Despite Strong Defensive Effort, Eagles Begin Season With 67-60 Loss

Without an experienced point guard again, Eastern goes nearly six minutes without scoring in the second half as it falls to San Jose State

What the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball did against San Jose State in the first 30 minutes, the Spartans did better in a six-minute stretch of the second half.

A 10-0 run and 34 points by  Adrian Oliver helped San Jose pull-out a 67-60 victory over the Eagles Friday (Nov. 12) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash., in the official opener for both teams. Eastern held the Spartans to 33 percent shooting in the game -- including only 30 percent in the first half -- but went 5:57 without scoring to turn a two-point advantage into an eight point deficit that EWU could not overcome.

Oliver made 12-of-23 shots from the field, and also muscled his way to the free throw line 14 times where he made nine. He also had five rebounds and a pair of assists, but no other Spartan scored in double figures.

“I loved the competitiveness on the defensive end of the floor,” said Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine. “I didn’t think we were competitive with intelligence at times in terms of putting Oliver on the free throw line. We got tangled up with him, and when that happens, they are going to call a foul on the defense. I was encouraged by our level of competitiveness, but now we have to compete and be smarter.”

The Eagles played Friday’s game without a true point guard, as 2009-10 Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year Glen Dean (stress fracture in his foot) is still nearly two weeks away from returning. And newcomer Cliff Colimon (ankle sprain) missed his second-straight game.

The result was 12 second-half turnovers by the Eagles, which compounded their 32 percent shooting from the field after intermission. A San Jose State zone defense didn’t help matters as Eastern took a 50-48 lead with 11:07 left, but didn’t score again until the 5:10 mark after the Spartans took a 58-50 advantage.

The closest Eastern came the rest of the way was five. Returning starters Jeffrey Forbes and Kevin Winford -- who did the bulk of the ball-handling in the absence of Dean and Colimon -- didn’t have a turnover in the first half. But they combined for five after intermission.

“Winford and Forbes are both playing more minutes than they normally would, so maybe fatigue is responsible,” Earlywine said. “I have higher expectations of those two players than how they played in the second half tonight, in terms of taking care of the ball, at least. I think they are better than that and they will tell you the same thing. I don’t think fatigue caused them to turn the ball over.”

Forbes had 15 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals for the Eagles. Eastern was paced by the 21 points and seven rebounds by Tremayne Johnson, but he had six turnovers. Cliff Ederaine chipped in eight points, 10 rebounds and a pair of blocked shots.

Eastern was out-rebounded 42-40. The Eagles scored 36 points to take a three-point lead at halftime, but scored just 24 after that.

“We guarded well enough to win the game, but we didn’t rebound well enough and we didn’t take care of the ball in the second half,” added Earlywine. “In a low possession game, you can’t turn the ball over 12 times in a half. Our turnovers in the second half and our poor execution of zone offense were the difference in a game.”

Eastern next plays at nationally-ranked Washington on Tuesday (Nov. 16) at Bank of America Arena in Seattle. The game tips-off at 7:05 p.m. and will be broadcast live regionally on Fox Sports Net. The Huskies, who were 26-10 overall and 11-7 in the Pacific 10 Conference a year ago, are picked to win the league title this year. In preseason polls, Washington was ranked 18th by Associated Press and 17th in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll. Gonzaga, Eastern’s opponent on Nov. 30 in Seattle, is 12th in both.


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