to play. Eastern, which had forced the overtime with a basket with 10 seconds to play in regulation by Dunn, closed the scoring in overtime with a pair of free throws by Kevin Winford with seven seconds left.
Eastern didn't have the same late-game magic against Nevada on Dec. 17, as Nevada's Brandon Fields nailed a three-pointer with 4.3 seconds to play to defeat Eastern 73-70. Dean, who finished with 13 points and 10 assists for the Eagles, missed a desperation three-pointer at the buzzer in a game that featured 15 ties and seven lead changes. Eastern missed four of its last five shots, including a pair with the game knotted at 70.
The Eagles then followed with a 91-34 loss at BYU. The Eagles scored the first basket against the Cougars, and then were out-scored 33-0 over the next 10 minutes. Eastern was out-shot 64 percent to 27 percent, and were out-rebounded 45-17. The 57-point setback was not the worst in school history -- EWU lost at New Mexico by 59 points, 121-62, on Dec. 3, 1993.
In a pair of neutral site games at the Las Vegas Classic, Eastern fell to Chicago State 62-53 and then lost to Jackson State 72-67. Eastern made only 28 percent of its shots against the Cougars, which used runs of 12-0 and 9-0 in the first half to take a 34-20 lead at intermission. Jackson State used a late 10-0 run to register its first victory in 11 games in the 2009-10 season.
The Eagles lost their fifth-straight game at nationally-ranked Gonzaga on Dec. 28, losing 94-52 after falling behind 53-25 at halftime. Eastern connected on just 28.8 percent of their shots from the field against Gonzaga, including just 4-of-24 behind the arc for 16.7 percent. Eastern was out-rebounded 56-35 in the game and had 16 turnovers in the first half, leading to 24 Gonzaga points off turnovers.
The Eagles snapped their losing streak when Dean and Dunn combined for 55 points in a 79-75 win over Sacramento State on Dec. 31. Eastern opened the game with a 13-0 run, and had led by as many as 16 points in each half as Dean tied the school record with seven three-pointers in 12 attempts.
A 79-66 loss at Montana followed, as the Grizzlies broke away from a 53-all tie in the second half. The game featured 12 ties and eight lead changes to that point, but the difference in the game was EWU's 22 turnovers compared to just seven for the Grizzlies. Montana scored 32 points off turnovers.
Two days after the Montana loss, Dean hit a running six-foot bank shot with 3.8 seconds remaining to lift the Eagles to a 75-73 upset over Montana State Jan. 10 at Worthington Arena in Bozeman, Mont. Dean scored 23 points, and also led the team with seven assists and six rebounds as Eastern recorded just its second road win in 11 tries.
But the Eagles followed with a pair of home losses, losing to Northern Arizona in a game that featured 12 ties and 18 lead changes, with the largest lead by either squad five points. One night later, the Eagles led by 15 in the first half against Northern Colorado, and then allowed the Bears to go on a 15-0 run to knot the score. Northern Colorado made its game-winning points with 22 seconds left after NAU hit its game-winner with 31 ticks of the clock remaining.
Eastern's losing streak increased to four games with road losses to Idaho State (80-74) and Weber State (89-67). The Idaho State game featured 14 lead changes and eight ties, but the Bengals took the lead for good with 6:22 to play. The next night, the Wildcats opened a 10-0 lead and led the entire way.
Eastern returned home to lose its fifth-straight game, falling 85-77 to Portland State. Eastern took a 59-45 lead early in the second half, but was out-scored 40-18 the final 15 minutes of the game. Eastern's sixth-straight loss came on Feb. 2 in a 68-62 loss at Seattle. Eastern took a 58-55 lead with 3:05 to play on a three-pointer by Winford, but didn't score in the next 2 1/2 minutes during Seattle's game-sealing 8-0 run. The Redhawks clinched the win by making 9-of-9 free throws in the final 1:49.
The seventh-straight loss for the Eagles came on Feb. 7 with a 74-67 loss at Sacramento State, which used an 18-7 run to end the first half to open a double-digit lead. The Hornets made three-straight shots late in the game after Eastern had cut the lead to three with 2:19 to play. Sac State closed out the win by making 5-of-8 free throws in the final 26 seconds. Eastern allowed Sac State to make 52 percent of its shots from the field, including 55 percent in the first half. The Eagles made only 38 percent.
Eastern rebounded from the Sac State with a pair of victories over the Montana schools as Dean scored the winning points in each leg of Eastern's first conference sweep of the season and first back-to-back victories since Nov. 21. He scored seven of Eastern's final 11 points versus Montana State in a 74-69 win, and 10 of EWU's last 14 in a 69-68 victory over Montana. Eastern beat Montana for the first time in the last seven meetings, and it was the first sweep over the Montana schools since February 2004 when Eastern won a pair of road games over the Grizzlies and Bobcats. The last time Eastern swept them at home came in February 2003.
Dean scored seven of his 12 points in the final 1:06, including a three-pointer with 44 seconds to play that gave EWU the lead for good in the win over Montana State. That triumph snapped a seven game losing streak as Eastern hadn't won in more than a month since beating Montana State 75-73 on Jan. 10 on a shot with 3.8 seconds left by Dean.
Two days later, Dean made a free throw with 2.5 seconds left to provide the final margin in a 69-68 victory over Montana that snapped a five-game winning streak for the Grizzlies. Dean finished with 23 points and seven assists, including 15 points in the second half and 10 in the final 5:56.
Dean made 7-of-8 free throws versus MSU as the Eagles finished 20-of-22 as a team. He made 4-of-5 three-pointers against Montana as Eastern finished with a season-best shooting night from the arc (63.2 percent and total of 12). Overall, he was 7-of-9 as EWU made a season-best 50.0 percent of its shots from the field (23-of-46).
Eastern's winning streak was short-lived, however, as it fell to Northern Colorado 58-54 on Feb. 18 in Greeley, Colo. The Eagles went 9:33 without a field goal in the second half as UNC used a 12-0 run to rally from a nine-point deficit for the win. A pair of late three-pointers by the Eagles were for naught as UNC took the lead for good with a three-pointer with 23 seconds to play.
In a 74-71 overtime loss at Northern Arizona on Feb. 20, Eastern used a 10-0 run to open an eight-point lead in the second half before NAU rallied. Although Eastern made just four of its last 15 shots in the game, senior Benny Valentine made a basket with 12.3 seconds left in regulation that helped send the game into overtime, and Dean scored with 10 seconds to play in overtime to knot the score at 71. After missing his first 11 attempts in the game from the arc, NAU's Gabe Rogers made four treys in the final 3:27 of regulation and overtime, including a game-winning three-pointer with 1.8 seconds remaining in OT.
Grueling Schedule Early for Eagles: Eastern faced a grueling early-season schedule with eight games in a 22-day span. The Eagles then had a week off for fall quarter final exams at EWU before facing the full-court pressure of a very athletic and talented Seattle University team on Dec. 12. Despite playing with four freshmen at times in their lineup, the Eagles had just 15 turnovers in the game and used a 7-0 run in overtime to prevail 100-97.
Eastern followed that with four games in seven nights, starting with a hard-fought 73-70 loss at Nevada on Dec. 17 in which Eastern lost on a Wolf Pack three-pointer with 4.3 seconds remaining. That game featured 15 ties and seven lead changes, with the Seattle game including 12 ties and seven lead changes.
Eastern followed those encouraging games with a trio of discouraging ones. Eastern had a pair of start-to-finish losses against Brigham Young (91-34 on Dec. 19) and Chicago State (62-53 on Dec. 22), and then lost to previously winless Jackson State (72-67 on Dec. 23). The BYU game had just one lead change as the Cougars went on a 33-0 run after EWU scored the first basket of the game. The fifth game of the losing streak came at nationally-ranked Gonzaga on Dec. 28.
Eagles Spend First Month Dealing with Injuries: The heavy schedule and five injuries in November did not allow the Eagles to have as productive of practices as head coach Kirk Earlywine would like. But that has changed in mid-December as EWU became healthy again.
The Eagles spent the first month of the season dealing with injuries to five Eagles -- Gary Gibson (knees), Brandon Moore (foot and ankle), Abebe Demissie (hamstring), Kevin Winford (concussion) and Matthew Brunell (ankle). The missed time impacted Eastern not only in games, but in practice.
"We've already had a season's worth of bad luck," said Earlywine before Eastern's league opener on Dec. 5. "Hopefully we're close to being through it and we don't have any more. It's been hard, and it's been hard because you can't practice effectively."
Brunell and Winford suffered their injuries in the second game of the season, and Moore missed the Walla Walla game and parts of another with a sprained ankle. Moore also missed much of the preseason because of a foot injury that required minor surgery. Brunell missed five full games and parts of two others; Gibson missed six games; and Winford missed two.
Brunell continued to be bothered by his injury, and then missed Eastern's game against Sacramento State with an injury to his other ankle. Another sprained ankle, this time by starter Alden Gibbs, kept him out of four games from Jan. 15 to Jan. 23.