Montana Edges Eastern in Defensive Battle
Feb. 3, 2008
Sophomore Brandon Moore had a double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds, but Eastern Washington University couldn't take advantage of missed Montana free throws down the stretch and lost 59-57 to the Grizzlies Sunday (Feb. 3) in a Big Sky Conference men's basketball game at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.
In a game that featured seven ties and 12 lead changes, Montana scored four-straight points in the last minute to take a six-point advantage with 26 seconds to play. Two missed free throws by Montana in the final 16 seconds gave Eastern one more chance for a much-needed victory, but the Eagles couldn't get off a shot in the final seven seconds with a chance to tie or win the game.
The win lifted the Grizzlies to 4-5 in the Big Sky Conference and 10-12 overall. The Eagles are now 8-16 on the season and 3-7 in the league after losing all four games in back-to-back weekends of action against Montana and Montana State.
Now tied with Northern Colorado for seventh place in the league standings, Eastern will take a four-game losing streak into its game Thursday (Feb. 7) at Sacramento State, a team the Eagles defeated 76-52 on Jan. 5 in Cheney. The Hornets are last in the Big Sky with a 2-7 record in the league and 4-16 mark overall, with only the top six teams in the league advancing to the Big Sky Conference Tournament.
Moore made 6-of-13 shots from the floor and 2-of-3 free throws to record his first double-double in 51 career games as an Eagle. His 13 rebounds were four better than his previous career high of nine set on three other occasions.
Moore played 32 minutes and stayed away from foul trouble that plagues him most games. He entered Sunday's game averaging 22.5 minutes per game.
"That's kind of been an issue all year with Brandon," said Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine. "He fouled out in 17 minutes in one game. Last game he played 21 minutes and had four fouls. He has a tendency to get his hands involved too much in post defense. He did a good job today."
Moore, Eastern's tallest player at 6-foot-9, and 6-4 Kellen Williams combined for 35 points and 17 rebounds. Williams finished with 21 points for the Eagles on 6-of-10 shooting from the field and 7-of-8 from the line. In the first meeting against Montana -- an 80-61 loss on Jan. 24 -- Moore and Williams combined for just 22 points and nine rebounds.
But even more impressive was the defensive performance Moore and Williams led against 6-11 Brian Qvale and 6-7 Andrew Strait. Those two Grizzlies combined for only nine points and nine rebounds after scorching the Eagles for 32 points and 14 rebounds a week earlier.
Strait, last week's Big Sky Conference co-Player of the Week, had only five points and four rebounds on 2-of-3 shooting from the field. He had no field goal attempts in the first half.
"We did a really good job on Strait, who is a heck of a player and a really good low-block guy," said Earlywine. "Their two big guys just annihilated us ten days ago -- Qvale and Strait. We held them to nine in this game, so I guess that's a bright spot."
"Kellen obviously gives away a lot of size and weight in there," he continued. "We made two mistakes in the second half where Strait got two baskets on us. But for the most part, we did a really good job on him and Qvale."
Eastern had just five turnovers -- its third performance in the last five games of seven or less miscues. The Eagles out-rebounded Montana 18-10 in the first half, but lost the overall battle in the game 31-30.
In the first meeting, Montana had a commanding 36-15 advantage, followed by Eastern getting out-boarded 43-28 by Montana State in a 64-57 home loss on Thursday (Jan. 31).
"There was no magic wand.," said Earlywine. "I didn't come up with a miracle rebounding drill for practice on Friday and Saturday. We had to re-commit ourselves to rebounding the ball. We did a good job of that. Rebounding and our minimal turnovers gave us a chance to win the game."
Point guard Gary Gibson added seven points, a career-high six rebounds, five assists and a steal with no turnovers in 30 minutes of action. Adris DeLeon, Eastern's leading scorer with a 13.4 average, played just 17 minutes and did not score. He missed three days of practice prior to EWU's loss to Montana State on Jan. 31 and did not play against the Bobcats.
"There's just no way to go out there and be sharp," said Earlywine of the missed practices by DeLeon.
Although Trey Gross suffered through an 0-of-10 shooting night, the true freshman received praise from Earlywine. Gross had three assists and a steal with just one turnover in 37 minutes of action.
"I thought Trey played a heck of a game," said Earlywine "(The off-shooting night is) going to happen sometimes. He got himself clean looks on 12-foot pull-ups, and they just didn't go in. I thought he played really well."
In leading the Grizzlies 26-24 at halftime, Sunday's game was the third-straight loss for the Eagles in which they had a halftime lead. In addition, Eastern also lost for the third-straight time with a lead with 10 minutes left (45-44 against Montana) and in the two previous games Eastern lost when it had an advantage with five minutes remaining. Eastern is now 4-3, 5-3 and 6-2 in those three situations.