Eastern Can’t Match Firepower of Titans in 91-76 Loss

Eagles allow 50 points in the first half to open difficult road stretch

Eastern Washington University’s Cliff Colimon and Collin Chiverton were front and center in an old-fashioned shootout Sunday (Dec. 11) afternoon in Fullerton, Calif.

But the Eagles couldn’t match the firepower for Cal State Fullerton and lost to the Titans 91-76 in a non-conference collegiate men’s basketball game at Titan Gym.

Chiverton scored 26 points and Colimon had 23, as EWU fell to 5-4 in the beginning of a stretch in which they play five of six games on the road. Next, Eastern plays its third game of the season against a Pac-12 Conference opponent when they visit UCLA on Wednesday (Dec. 14). Tipoff in that game is 7:30 p.m. Pacific time at the Los Angeles Sports Center.

But with four of their five starters having transferred from four-year schools – including a pair from Cal – the Big West Conference school might as well been a Pac-12 team for as talented as they were.

“Our guys kept battling – we never acted like we couldn’t get back in it,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford, after his team fell behind 30-15 and played catch-up the rest of the game. “We just couldn’t get over the hump and had a couple of tough breaks go against us. There are going to be road trips where the first night doesn’t go our way, but we have to get it together and go play well in the next game. This game gives us that experience and that’s where we want to go with it.”

The Titans, who were coming off an impressive 81-50 road win at Utah on Dec. 7, improved to 6-3 with their third-straight victory. Eastern is now 1-4 all-time versus Cal State Fullerton, with the last meeting resulting in a 110-100 home victory for EWU on Nov. 27, 2006.

The Titans made 53 percent (28-of-53) of their shots from the field in Sunday’s win, including 11-of-20 from the 3-point arc. They led most of the way, and after a 50-41 lead at halftime, never trailed by less than eight in the second half. It was the highest point total the Eagles have surrendered this season, eclipsing the 77 Gonzaga scored in a season-opening 77-69 loss for the Eagles in Spokane.

“If you are going to play a team that talented, you have buy in defensively and stop them,” Hayford said. “Our defense was a lot better in the second half, but in the first half they got their confidence.”

Eastern, meanwhile, made 43 percent (30-of-70) of its shots, including 11-of-29 shots from the 3-point arc (38 percent). The Titans also enjoyed a huge advantage at the free throw line, making 24-of-32 compared to 5-of-11 for the Eagles, and out-rebounded EWU 40-34.

Eastern had 10 turnovers to the 13 for the Titans, with Colimon finishing with three steals and just one turnover while playing the entire game. Eastern has now had fewer turnovers than its opponent in all nine games this season.

Chiverton, Eastern’s leading scorer with an average of 16.4 points per game, had his fifth 20-point outing in nine games this season. He made 11-of-23 shots from the field, but was just 3-of-11 from the 3-point stripe. Colimon made 9-of-18 shots, and added six rebounds, four assists and his three steals.

Junior guard Jeffrey Forbes added 12 points on 5-of-5 shooting from the field, but the rest of the team made just 5-of-24 shots (21 percent).

“I thought it was Chiverton’s most complete second half – he hit shots and played some good defense,” praised Hayford. “Cliff Colimon played a very good game with 23 points and only one turnover, and played all 40 minutes. We just didn’t have an inside presence.”

All five Cal State Fullerton starters scored in double figures, led by the 25 of Isiah Umipig and a double-double by Cal transfer Omondi Amoke with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Umipig was a teammate with Forbes at Federal Way (Wash.) High School.

“Fullerton is a very good basketball team, obviously,” Hayford said. “They have some real high-level transfers who were big-time recruits out of high school. They are coming together as a team and are going to be good team in the Big West. They had some injuries early in the year, but they are right at the top of the Big West – that’s a very good league.”

Eastern led early 11-10 on a pair of treys by Chiverton, but a 20-4 Cal State Fullerton gave the Titans the lead for good. Although that was also the biggest lead Cal State Fullerton would have all day, Eastern could come no closer than eight points on three occasions in the first half and two in the second half.

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