MSU Billings pushes Eagles to the limit as EWU gets the challenge they needed heading into its official opener in six days
Senior center Brandon Moore had a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds as Eastern Washington held off NCAA Division II Montana State Billings 67-58 Sunday (Nov. 8) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash., in an exhibition college men's basketball game that doesn't count in the season record or statistics for either team.
The Eagles officially open their season next Saturday (Nov. 14) at Reese Court at 1:05 p.m. versus Portland, which finished 19-13 overall and 9-5 in the West Coast Conference last season. Eastern had opened its exhibition season on Nov. 1 against Saint Martin's with a 37-point victory after leading 54-28 at halftime.
"That was by design -- it was what we intended when we scheduled them," said Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine of the challenging game. "I knew they had good players and would play hard and physical. I wasn't looking for a game to win by 25 or 30 points. We are going to step into the fire in six days against Portland and we had to do everything we could to make sure we're ready for that. We knew they would test us and possibly beat us."
MSU-Billings was 10-17 a year ago, and 5-11 in the Great Northwest Conference. Coached by former Idaho and Lewis-Clark State head coach George Pfeifer, the Yellowjackets have a pair of NCAA Division I transfers in Mike McCrary (Cal State Northridge) and Lasha Parghalava (Hawaii), as well as a highly-recruited guard in junior college transfer DaVell Jackson.
Eastern, 12-18 a year ago and 6-10 in the NCAA Division I Big Sky Conference, received a boost with the return of Moore. The 6-foot-9 three-year starter had minor foot surgery in October that kept him out of the exhibition opener. He made 3-of-5 shots from the floor and converted 10-of-13 free throws against MSU Billings.
Newcomers Alden Gibbs and Kevin Winford each scored 12 points, with the high-flying 6-3 Gibbs adding nine rebounds, three blocks and three steals.
Eastern out-rebounded MSU Billings 36-30, but 21 Eagle turnovers led to 24 Yellowjacket points. Jackson paced MSUB with 14 points, and Parghalava scored 13.
Each team had a six-point lead in the first half as the Eagles led by just two at intermission, 39-37. The game featured a total of nine lead changes and eight ties, with the last coming at 50-all with 12:45 left.
Eastern then scored five unanswered points to take the lead for good, then led by 11 with 40 seconds left on a pair of free throws by Moore. The Eagles held the Yellowjackets to 18 percent shooting in the second half and 31 percent in the game.
The Eagles made 46 percent of their shots in the game and made 24-of-32 free throws for 75 percent. A total of 55 fouls were called, including 32 on the Yellowjackets as they had four players foul out.