Feb. 28, 2009
Junior center Brandon Moore did everything he could to keep the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team alive for a berth in the Big Sky Conference Tournament, but Portland State prevailed 66-62 in overtime Saturday (Feb. 28) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.
Senior Andy Genao missed a potential game-winning layin that could have won the must-win game in regulation as four Eastern seniors played their final game for EWU. The Eagles had their biggest lead of the game at 60-57 in overtime, but out-scored EWU 9-2 the rest of the way.
The most damaging blow in overtime was a missed front end of a one-plus-one free throw opportunity with three seconds left by junior Benny Valentine and the Eagles trailing by two. Eastern finished the season 6-10 in the league and 12-17 overall -- one victory better than last year’s 11 victories in head coach Kirk Earlywine’s first year as head coach.
Eastern needed a win and two Montana State losses to qualify for the league tournament for the first time in three seasons. Instead, MSU clinched the sixth and final berth, and PSU stayed alive for the No. 2 seed and first-round bye in next week’s BSC Tournament. The Vikings are the defending champions and improved to 21-9 and 11-5 in the BSC.
Moore, a 6-foot-9 center from Graham, Wash., had a huge game with 18 points, a career-high 14 rebounds and career-high five blocked shots. It was his fourth double-double of the season and fifth of his career. He came just one blocked shot from the school record of six set by Dexter Griffen against Idaho State on Jan. 2, 1987.
"Brandon (Moore) played much better," said Earlywine. "He scored the ball, rebounded, and rebounded with two hands so he didn’t lose balls that he has been losing. It was the Brandon Moore we saw against Illinois and Minnesota. Somehow, somewhere, an alien invaded his body for two months and I think we got the real Brandon Moore back tonight. Hopefully we will have him for the full season next year."
Valentine added 11 points, five steals and three assists -- with all of that coming after intermission with the exception of two steals. Senior Milan Stanojevic added nine points and Genao had eight points and five assists in his final game. The other two seniors were Adris DeLeon (three points, two assists) and Jeff Christensen (no points in three minutes of action).
Eastern finished the game making 46 percent of his shots while PSU made 42 percent. Three Vikings scored in double figures, led by the 15 points and 10 rebounds of Julius Jones. The Vikings scored 17 second-chance points as they out-rebounded EWU 38-31 with 15 offensive rebounds.
In the first half, PSU jumped out to an early six-point lead, but Eastern knotted the game at 20 with 8:24 left. But the Eagles scored just seven points the rest of the half as the Vikings took a 36-27 lead at intermission.
Portland State made 54 percent of its shots in the first half, including five three-pointers. Eastern made 48 percent, but had 10 turnovers leading to 11 points off those miscues.
The Vikings led by as many as 11 points in the second half, but a 12-2 EWU run gave the Eagles a 44-43 lead. Portland State led most of the rest of the game until Moore’s basket with one minute left knotted the game at 56. Valentine’s ensuing steal set-up the potential winning basket by Genao.
Moore’s basket and a pair of free throws gave EWU a 60-57 lead in overtime. But Dominic Waters scored the next four points as PSU took the lead for good. Eastern missed three-straight shots in that crucial stretch.
"Defensively, I thought we gave just an okay effort in the first half," said Earlywine. "We had too many possessions in the first half where we had within a possession, a non-competitive moment by an individual guy. It wasn’t the same guy, it was spread out.
"Then in the second half, I thought we really buckled down and had very few non-competitive moments. We held a team that can really score the ball. They are fifth in the country right now in three-pointers made per game, making 10 a game. We held them to two in the second half and overtime. We held them to 29 percent in the second half. That is a terrific offensive team. So I thought that our defense and effort level in the second half was spectacular. We needed it to be."