Eagles own nine-point lead in the second half, but can’t pick up a win in Hayford’s first game against a Pac-12 foe
The Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team has picked up a rare win against a Pac-12 Conference opponent only 12 times in 85 tries in school history. Eagle head coach Jim Hayford nearly won in his first try.
Eastern led much of the way – including holding a nine-point lead in the second half – but Oregon rallied in the final 11 minutes to surge past the Eagles 73-65 Thursday (Nov. 17) in a non-conference game at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Ore.
“We could have won this basketball game – it was ours for the taking and we gave it back to them,” Hayford said. “I don’t want to show any disrespect to Oregon – they are a well-coached team – but we gave a win back, and that is not going to happen. We are going to get tougher, we are going to get more basketball smart and we are not going to give away opportunities like this in the future.”
Playing its third game in seven nights, three Eagle big men fouled out early in the second half during a stretch in which EWU led for nearly 25 minutes. Eastern is now 1-2, having picked up a 70-61 victory over South Dakota on Nov. 15 after suffering a respectable 77-69 loss to 23rd-ranked Gonzaga on Nov. 11. Oregon is now 1-1.
Since taking a 20-19 lead midway through the first half, Eastern led for nearly 25 minutes before Oregon took a 60-58 advantage lead with 5:37 to play. The Eagles went 7:42 without a field goal down the stretch, turning a 56-53 lead into a 69-61 deficit in that span.
“You have to make free throws and you have to be able to score baskets to win on the road, and we didn’t make many baskets in the second half,” explained Hayford. “Our defense was good, but their pressure hurt us. We had that burp and that was the difference.”
Senior point guard Cliff Colimon led the Eagles with 14 points, three assists and three steals, and senior Tremayne Johnson added 12 points and seven rebounds. Junior Collin Chiverton, who had scored 25 points in his first two outings of the season, scored eight before fouling out in the second half after playing just 15 minutes.
The Eagles had 13 steals as they forced 21 Duck turnovers, but Oregon’s undoing was also at the free throw line where it made just 28-of-44 for 64 percent. However, the Ducks out-shot Eastern from the field 46 percent to 33 percent, including 9-of-27 three-pointers by the Eagles. Eastern had 24 less free throws and finished the game 12-of-20 from the line.
Eastern’s frontline starters consisting of Chiverton, Laron Griffin and Cliff Ederaine combined for 21 points and 16 rebounds, but all three fouled out early in the second half after playing just a combined 61 minutes.
“We played really, really hard,” Hayford said. “But then we got into foul trouble again – we have to avoid it because it affects a few things. When we were running our game plan they were at our mercy. Then we got away from it and we paid the price.”
Eastern led early 16-10, then used a Jeffrey Forbes 3-pointer with 4:50 left in the first half to take a 38-30 lead. The Eagles had a 39-35 advantage at intermission.
A fast-break layin by Colimon and a basket by Laron Griffin gave the Eagles a 43-34 lead early in the first half. Eastern led 53-46 on a four-point play by Jordan Hickert with 11:33 left, but that’s when Oregon made its move.
Over the next 6:19, the Ducks outscored the Eagles 19-5 to take a 65-58 lead with 5:14 to go. The closest Eastern came after that was six points.
“I’m extremely frustrated because that was a period when we splintered and needed to come together,” said Hayford. “You can’t think it’s going to be easy to win at a place like this – that’s not the case. They don’t give you wins against quality opponents. We have to be tougher.”
The Ducks won last year’s College Basketball Invitational Tournament (CBI). Oregon, which opened the season with a 78-64 loss at Vanderbilt on Nov. 11, finished 21-18 overall last season and was 7-11 in the Pac-10 to finish seventh.
The Eagles are now 0-2 all-time versus Oregon, falling to the Ducks 100-74 on Dec. 15, 2006 in the only other previous meeting. Eastern, which also plays Pac-12 members Washington State (Dec. 3) and UCLA (Dec. 14) this season, is now 12-73 versus teams from the Pac-12. A year ago, Eastern lost 98-72 to Washington for its 11th-straight loss versus current teams from the league.
Eastern now heads for Hawai’i to face the Rainbow Warriors of the Western Athletic Conference next Tuesday (Nov. 22). That game takes place at the 10,300-seat Stan Sheriff Center, and will begin at 10 p.m. Pacific time. Eastern is 0-4 all-time against Hawai’i, with the first meeting occurring in 1953 and the latest in 2008.
The Rainbow Warriors, currently 1-0, face Gonzaga in Vancouver, B.C. on Saturday (Nov. 19) before hosting the Eagles.
“Our players have a much-deserved day off Friday, then we’re going to have a good weekend of practice before we fly to Hawai’i,” added Hayford. “We’re up against a really good team there. We’ll find a way to make ourselves better.”
“We need to keep teaching and be consistent,” he added. “We need to show them, ‘here is what winning looks like and here is what losing looks like, and you need to play like a winner.’”
The radio broadcast of EWU games, featuring play-by-play announcer Dennis Patchin, may be heard on 700-AM ESPN "The Ticket", via the web at www.espnnorthwest.com and via iPhone application (search for “Spokane Radio” and download the free app).