Despite “Outstanding” First Half, Eagles Fall to Montana State 71-59

After holding Bobcats to 30 percent shooting in the first half, MSU makes 73 percent in the second half as EWU goes without a field goal for more than seven minutes

After an outstanding first half, the switch was flipped to off in the second half for the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team.

Montana State went from 30 percent shooting in the first half to 73 percent after intermission to register a 71-59 Big Sky Conference victory over the Eagles Sunday (Jan. 16) at Worthington Arena in Bozeman, Mont. Eastern went without a field goal for 7:10 in the second half to provide the nail in the coffin.

Sophomore point guard Glen Dean paced the Eagles with 17 points, four assists and a pair of steals as the Eagles fell to 4-13 overall and 1-4 in the league. Fellow sophomore guard Kevin Winford made 4-of-10 three-point attempts and finished with 14 points against MSU, which is now 11-7 overall and 5-1 in the league.

Eastern returns home to face Northern Arizona on Thursday (Jan. 20), at 7:05 p.m. Pacific time at Reese Court, then closes a stretch of 5-of-6 games on the road at Sacramento State on Jan. 22.

“I don’t understand how that can happen after how well we played defensively in the first half, which was just outstanding,” said Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine. “I was pleased with our level of competitiveness in the first half -- other than some missed block-outs that caused us to be outrebounded by nine. We guarded our butts off and had only four turnovers.”

The loss extended EWU’s losing streak on the road to 16 games -- 10 games this year and six to end the 2009-10 season. The last time Eastern tasted victory on the road was 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.

The Eagles found themselves poised for another upset, and were leading 34-31 early in the second half. But a 15-1 Montana State helped the Bobcats open a double-digit lead as EWU went from 16:32 to 9:22 without a field goal. The closest Eastern came after that was seven

“In the second half it almost looked like we flipped a switch,” said Earlywine. “Our team played well and got ourselves a three-point  lead, but the way we were getting it done apparently wasn’t pretty enough for us. It looked like we were trying to outscore them 50-48 in the second half. When you struggle to score the ball in the paint, that’s hard to do.”

Eastern led at halftime 26-23 after a first half that featured four ties and five lead changes. There were three more ties and three lead changes in the second half before the roof caved in.

“We talked for a couple of days about playing like an underdog, with a chip on our shoulder and as guys that weren’t highly recruited,” said Earlywine. “We wanted to play like we had something to prove, especially on the defensive end of the floor. And we did that in the first half.”

Five Bobcats scored in double figures, with Bobby Howard, Erik Rush and Rod Singleton each finishing with 14. Howard scored all of his points in the second half as the Bobcats remained unbeaten at home in eight home games this season.

Big Sky Conference rebounding leader Cliff Ederaine added nine points and a team-high seven boards for the Eagles. But Eastern’s inside game was inconsistent, and the Eagles were out-rebounded by a huge 39-22 margin.

“We didn’t change anything from a coaching perspective in the second half,” added Earlywine. “We have to keep going inside, and we did that in the first half even though we didn’t get a lot of points. We had a three-point halftime lead on the road in a league game against a team that is undefeated at home. They are very good here. We had played very good basketball in the first half, then we went sideways in the second half.”


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