Eagles Start and Finish Fast, But Fall to Cougars 67-61
Now 0-2, Eastern tries to win first game of the season Tuesday at home versus Whitman College
Eastern Washington University used defense to open an early lead and an offensive burst to pull within one in the final minute, but Washington State was able to squeak out a 67-61 non-conference college basketball victory over the Eagles Monday (Nov. 16) at Friel Court in Pullman, Wash.
The Eagles 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 Cougars improved to 2-0 while EWU fell to 0-2. The Eagles look for their first win of the season Tuesday (Nov. 17) against Whitman College in a game that starts at 7:05 p.m. at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.
The Eagles and Cougars both made 42 percent of their shots in the game, but EWU had a 39-32 rebounding edge. Two days ago against Portland, Eastern was out-rebounded by 13.
"Our effort level defensively and rebounding was where it needed to be," said Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine. "I told our team I was very disappointed right now that we let one get through our grasp that maybe we could have won. But I'm not discouraged at all -- I really like our team right now."
Eastern led in the first half 17-9, but an 11-0 Cougar run early in the second half helped WSU take command until the final minutes. Eastern had 14 turnovers in the game and the Cougars had a 20-10 advantage at the free throw line.
Eastern senior Mark Dunn led the Eagles with nine first-half points, and finished with a career-high 17 in the game. He made 7-of-9 shots from the field, including 3-of-4 three-point attempts, and also had six rebounds and three assists.
Senior Brandon Moore finished with a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds. Freshman point guard Glen Dean chipped in 13 points and three assists, and senior Benny Valentine added six assists.
Three Cougars combined to score 55 of their team's 67 points, including 24 by Clay Thompson, who made the crucial three-pointer with 44 seconds to play.
Eastern took an early 13-7 lead, holding WSU to just three field goals in the first 13:38, including a span of more than seven minutes when all WSU could score was four free throws. The Eagles led 17-9 with 8:37 left, but scored just eight points the rest of the half to fall behind 30-25 at intermission.
In the second half, Eastern trailed just 39-35 when the Cougars took command with an 11-0 run. Eastern went 4:44 without scoring as WSU took a 50-35 advantage.
Eastern still trailed 57-46 with 4 1/2 minutes to play before going on a furious 15-5 run to pull within a single point.
"Offensively our execution wasn't very good, particularly in the last six minutes of the first half, and we had nine turnovers in the first half," said Earlywine. "But we cleaned it up in the second half and had only five turnovers and had better shots."
Eastern was facing WSU head coach Ken Bone for the 10th time, but the first with him as WSU's head coach. Eastern was 5-4 against Bone in his previous four seasons with Big Sky Conference rival Portland State, but he won the last three Eagle-Viking meetings.
Bone's up-tempo teams averaged 72.6 points against the Eagles, including a 92-86 victory in 2007 and an 83-61 victory last season. He takes over a WSU team that finished 17-16 overall and 8-10 in the Pacific 10 Conference last season.
Eastern has played WSU just once since the 1998-99 season, with the Eagles falling 68-41 on Nov. 9, 2007, in Pullman in the official EWU coaching debut for Earlywine. The Eagles are now 11-52 in the all-time series against Washington State, and 12-68 all-time against the Pacific 10 Conference.
The Whitman match-up will be the third game in four days for EWU as Eastern takes on the NCAA Division III member. The Missionaries, who will open their season against the Eagles, were 9-16 overall last season and 5-11 in the Northwest Conference.
Just a few days after that on Nov. 21, Eastern plays at Texas-Arlington. That will be the fourth game in eight days for the Eagles.
"We have to play better tomorrow night than we did tonight," added Earlywine. "Then we have to get better before we play Texas Arlington on Saturday. With our young players, all I'm looking for is that we play better than the game before. And we definitely played better tonight than we did against Portland."
Eastern opened the season with a 64-58 loss to Portland on Saturday (Nov. 14), while Washington State defeated Mississippi Valley State 94-66 one night earlier. 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.
Eagles versus Whitman -- Eastern is 28-7 all-time against Whitman, with the last meeting a 90-78 victory by the Eagles on Jan. 10, 1995. Before that, the only other meeting since Eastern became a NCAA Division I member in the 1983-84 season came on Dec. 3, 1988, when the Eagles won at home 95-70. Eastern has won the last seven meetings, with the last Whitman victory coming on Jan. 7, 1974, by a 68-62 score.