In the 11th EWU game this season to be decided by six points or less, Eagles drop third-straight and play at league leader Weber State on Saturday
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 Friday (Jan. 22) at Reed Gym in Pocatello, Idaho.
The Eagles lost their third-straight game and are now 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."
Idaho State improved to 2-5 in the league and 5-14 overall with the victory, having entered the game with a four-game losing streak. Last week, Weber State defeated ISU 95-93 in triple overtime in the lone game for those two teams.
The game was the 11th of 20 Eastern games this season to be decided by six points or less, including the last four. Freshman Kevin Winford had a career-high 20 for the Eagles, who are now 4-7 in those 11 nail-biters.
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, then made 8-of-8 free throws in the final 2:14 to ice the win.
With starter Alden Gibbs out with a sprained ankle, the Eagles have played their last three games with just nine players available. However, 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."
Eastern plays Saturday at league-leading Weber State, which edged Portland State 86-83 on Friday. Tipoff Saturday is 6:05 p.m. Pacific time, with the game aired via radio in the Spokane area on 1050-AM. The game is also available at www.bigskytv.org and www.teamline.cc.
"They're good and we'll have our hands full," said Earlywine of the Wildcats, who are 6-1 in the league and 12-7 overall. "But it's a great opportunity to knock off the No. 1 team in the league on their home floor."
Eastern hasn't won since winning at Montana State 75-73 on Jan. 10 on a basket with 3.8 seconds remaining by Dean. The Eagles followed that by losing a pair of home games in the final seconds, falling to Northern Arizona 73-69 on Jan. 15 and Northern Colorado 74-71 the following night.
Eastern lost to NAU in a game that featured 12 ties and 18 lead changes, with the largest lead by either squad five points. The Lumberjacks would go on to defeat Portland State and register a road sweep.
The Eagles led by 15 in the first half against Northern Colorado, 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 against EWU with 31 ticks of the clock remaining.
EWU-Weber State Series History (Since 1983-84): The Eagles have lost the last two meetings, and the last three in Ogden.
Since Eastern became a member of NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season, the Eagles are 19-34 against Weber State (19-35 all-time). The Eagles are 14-11 in Cheney, 3-23 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.
The Eagles have won 13 of the last 29 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.