Dec. 28, 2006
The number 13 was unlucky for the Eastern Washington University men's basketball team Thursday (Dec. 28) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.
Montana State's Carlos Taylor made a 25-foot three-pointer at the buzzer to lift Montana State to an 82-79 victory over the Eagles in the Big Sky Conference opener for both teams.
The Bobcats sank 13 treys in the game to pull off the upset. Eastern also missed crucial free throws down the stretch and a total of 13 for the game.
Eastern, picked to finish third in the Big Sky, fell to 6-7 overall with the loss. Montana State won for just the fourth time in 14 games this season under first-year head coach Brad Huse. The Bobcats were picked to finish anywhere from sixth to eighth.
The game featured 13 lead changes and six ties as MSU led by as many as nine points in the first half and eight in the second half. It was the first home loss in six games this season for the Eagles, who led early by seven points but never led by more than one in the second half.
"We are very disappointed after a loss like this, especially at home," said Eagle head coach Mike Burns. "At times our energy wasn't where it should have been in the first half and that cost us in the second half. You can't fool around in games like these.
"We have to tip our hats to Montana State, though. They were very good tonight and made big shots when they needed to make them."
Eastern was led by sophomore Rodney Stuckey with 26 points, seven assists, four steals and four rebounds in 36 minutes of action. But he suffered an off-night from the perimeter, making only 9-of-20 shots overall. He was just 1-of-6 from the three-point line and missed four free throws after entering the game as the Big Sky's leading free throw shooter with a .883 percentage.
Four other Eagles scored in double figures, including center Paul Butorac with 13 points and six rebounds. Kellen Williams and Derek Risper had 10 points each, with Williams collecting eight rebounds and Risper finishing with seven.
Eastern was out-rebounded 38-36 and both teams made 47 percent of their shots. Eastern actually had six less turnovers -- 15-9 -- than MSU.
The game came down to three-pointers as the Bobcats finished 13-of-32 for 41 percent while Eastern was just 4-of-18 for 22 percent. Montana State made 9-of-16 free throws for 56 percent while Eastern made 21-of-34 for 62 percent. The Eagles, however, made just three of its last eight free throws in the final 3:16.
"In a game like tonight, the ball gets tipped and they get it, we were missing free throws and we were missing open three pointers," said Burns. "But, again, the credit goes to Montana State for making it happen."
Montana State was led by Taylor's 20 points, with Casey Durham adding 12 and four assists. Nick Dissly finished with a double-double with 10 points, 11 rebounds and five assists, and Branden Johnson added 11 points and four rebounds.
"They did a nice job at spreading us out, but there were times when we didn't rotate well on defense," said Burns. "I thought that contributed more to them being able to drive to the hole than drawing our big guys out to the perimeter. "
Eastern returns to action Saturday (Dec. 30) against Montana, an 80-74 winner at Portland State. The Grizzlies are now 7-7 overall.
"We have learned that we have to bring it every night and effort is not negotiable," added Burns. "We need to play hard for forty minutes of every game -- especially in conference play and against Montana on Saturday."
The Montana game on Dec. 30 is Global Credit Union night. The first 2,000 fans through the door get an Eagle pom-pom courtesy of Global Credit Union.
After these two home games, Eastern plays eight of its next 10 away from home during a road-heavy schedule in January and early February. The road stretch begins Jan. 4 at Northern Colorado in a game televised live in the Spokane area on KSKN Channel 22 starting at 6:05 p.m. Pacific time. 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.