Dec. 29, 2008
Struggling from both the field and from the free throw line, the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team fell to Boise State 57-48 Monday (Dec. 29) at Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho, in EWU’s final non-conference game before Big Sky Conference play resumes later this week.
The Eagles made only 32 percent of their shots (19-of-60) from the field, and at one point in the first half missed 12-straight shots as the Broncos went on a 12-0 run to break an 11-all tie. Eastern, which also made only 6-of-14 free throws in the game for 42 percent, fell to 7-6 with their fourth loss in the last five games.
Boise State improved to 9-3 as the Eagles played the game without head coach Kirk Earlywine, who did not make the trip to tend to a personal matter. Associate head coach Jamie Matthews, who has nine years of collegiate head coaching experience, assumed Earlywine’s head coaching responsibilities.
"To sum it up, it came down to our inability to make shots," said Matthews. "Our No. 1 objective is to make it a half-court game and I thought we did a good job in transition to make it hard for them to score. But our shooting made our defensive breakdowns magnified."
Junior Benny Valentine led the Eagles with 13 points, but suffered through a 5-of-16 shooting night. Junior center Brandon Moore chipped in 12 points and nine rebounds, but finished just 5-of-13 from the field and 2-of-8 from the line.
Eastern held Boise State to 41 percent shooting from the field, but that shooting edge and a 15-6 advantage from the line was enough for the Broncos to hold-off the Eagles. Eastern scored the final seven points of the game after falling behind by as many as 19 in the second half.
"You can’t absorb defensive mistakes when you shoot 32 percent," said Matthews of his team’s defense-first approach. "But I think we are more than capable of shooting 32 percent and winning 48-46."
Eastern had a commanding 43-32 rebounding advantage, including 19 offensive rebounds that led to 15 second-chance points. But the Eagles had 15 turnovers as the Broncos held a 13-2 advantage in points off turnovers.
"Nineteen offensive rebounds are a lot considering how many field goals we had," said Matthews. "I thought for the most part we competed pretty hard tonight."
Tuesday’s game started well for the Eagles, as a three-pointer by Milan Stanojevic knotted the game at 11 with 16:01 left in the first half. But Eastern would go the next 9:11 without a score, missing 12 field goals and a pair of free throws to go along with two turnovers.
The resulting 12-0 Bronco run gave BSU a 23-11 lead, but Eastern still managed to pull within 25-22 with 4:46 left in the half. However, Moore was just 1-of-6 from the free throw line at that point, and that was the closest the Eagles came the rest of the way as BSU scored the final seven points for a 32-22 lead at halftime.
Boise State quickly built a 44-26 advantage in the second half, with its biggest lead coming at 19 on two occasions. Mark Sanchez and Paul Noonan each scored 14 to lead the Broncos.
The Eagles continue their three-game road trip in a seven-day span with the resumption of league play on Friday (Jan. 2) at Northern Arizona, followed by Sunday’s (Jan. 4) game at Sacramento State. Matthews thinks the Eagles are ready physically to make a good run in the Big Sky, but the shooting will definitely need to improve.
"Anytime you can assert yourself physically going into league play you are off to the right start," he added. "We got back to guarding the way we want to guard, especially in the second half. The best thing we did was to control tempo and that’s what we’ll have to do to win the league."
Eastern’s next home game is Jan. 8 versus Idaho State. Eastern is already 1-0 in the Big Sky thanks to a 61-55 victory over Montana State on Dec. 6, which represents EWU’s last win over a NCAA Division I opponent.