Nov. 3, 2007
Unofficially, the Eastern Washington University head coaching debut of Kirk Earlywine got off to an impressive start Saturday (Nov. 3) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.
Officially, the Eagles will find out in less than a week against one of the nation's best.
True freshman Trey Gross scored 25 points in his collegiate basketball debut as the Eagles opened a 34-12 lead in the first half and went on to defeat Pacific 91-49 in an men's college basketball exhibition game. The game does not count in EWU's season record or statistics.
"I was pretty pleased, actually," said Earlywine of the game against the NCAA Division III Boxers. "We didn't know much about this team, obviously."
Returning starter Kellen Williams added 16 points and nine rebounds, and junior college transfer Milan Stanojevic chipped in 18 in the victory. With three of his nine players out for various reasons, just seven players played in the game for Eastern. Five of them scored in double figures.
"The surprise was the length of time they were able to play hard," Earlywine said. "It sounds pessimistic, but I almost expected us to cave in a little bit and to give in to fatigue."
Earlywine was named as head coach on the late date of June 14, 2007, and pieced together a roster built around Williams and returning letter winners Brandon Moore and Marcus Hinton. His Eagle team opens its 2007-08 season at 10th-ranked Washington State on Friday (Nov. 9) at Beasley Coliseum in Pullman, Wash.
Hinton scored 13 points against Pacific, and added six rebounds and five steals. Moore chipped in 10 points and Stanojevic added three steals and four assists. Point guard Gary Gibson had five points, two steals, three points and no turnovers in 29 minutes.
Gross made 8-of-13 shots from the floor, including 4-of-7 three-point shots, and made all five of his free throws. The 2007 graduate of Edison High School in Stockton, Calif., logged a team-high 35 minutes.
"The thing that I'm happiest about is that he did exactly what he's been doing in practice," praised Earlywine. "I talked to him briefly before the game tonight, and told him 'We don't need you to do anything other than what you've done for three weeks in practice,' and that's what he did. He has tremendous basketball savvy -- he just seems to make the right plays."
Tied a 4-4, Eastern went on a 30-8 run over the next nine minutes to take control of the game. The Eagles led by as many as 25 points in the first half as they led 41-19 at intermission. Gross scored 12 in the first half and Williams had 14 points and six rebounds.
Eastern continued to build its lead in the second half, opening a 41-point advantage with 6:57 left on a three-pointer by Gross. The largest lead for the Eagles was 43.
"If we had all of our bullets, I'd feel a little bit better," Earlywine added. "I thought our guys tried really hard tonight. I felt pretty sure we were going to play hard and guard well in the first half. I wasn't sure if our guys would cave in, whether they would get tired or not. But we didn't, which makes me really happy."
Next week's Washington State game can be watched live in Spokane on KHQ TV and is being broadcast via radio by KGA 1510-AM, with Bob Castle calling the play-by-play (Larry Weir will be with the EWU football team in Flagstaff, Ariz.).
Besides the three returning players, EWU's roster entering the season included one 2006-07 redshirt and 10 newcomers. However, three of the new players are transfers and are not eligible to play this season, and returning redshirt Jack Loofburrow is out indefinitely with a foot injury. In addition, walk-on Blake Solomon had to leave the team because of his wife's health.
That leaves the Eagles with nine players, and two of them were unable to play against Pacific. True freshman Petar Milasinovic injured his ankle on Oct. 2 and Adris DeLeon has still not been cleared to play by the NCAA over questions regarding his junior college transcripts.
DeLeon, a point guard and transfer from College of Southern Idaho, will no doubt be a key player for the Eagles when he gets eligible.
"We are still trying to get clarification on his eligibility," explained Earlywine. "We were hoping to have that resolved by close of business on Friday, but it didn't happen. I believe we'll have a decision before Friday, but I don't know that for a fact."
Eastern is coming off a 15-14 finish to the 2006-07 season as the last three EWU seasons have yielded a collective record of 38-49. The Eagles had their string of consecutive Big Sky Conference Tournament berths snapped at nine last season as EWU finished with an 8-8 league record.