Hornets use 18-7 run to end the first half to open double-digit lead as Eastern loses its seventh-straight game
Sacramento State used an 18-7 run to end the first half to open a double-digit lead, then held on to defeat Eastern Washington Uni versity 74-67 in a Big Sky Conference men's basketball game Sunday (Feb.7) at Hornet Gym in Sacramento, Calif.
The loss was the seventh-straight for the Eagles, who are now 2-8 in the Big Sky and 6-18 overall heading into Friday's (Feb. 12) home game versus Montana State. Sacramento State is now 9-16 overall and 3-9 in the league.
Freshman Jeffrey Forbes scored 18 points to lead three Eagles in double figures. Four Hornets scored in double figures, led by the 17 of Justin Eller.
Eller had two of the three-straight baskets the Hornets made 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.
"They made a couple of contested baskets," Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine said of Sac State's late surge. "But those aren't the ones that get you beat. Our mistakes are what beat us."
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.
"They drove on us a lot -- that was a recurring theme in this game," said Earlywine. "In the final 15 seconds of the shot clock, somebody drove the ball on us. When the shot clock gets down to those short seconds like that, you need to really dig in and be tougher. We weren't able to do that."
Forbes made 6-of-7 shots from the field, including 4-of-6 three-pointers, and had three assists. Freshman Glen Dean added 15 points, five assists and four rebounds, and Mark Dunn chipped in 11 points and eight rebounds.
However, post players Dunn, Brandon Moore and Matt Brunell scored just four points in the first half on 1-of-11 shooting.
"When you shoot 38 percent it's hard," said Earlywine. "In the first half, Matt, Mark and Brandon went 1-of-11. That's pretty tough to overcome. We missed 18 shots in the first half and had only four offensive rebounds. That was an indication our front line guys were not playing hard enough."
Sophomore Laron Griffin finished with nine points and six rebounds, and freshmen Kevin Winford and Abebe Demissie combined to add six points and five rebounds.
"We had a lot more good play than bad out of those freshmen and Laron," added Earlywine. "They looked like young players at times today. The only thing you can do is try to learn from your mistakes, and we'll try to make sure they don't recur."
The game was tied at 19 when Sac State went on its 18-7 run to take a 37-26 advantage at halftime. Eastern trailed by as many as 12 in the second half before EWU used a pair of 5-0 runs to whittle the lead to four at 60-56 on a pair of free throws by Dean. Moments later, Winford hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to three.
With three freshmen now in their starting lineup --Dean, Forbes and Winford -- Eastern hasn't won since beating Montana State 75-73 on Jan. 10 on a basket with 3.8 seconds remaining by Dean. Since then, four of EWU's losses have been decided by six points or less. So far this season, 12 of 23 Eastern games have been decided by six points or less, including the four prior to falling by 22 at Weber State on Jan. 23. EWU is 4-8 in those 12 nail-biters.
Eastern plays MSU at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, then hosts Montana on Sunday (Feb. 14) at 1:05 p.m.