Eagles make only 26 percent from the field to spoil 42-32 rebounding advantage over towering Bruins
The game plan worked, but the shooting eye for the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team didn’t cooperate.
A slow-down strategy worked in the first half and kept the game close for the first 27 minutes, but UCLA took advantage of a huge shooting advantage to knock off the Eagles 60-47 in a non-conference basketball game Wednesday (Dec. 14) at the Los Angeles Sports Center, the temporary home for the Bruins while famed Pauley Pavilion undergoes renovations.
Eastern made only 26 percent of its shots from the field (15-of-58) – including a 1-of-16 shooting effort by its starting backcourt. That spoiled a 42-32 rebounding advantage over the much-taller Bruins, including 19 on the offensive end.
“We wanted to make the first half slow so we wouldn’t get in foul trouble,” explained Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. “We wanted to go play the game we wanted and make it a 20-minute game. The game plan worked, we just didn’t make shots.
“We had them spread out and we were able to crash the boards,” Hayford said of EWU’s biggest rebounding advantage against a NCAA Division I opponent this year. “That was a great job.”
However, UCLA made 42 percent if its field goals (18-of-43), sinking 6-of-12 3-pointers and 18-of-26 free throws. Guard Lazeric Jones led the way for the Bruins with 19 points, making 7-of-10 shots with a trio of 3-pointers.
Early, it resembled a chess match more than a basketball game, and the Eagles trailed at halftime 28-18. On most of its early possessions, EWU milked at least 20 seconds off the shot clock before running its offense. Junior Collin Chiverton, who led the Eagles with 15 points, made back-to-back 3-point baskets from NBA range in the second half that cut the score to 32-30 with 14:35 left in the game.
But Eastern went cold, and UCLA scored 11 of the next 12 points to open a 12-point advantage. A late 8-3 run helped re-open a 12-point lead and put the game away for the Bruins.
In playing a UCLA squad that improved to 4-5 with the win, the Eagles took on a team that has five players 6-foot-9 or taller. Joshua Smith, a 6-foot-10, 305-pound center from Kentwood High School in Kent, Wash., is one of those players. North Carolina transfers Travis Wear (6-10) and his brother David Wear (6-10) have combined to start 13 games thus far.
Eastern went 6 1/2 minutes without scoring early in the game as the Bruins used a 10-0 run to turn a 6-5 lead into a 16-5 advantage. The Eagles made just three of their first 14 shots from the field and trailed early 21-7.
Still, the slow-down strategy helped Eastern surrender only 28 points in the first 20 minutes, compared to the 51 the Eagles gave up three days earlier in a 91-76 loss at Cal State Fullerton. A 7-2 Eastern run helped narrow UCLA’s 13-point lead down to eight just before intermission.
The Eagles finished the game with 12 turnovers to UCLA’s 13. Eastern has now had fewer turnovers than its opponents in all 10 games this season.
“We wanted to play our game and win the possession game – we had eight or nine more possessions,” Hayford said. “We wanted to spread them out and hit the offensive boards hard and we did that – we did a great job on the boards. We forced more turnovers than we committed, but we had some that were unforced. At the end of the day we didn’t make shots, and that’s where we have to credit UCLA. They have size and length, and they have a great defensive scheme. That’s where they were the better team than us tonight.”
A 6-0 Eastern run early in the second half pulled the Eagles to within 30-24, and moments later Chiverton made his pair of treys. However, EWU made only seven of 31 shots in the second half – a paltry 23 percent.
Starting point guard Cliff Colimon, who entered the game averaging 13.9 points per game, finished just 1-of-12 from the field and scored five points. He had five assists, but his fellow starter in the backcourt, Jeffrey Forbes, missed all five of the shots he attempted and finished scoreless after entering with an 8.8 scoring average.
“We don’t have the inside scoring presence that we need, especially with 6-7 players going against 6-10 guys,” said Hayford of the low shooting percentage. “That’s going to change when we get into league play – we aren’t going to play a team this big the rest of the year. Inside baskets are going to raise your field goal percentage, but we missed some really good looks. We’re a better 3-point shooting team than we showed tonight. Colimon and Forbes were a combined 0-for-8 from three, and they are better shooters than that. Collin got going, but then they keyed on him and shut him down.”
Senior Tremayne Johnson, who is from Los Angeles, came off the bench to score 12 points and grab seven rebounds for the Eagles.
“On the positive side, Tremayne has a really, really solid game,” added Hayford. “UCLA also shot the ball better from the outside than I thought they would, so give them credit.”
Eastern is now 5-5, and Eastern returns home to face Pacific Lutheran on Friday (Dec. 16) before making one more pre-Christmas trip to California to face Saint Mary’s in Moraga, Calif., on Dec. 20. Then, the Eagles open Big Sky Conference play on the road at Montana State (Dec. 28) and Montana (Dec. 30), meaning the Eagles are in the midst of a stretch in which they play five of six games on the road.
Following its first-ever meeting against UCLA, Eastern is now 12-75 all-time versus teams from the Pac-12. Earlier this season, Eastern lost 73-65 to Oregon and then lost to Washington State 79-49, and has lost 14th-straight games versus current teams from the league. Since Eastern moved to NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season, EWU is 2-34 versus the Pac-12.