Colimon Leads Eagles Back From 17-Point Deficit in Critical 79-76 Win

Parker Kelly hits go-ahead 3-pointer with 14 seconds left as Eastern Washington rides near triple-double from Cliff Colimon in key Big Sky victory

It may go down as the rally that saved the season.

Senior point guard Cliff Colimon had a near triple-double and Parker Kelly hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 14 seconds to play as Eastern Washington University rallied from a 17-point second-half deficit to defeat Northern Colorado 79-76 Wednesday (Feb. 15) in a Big Sky Conference showdown at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.

“I love my team, but boy are we schizophrenic,” said first-year head coach Jim Hayford. “We took care of the ball a lot better in the second half and then we pressured the ball defensively. As well as they shot in the first half, we shot it that well in the second half. Parker Kelly is really coming into a zone as a freshman.”

Colimon had 22 points, nine rebounds and nine assists – much of that in the second half – to help Eastern move into fifth in the league standings with a 6-7 record and 12-14 overall mark. Kelly, who finished with nine points off the bench, hit a 3-pointer to give EWU a 78-76 lead with 14 seconds to play. After a UNC turnover 10 seconds later, Colin Chiverton made one of two free throws with 3.5 remaining, but UNC threw the ball away after rebounding a miss on the second shot to preserve the Eagle win.

“We asked Colimon to be an attacking point guard and that’s as close as you come to a triple double,” said Hayford. “What a great night for him.”

“We’re getting some real bonus points from Parker -- it is really fun to see him doing well because he deserves the credit,” added Hayford. “He was one of the two primary options on every play that we ran down the stretch. You believe in him because he has great character. Somebody needs to get him the ball, so give credit to Colimon for doing that.”

Northern Colorado hit seven-straight 3-point attempts in the first half to take a 43-29 halftime lead, and led by 17 at the 17:21 mark of the second half. The loss was a dagger in UNC’s postseason hopes, as the Bears are now 5-9 in the league and 8-17 overall.

With a better road record (3-3) than home mark (3-4) thus far, the Eagles are battling for one of six berths in the Big Sky Conference Tournament that starts at campus sites on March 3 (No 3 seed and No. 4 seed host games). Eastern plays at 7-6 Idaho State (Feb. 23) and 7-6 Portland State (Feb. 25), and then ends the regular season at home versus Idaho State (Feb. 28).

Portland State beat Sacramento State 85-67 Wednesday to drop the Hornets to 4-10 in the league and 9-16 overall. Eastern moved ahead of Montana State in the league standings, after the Bobcats (now 6-8) lost to league-leader Weber State 79-70.

“We’ll take it,” Hayford said of the win, which avenged a heart-breaking 71-70 loss at Northern Colorado on Jan. 14. “We needed to win a close one. We were due.”

Chiverton added 19 points for the Eagles, although he played just 10 minutes in the first half because of a foot injury that has hampered him much of the season. He made 4-of-9 3-pointers as the Eagles finished 11-of-27 as a team, compared to the 10-of-16 marksmanship for the Bears.

The Bears entered the game as the best 3-point shooting team in NCAA Division I (44.5 percent), while the Eagles were fourth in 3-pointers per game (9.2). Northern Colorado averages 7.0 treys per game (92nd in the nation) and EWU made 36.2 percent from the 3-point arc (91st in the nation). In its next game, EWU plays a UC Irvine team ranked 49th nationally in 3-pointers per game (7.8).

In the process, Eastern set single season school records for 3-pointers made and attempted. Eastern has now drained 242-of-665 as is tied the makes record and broke the attempts record, both established last season when EWU was 242-of-656 from the 3-point arc.

Laron Griffin added 10 points, four rebounds and three steals for EWU, which had 15 turnovers compared to 17 for the Bears. Eastern finished the game making 48 percent from the field, while UNC made 49 percent and had a 32-29 rebounding edge.

The Bears missed their first 3-pointer of the first half, then went on a run of seven-straight to open an early 33-25 lead with 8:13 left in the first half. The Eagles cut the lead to 33-29 with 7:06 left on a layup by Colimon, but those were the last points EWU scored in the first half as the Bears led 43-29 at intermission.

Eastern, which missed its last seven shots and had six turnovers in the last seven minutes of the half, made only 39 percent of its shots and had 11 turnovers in the first 20 minutes. The Bears made 7-of-11 shots from the 3-point stripe (64 percent), and made 46 percent overall with six turnovers.

The Eagles fell behind 50-33 early in the second half, but cut it to single digits at 62-54 with 9:27 to play on two free throws by Chiverton. Eventually, the Eagles cut the lead to one on a 3-pointer by Kelly with 4:30 left, then took its first lead since early in the game when Kelly made a trey at the 1:50 mark.

The Bears regained a one-point lead with 25 seconds to play, but Kelly’s third 3-pointer of the game gave EWU the lead for good with 14 seconds to play.

Besides the nine points Kelly scored in the second half, Colimon had 10 points and seven assists after intermission, and Chiverton scored 14 of his points in the final 20 minutes.

Before resuming league play, Eastern plays their final non-conference game of the season when the Eagles play at UC Irvine on Saturday (Feb. 18) at 7 p.m. in the Sears ESPN BracketBusters. As part of the agreement, UC Irvine will play in Cheney in the 2013-14 season.

The radio broadcast of this Saturday’s games, featuring play-by-play announcer Dennis Patchin, may be heard on 700-AM ESPN, via the web at and via iPhone application (search for “Spokane Radio” and download the free app).

Slow starts have now plagued Eastern in its last three games, including versus Weber State when the Eagles fell behind 8-0, 14-3 and 16-5. Versus the Hornets a week earlier, Eastern made just 24 percent of its shots in the first half compared to 50 percent for Sac State. In fact, it took EWU 3:42 to score its first points against the Wildcats and 4:42 to get on the scoreboard against Sac State.

At halftime, Eastern trailed 40-21 against Sac State and 41-30 versus Weber State, which follows a trend this season for the Eagles. They fell behind at intermission versus Washington State 41-25, Saint Mary’s 40-25, Montana 40-27 and UCLA 28-18.

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