Eagles Come Up With Big Plays Late In Crucial 69-67 Win Over Bengals
An 18-game road losing streak comes to an end as Johnson scores winning basket with 20 seconds to play after big plays by Forbes and Dean
Junior Tremayne Johnson gets credit for the game-winner, but sophomores Jeffrey Forbes and Glen Dean came up with the biggest plays down the stretch for the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team.
Johnson scored the game-winner with 20 seconds to play after a steal by Forbes as the Eagles snapped an 18-game road losing streak with a 69-67 Big Sky Conference victory over Idaho State Saturday (Feb. 5 at Holt Arena in Pocatello, Idaho.
Dean also hit a key three-pointer with 36 seconds left that helped erase a four-point ISU lead in the final minute. And after ISU had taken a nine-point advantage late in the game, it was a trey by Forbes with 4:34 remaining that ended a 10-2 Eastern run.
The last time Eastern tasted victory on the road was more than a year ago on Jan. 10, 2010, when Dean made a game-winning, six-foot running bank shot with 3.8 seconds to play in a 75-73 victory at Montana State.
“I was so happy for our players -- that was fun,” said Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine, whose team has no seniors on its roster. “We showed unbelievable resiliency in just hanging in there. We hung in there and hung in there long enough to win it.
“It’s fun to watch these young players grow right before our eyes,” he added. “As you get into February and March, everything gets cranked up a level and you have to grind to get wins. Whatever it was, we had it tonight.”
Dean scored 17 points and had three assists and a pair of steals to lead the Eagles, who improved to 8-15 overall and 5-6 in the Big Sky. The Bengals, who had not played since the Eagles defeated ISU 83-70 last Saturday (Jan. 29), are now 6-16 overall and 2-8 in the league.
“Glen looked like the player he was a year ago,” said Earlywine of his point guard who missed two months of practices and games because of a stress fracture in his foot. “Because of his late start, he hasn’t looked right -- we all know that. We’re way better with him than without him, but that looked like the old Glen Dean out there against Idaho State.”
Johnson scored 10 of his 15 points in the second half, and received praise from Earlywine after the junior college transfer made all four of his field goal attempts and 7-of-9 free throws. Junior Cliff Colimon was the third Eagle to score in double figures with 11.
“Tremayne has been unable to turn his game around during a game,” explained Earlywine. “He hasn’t been able to start a game poorly and turn it around and play well the rest of the game -- and tonight he did. That shows maturity and growth on his part, and that makes us really happy.”
Eastern made only 43 percent of its shots from the field and was out-rebounded 32-30, but the Eagles had a season-low seven turnovers. That gave them just 19 on its two-game road trip.
“On the road we’ve turned the ball over a lot this season,” said Earlywine, whose team was averaging 16.4 turnovers per game on the road entering the road trip. “On this trip we did a good job of taking care of the ball. That will give you a chance to win on the road a lot of times.”
The first half featured six ties and five lead changes, with EWU leading by three on two occasions early in the game. Idaho State led by as many as six before settling for a 30-28 halftime lead.
Eastern took its first lead of the second half at 30-28, but the Bengals built a nine-point lead at 54-45 and looked like they were taking control. But the Eagles followed with a 10-2 run to pull within a single point at 56-55 with 4:34 remaining in the game. Dean scored four points in the run.
The Eagles eventually tied it on back-to-back baskets by Dean and junior Laron Griffin, but four free throws put the Bengals back up by four with 44 seconds to play. After the late-game heroics by Dean, Forbes and Johnson, ISU’s Kenny McGowan missed a shot that could have sent the game into overtime.
“If that shot goes in, it goes in,” said Earlywine. “We defended it as well as we could. Obviously, if you’re only up by two you don’t want to foul. There was time for them to run that ball all the way to the rim and that was a delicate situation.”
The Eagles were coming off a 63-53 loss at Big Sky Conference leader Northern Colorado two nights earlier as the Bears rallied from an eight-point halftime deficit. Eastern was whistled for 12 more fouls than Northern Colorado as the Bears made 28-of-33 in the game, including 19-of-22 in the second half. Eastern was 4-of-7 from the line in the game.
While the Eagles are now 1-12 on the road this season, the Eagles have won seven of 10 games at Reese Court. The Eagles play four of their final six games at home, including three league contests and a game versus Cal State Northridge on Feb. 19 at 7:05 p.m. Pacific time in the ESPN BracketBusters.