January 20, 2007

Stuckey Leads Eagles to 91-79 Victory

Jan. 20, 2007

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Sophomore Rodney Stuckey finished with the 11th 30-point game of his Eagle career as Eastern Washington used a 13-3 run in the second half to defeat Northern Colorado 91-79 Saturday (Jan. 20) in a Big Sky Conference men's basketball game at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.

Eastern raised its record to 4-4 in the Big Sky and 10-10 overall as EWU swept the season series against Northern Colorado. Two weeks ago on Jan. 4 in Greeley, Colo., Eastern edged the Bears 88-87 as Stuckey scored 25 points and had 10 assists. Northern Colorado is now 1-7 in the Big Sky and 3-17 overall, and the first-year league member has now lost 31-straight road games.

"This win tonight was huge -- we had to have it," said Eagle head coach Mike Burns, whose team plays its next four games on the road. "Hopefully this propels us to better things on the road."

"I thought that we played well and did a good job of keeping our defensive energy high in the last ten minutes. I thought our effort down the stretch was great."

Stuckey finished with 31 points, seven rebounds, four assists and five steals, but most of those came in the second half as Eastern broke the game open. In the second half alone, he had 18 points, five rebounds and all of his assists and steals. He made 10-of-19 shots from the field and 9-of-12 free throws in the game.

Eastern had all 15 of its fast-break points in the second half as the Eagles scored 55 points after intermission.

"I thought UNC did a great job of slowing the pace early on," said Burns. "One of the things we were trying to get our team to do was to rebound and push the ball up the court more. Once we did that I think it really helped, especially Rodney."

Matt Penoncello came off the bench to score 17 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the field with a trio of three-pointers. Paul Butorac also scored 17 and had nine rebounds. Omar Krayem chipped in nine points and four assists for EWU, which lost to Northern Arizona 91-80 on Thursday (Jan. 20).

"Matt Penoncello did great tonight and made some good shots," said Burns. "He's a good shooter and he's a clutch shooter. He worked on slowing things down the last couple days and tonight those shots were huge. We were down for awhile and if he didn't make those shots it could have been a tough deal for us."

Eastern trailed 59-57 when the Eagles went on their 13-3 run that turned into a 70-62 advantage with 6:30 to play on a three-pointer by Stuckey. Stuckey scored seven points and two assists in the run as he fed Penoncello for back-to-back fast-break baskets.

The closest the Bears came after that was seven points. The Eagles led by as many as 13 before winning by 12 -- their largest margin of victory since beating Idaho 85-56 on Dec. 21.

It was Stuckey's first 30-point performance in his last 12 games since finishing with 32 against Cal State Northridge on Dec. 3. He is now averaging 23.9 points in 50 career games -- 23.4 this season -- with a total of 1,194 points that moved him into ninth on EWU's all-time leaders list. He now has 304 free throws in his two-year career, and is just 13 from EWU's school record of 317.

The Eagles made 51.8 percent of their shots from the field and 75 percent from the line. In Thursday's loss to Northern Arizona, the Eagles made just 57 percent from the field but just 8-of-22 free throws for 36 percent.

Northern Colorado made 49 percent, including 53 percent in the second half as Kirk Archibeque scored 15 of his points after intermission. Sean Taibi also scored 21 for the Bears, who had 11 of their 18 turnovers in the second half.

Eastern's Derek Risper and Brandon Moore came off the bench to combine for 27 minutes, seven points and five rebounds. They also helped guard the 6-foot-9, 250-pound Archibeque, and helped Eastern tie the Bears on the glass with 35 rebounds apiece.

"We got great energy from Derek Risper and Brandon Moore, especially on the defensive glass," added Burns. "I thought the entire team did a great job of defending and rebounding and that was the difference down the stretch. Earlier on they were getting a lot of second shots and we had a bear of a time trying to slow Archibeque down."

The Eagles are in the midst of a stretch in which eight of 10 games are on the road. After this week's games -- the lone home games in January for EWU -- Eastern returns to the road for four-straight games. The Eagles play at Sacramento State, Weber State, Montana State and Montana in the next two weeks. Eastern's final four conference games are at home at Reese Court in February, sandwiched around a non-conference road game as part of the ESPN Bracket Buster weekend.

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