Eagles Complete Another Second-Half Rally, But Fall to PSU 89-80

Eastern uses 16-0 run to overcome 12-point halftime deficit and lead by three, but hot-shooting Vikings pull away for key win

The rally by Eastern Washington University was impressive, but Portland State’s first half and finish to the game trumped that.

The Eagles overcame a 12-point halftime deficit to take the lead with a 16-0 run, but Portland State used its hot shooting to pull away from EWU for an 89-80 Big Sky Conference victory Monday (Feb. 18) at the Stott Center in Portland, Ore.

“We came back down 12 at the half, and we went and got the lead,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. “We showed some real positive things in that stretch, but we didn’t get the win.”

Redshirt freshman Tyler Harvey fueled EWU’s comeback with a career-high 23 points, including 17 in the second half. True freshman Venky Jois and sophomore Martin Seiferth each had near double-doubles, with Jois scoring 17 points and grabbing nine rebounds, and Seiferth finishing with 16 points and nine boards.

Senior guard Jeffrey Forbes added 17 points, as four Eagles combined for all but seven of EWU’s points. Forbes now has 993 career points, and is now just seven points from becoming the 16th Eagle in school history to hit the coveted 1,000-point mark.

Portland State made 53 percent of its shots in the game, including a blistering 66 percent in the first half when it led by as many as 13. Eastern, meanwhile, made only 36 percent in the first half, but heated up to make 53 percent in the second half. After EWU’s 16-0 run put EWU up by three, the Vikings followed with an 8-2 spurt to take the lead for good with 10:26 to play. Portland State then closed out the win by making 11-of-12 free throws in the final 1:29.

In a rematch of a 76-65 Eagle win in Cheney, Wash., on Jan. 28, the Viking victory kept EWU from moving into a five-way tie for fifth in the Big Sky Conference standings. The Eagles fell to 6-10 in the league and 8-18 overall, but remain in the midst of a logjam in the middle of the conference standings.

Eastern is currently in ninth in the Big Sky, but is just one game out of fifth and two games out of third place. The Vikings are 10thin the league with a 5-11 record and are 7-16 overall, but are now just two games out of fifth and three games from third.

Eastern returns home for its next three games. The Eagles play Feb. 23 versus Sam Houston State in the ESPN BracketBusters, then host Northern Colorado on Feb. 28 and North Dakota on March 2 in critical league games. Portland State also hosts UNC and UND.

 “Portland State is playing very well right now, and we are going to need them to beat some teams that are right ahead of us,” said Hayford. “We need a little help from them and stay a game ahead of them by defending our home court. We need to keep grinding. We didn’t take a step forward tonight, but this just puts a little more pressure on us to defend our home court.”

After a physically-challenging 86-72 victory over Southern Utah on Saturday (Feb. 16), the Eagles took the long bus trip to the Rose City for Monday’s game. Portland State, meanwhile, hadn’t played since thumping Southern Utah 90-69 on Thursday (Feb. 14).

“It you would have told me we were going to score 80, I would have told you we could win,” said Hayford. “But if you would have told me they would score 89, I would have said we would have no chance.”

The Eagles had to play the game without starting point guard Kevin Winford, who was unable to make the trip to Portland. He suffered a blow to his shin against Southern Utah that resulted in compartment syndrome and required surgery the evening following the game. Winford was averaging 10.3 points and 4.2 assists in EWU’s last six games, and was replaced in the starting lineup by Daniel Hill.

Hill missed all five of his shots and was scoreless with two assists in 13 minutes of action. Harvey, who has now scored 48 points in the last three games after scoring only 17 in his first 13 games played, made 10-of-18 shots from the field with a pair of 3-pointers.

“Tyler had to play a lot of minutes at the point, and he obviously had a really good game,” added Hayford.

Jois made 7-of-13 shots and played 27 minutes in just his second game back after missing a trio of games with a sprained ankle.

“We did a good job of getting it to Venky and the guards driving for baskets,” said Hayford of his team’s second half turnaround. “He can’t trust his ankle well, but he played a fine game. We didn’t shoot the ball well from outside, but Jeff showed great senior leadership and had a really good night.”

In its most recent outing on the road, the Eagles rallied from 18 behind in the second half to beat Northern Arizona 77-74 in overtime on Feb. 9. The Eagles are 6-5 at home this season, and are now 1-12 on opponent home courts (1-1 at neutral sites). Just seven teams advance to the league tournament, which takes place March 14-16 at the site of the regular season champion.

Portland State took an early 8-0 lead, then continued its hot shooting to lead by as many as 13 in the first half. The Vikings made 66 percent of their shots in the first half (19-of-29), including three of four 3-point attempts. The Eagles, meanwhile, made only 36 percent in the first 20 minutes – including 1-of-7 from the 3-point stripe – and trailed at intermission 43-31.

But Eastern went on a monster 16-0 run that was fueled by Harvey. He scored 11 of EWU’s points in the run, including a 3-pointer that gave EWU its first lead of the game at 52-50 lead with 13:42 left.

A free throw by Forbes completed the 16-0 run and gave EWU a three-point lead, as Portland State went 5:27 without scoring. But the Vikings regained their shooting touch, and regained the lead for good at the 10:26 mark.

“The bottom line was that the first few minutes of the game and the last three minutes of the first half were really the difference,” said Hayford. “We knew that the better they play offense the better they play defense and everything else. We just didn’t have that stop mentality that you need to have at the start of the game. That’s a lesson learned.”

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