Eagles fall to nationally-ranked Gonzaga in EWU's third game in a seven-day span
A barrage of three-pointers in the first half helped 24th-ranked Gonzaga open a 49-20 lead at halftime and the Bulldogs went on to defeat undermanned Eastern Washington University 86-57 Tuesday (Nov. 30) in a non-conference college basketball game at the McCarthey Center in Spokane, Wash.
Gonzaga, unranked this week in the Associated Press poll but ranked 24th by the coaches, hit 9-of-10 treys in the first half, including a remarkable 6-of-7 performance by Steven Gray. The victory improved Gonzaga's record to 4-2.
"A couple of Gray's threes were mistakes by us -- but credit him -- you still have to make the shot," said Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine of GU's early shooting. "If you let a player like Gray get going, it's going to be a long night."
Guard Jeffrey Forbes scored 18 points and had seven rebounds and three assists to lead the Eagles, who fell to 1-5 this season with the loss. Eastern will host New Hope Christian College from Eugene, Ore., on Saturday (Dec. 4) in a game that has been moved from 3:05 p.m. to 7:05 p.m. because of the football playoff game EWU is hosting that day.
Eastern was playing its third game in seven nights.
"We knew it was going to be tough," said Earlywine, who had three of his front-line players get in foul trouble. "When we played Washington, they posed problems with their speed and quickness, and Gonzaga posed problems with their size and physical strength. I knew we would be in foul trouble on the front line and we were."
Because of injuries, the Eagles played the game without a true point guard for the third time in six games this season. Returning starter Glen Dean (stress fracture in his foot) has not played this season, and Cliff Colimon (sprained ankle) has missed three of EWU's six games. The absence of a true point guard helped lead to 12 first-half turnovers for the Eagles.
"When you are playing without a point guard, it's tough," Earlywine explained. "We have a lot of set plays that release some pressure, but we can't run them. We have to have a quarterback in there."
Including the absence of Rashano McCrae (concussion), the Eagles played with only eight players against GU. Normally a program that plays mostly man-to-man defense, the Eagles have resorted to playing mostly zone because of their injuries.
"It would have been ugly if we would have played man-to-man with eight guys," said Earlywine of Gonzaga's early-game hot shooting. "Probably four of their nine in the first have we could have taken care of (with better decisions)."
Gray finished with all 18 of his points in the first half. A total of four Bulldogs scored in double figures, including 13 by Mathi Moenninghoff, who made all five of his shots and all three of his three-point attempts.
The Bulldogs finished the game making 58 percent of their shots from the field, including 11-of-16 three-point attempts (69 percent). Eastern made only 34 percent, including 8-of-24 from the three-point stripe (33 percent). The Eagles were out-rebounded 37-36 and finished with five more turnovers than GU (21-16).
"I was disappointed we weren't tougher with the ball," said Earlywine. "And we had some ill-advised drives to the basket that resulted in turnovers."
The game was knotted at 2-2 when Gray hit a trey in an 8-0 run that gave the Bulldogs a 10-2 early advantage. Gonzaga led 20-10 when Gray hit a trio of three-pointers in a 16-2 Bulldog run that gave them a 36-12 lead. Eastern went 4 1/2 minutes without scoring during that stretch. Gonzaga added two more three-pointers after that, and never allowed the Eagles to score back-to-back baskets in the first 20 minutes.
Gonzaga scored the first five points of the second half to open a 34-point advantage, then continued to pad its lead as the Eagles went 4:14 without scoring during one stretch to turn fall behind 80-38 with 7:07 to play.