Eagles Hold Off Seattle 95-91 For First D-I Win
After scoring three points with one rebound at San Jose State, Tremayne Johnson has monster game with 26 points in win over Redhawks
Everybody knew Eastern Washington University's men's basketball team was a different squad with point guard Glen Dean on the floor.
But forward Tremayne Johnson was also a key component for the Eagles as he scored a career-high 26 points on near-perfect shooting in EWU's fast-paced 95-91 victory over Seattle University Wednesday (Dec. 15) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.
Johnson scored a career-high 26 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the floor and 9-of-10 marksmanship from the free throw line. He also had eight rebounds and four blocked shots as he responded in a big way from a three-point, one-rebound effort at San Jose State last Sunday (Dec. 12). His previous career high came in EWU's season-opener versus San Jose State on Nov. 12 when he finished with 21 points.
"It was the kind of game -- especially in the second half -- that things got scrambled," said Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine. "There was a lot of read and react basketball that took the thinking out of it for Tremayne. He has the most difficult position to learn in all the things we are doing offensively. The (two forward positions) are dramatically different in all of our sets, and he has to learn those two spots. Seattle scrambled the game and when they did that it became read and react, and it played into Tremayne's hands."
It was the first of three games in a six-day span for Eastern, which improved to 3-6 with its first victory against a NCAA Division I opponent this season. Seattle fell to 4-9 and will host EWU in a rematch in Seattle on Jan. 6.
"Division I, I-AA, three, six -- I don't care what it was -- we needed a win," said Earlywine. "Sure we needed to beat a Division I team, but we needed a win. We needed to play well and need time on the floor with all of our guys, and that's more important than anything else. We only have two weeks until we play a conference game and we have to be ready by then."
Dean made his first appearance of the season at Reese Court, and finished with 11 points, four assists and a steal in 28 minutes of action. The sophomore point guard, who was out for two months with a stress fracture in his foot, made his debut last Sunday (Dec. 12) against San Jose State and finished with 23 points, four assists and just one turnover in 30 minutes of action.
Prior to making his debut, he practiced just twice prior for an hour each after getting cleared to play. In addition, several other Eagles missed games and practice time the last two months, including EWU's other point guard -- Cliff Colimon -- who missed four games with an ankle injury.
"We're reinventing ourselves in the middle of December and that's never comforting for a coach to have to change like that," said Earlywine. "We've had to be patient because we had nine new guys, but it's been extraordinarily trying and difficult for the team as well as the coaches (to deal with the injuries)."
Besides Johnson and Dean, Colimon finished with 18 points and a pair of assists as five Eagles scored in double figures. Jeffrey Forbes had 20 points and four assists, and Kevin Winford chipped in 10 points.
The game was close through most of the first half, and Seattle led 25-24 at the 7:04 mark of the first half. But Eastern closed the half with a 21-10 run -- including 11 points by Colimon -- and EWU led 45-35 at halftime.
The Eagles continued the run in the second half, scoring 14 of the first 18 points after intermission to take a 59-39 lead with 16:09 left. Eastern then led 73-54 with 8:18 on a dunk by Johnson, but that would be the last field goal of the night for the Eagles as Seattle decided shortly thereafter to put the Eagles at the free throw line where they were just 62 percent entering the game.
But Eastern made 22-of-27 free throws to hold-off the frantic rally by the Redhawks, who cut the lead to two before Eastern made its last six free throws to clinch the win. In fact, Eastern's last field goal attempt came with 4:24 left, as Forbes was 8-of-8 and Johnson was 7-of-7 from the charity stripe in the last 7:25.
The Eagles now go on the road to play 8-2 Nebraska on Saturday (Dec. 18) and 4-7 South Dakota the following Monday (Dec. 18). Following a break for Christmas, the Eagles start Big Sky Conference play at home versus Sacramento State (Dec. 29) and Northern Colorado (Dec. 31).
"I don't want to say that everything leading up to that conference game is irrelevant, but in some ways it is," added Earlywine. "We have to be ready when Sacramento State comes in here between Christmas and New Year's Day. And having Glen Dean out there on the floor certainly helps us."