Despite rallying from an 11-point deficit, Eastern road losing streak reaches 17 games as EWU falls to 5-14 overall and 2-5 in the league
Spoiling a comeback from an 11-point deficit, a rebound basket by Duro Bjegovic with one second to play lifted Sacramento State past Eastern Washington 57-55 in a Big Sky Conference men’s basketball game Saturday (Jan. 22) in Sacramento, Calif.
A trio of Eastern newcomers -- Laron Griffin, Treymane Johnson and Cliff Colimon -- combined for 39 points and 18 rebounds to pace the Eagles. However, Eastern’s trio of returning sophomore guards -- Glen Dean, Jeffrey Forbes and Kevin Winford -- combined for 0-of-17 shooting as the Eagles finished at 41 percent for the game.
Eastern held Sacramento State to 37 percent shooting from the field, but the Eagles had 15 turnovers compared to just 11 for the Hornets.
“In five of the last six halves we are starting to develop an identity defensively where we can keep ourselves in games when we are not shooting the ball well,” said Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine. “It was a matter tonight that the ball didn’t go in the basket.”
“We had unbelievably clean looks, especially from the arc,” he added. “There are nights that it’s going to happen like this, but it doesn’t mean you can’t win the game. You have guard your butt off, you have rebound your butt off and you have to take care of the ball.”
The loss dropped EWU to 5-14 overall and 2-5 in the Big Sky Conference, while the Hornets improved to 4-15 and 1-7 in the league. The Hornets, who lost 88-79 overtime to the Eagles in Cheney on Dec. 29, snapped a nine-game losing streak dating back to their last victory on Dec. 10 versus William Jessup.
The Eagles now play five of their final nine league games at home. Plus, Eastern will host a yet to be announced opponent on either Feb. 18 or 19 in the ESPN BracketBusters.
Johnson and Griffin each scored 14 points for the Eagles, with Griffin adding 10 rebounds for the second double-double in his career and first against a NCAA Division I opponent. Colimon made 4-of-5 shots and finished with 11 points and three assists, and Cliff Ederaine added eight points, six rebounds, three blocked shots and two steals.
Dean finished with eight assists and missed all seven of his attempts, including five three-pointers. Forbes was 0-of-8 and also missed five treys, and Winford missed both of his shots -- both three-pointers as EWU finished just 4-of-19 as a team for 21 percent.
Eastern out-rebounded the Hornets 33-32, and held its second-straight opponent to less than 60 points. Sacramento State scored 20 of its points off Eastern’s turnovers.
“On the road you have to guard and rebound, and we did those two things, plus held them to 37 percent shooting,” Earlywine said. “We just had an unbelievable amount of turnovers for the way that game was played. There was no excuse for the way we gave the ball away tonight.”
The loss extended EWU’s losing streak on the road to 17 games -- 11 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.
While the Eagles are 0-10 on the road this season with a 17-game road losing streak dating back to last year, the Eagles have won five of eight games at home.
The Hornets used Eastern scoreless stretches of three, three and six minutes to open an 11-point lead early in the second half at 37-26. But a 16-6 run knotted the game at 46 with 6:16 to play, and the Eagles took the lead with 1:44 on a tip-in basket by Griffin.
Dean’s two free throws knotted the score with 12 seconds remaining, then Sultan Toles-Bey missed a shot with three seconds left that was rebounded by Bjegovic for the winning points.
“I was concerned getting behind by double digits on the road, but we were getting better shots than they were,” said Earlywine of his team’s comeback. “We were getting pretty good shots and we just needed to stay the course. Our guys didn’t panic -- they kept guarding and they kept rebounding and got us back in the game.”
The Eagles were coming off a 72-59 victory two days earlier over Northern Arizona, which was held to 16 points fewer than its league-leading scoring average of 75.1 points per game. Eastern’s last outing before that was a 71-59 loss at Montana State when EWU was out-scored 48-33 in the second half after leading by three at intermission
Prior to the NAU win, Eastern had finished winless on a four-game road stretch. Eastern also lost 66-47 to Montana last week, and in both games against the Grizzlies and Bobcats, a 15-1 run contributed greatly to putting EWU in a hole it could not dig out of.
Since that victory over Sac State, the Eagles had lost five-straight games before the win over NAU. The Eagles held Montana State to 30 percent shooting en route to leading 29-23 at halftime, but then allowed the Bobcats to make 73 percent in the second half.