Despite facing team with a 3-7 record and a six-game losing streak, Eastern can't overcome another 20-point first half and a 28-percent shooting night
The hole Eagles dug in the first half wasn't quite as large, but they still couldn't dig themselves out.
The Eastern Washington University men's basketball had its third-straight half of 20 points or less to fall behind by 14 points at halftime, and went on to lose to Chicago State 62-53 Tuesday (Dec. 22) at the Hoop TV Las Vegas Classic at the Orleans Arena.
The Eagles, who lost 91-34 at Brigham Young last Saturday (Dec. 19) in their most recent outing, fell to 4-8 on the season with their third-straight loss. The Chicago State Cougars, a member of the Great West Conference, are now 4-7 and won for the first time since defeating Saint Xavier 82-66 on Nov. 21. It was also their first win over a Division I opponent this season.
The Eagles will play 0-10 Jackson State at noon Pacific time on Wednesday (Dec. 23) in Las Vegas. Jackson State lost 71-62 on Tuesday to Wagner, a team that is now just 2-9.
Eastern's game Wednesday will be aired via radio in the Spokane area on 1510-AM, with the broadcast also available at www.teamline.cc. All games in the tournament will be available via webcast at www.hooptv.net.
True freshman Jeffrey Forbes led the Eagles with 13 points, three rebounds and five steals. He made 3-of-5 three-point attempts while the rest of the team made only 1-of-16.
The Eagles finished the game making only 15-of-54 shots overall for 28 percent. Mark Dunn added 12 points and Mark Brunell chipped in 10.
"When you shoot less than 30 percent it's hard to win," said Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine. "It puts a ton of pressure on your defense and makes it very, very difficult. We clawed our way back into it and had a chance.
"In the second half I thought we had unbelievable good looks at the basket," Earlywine added. "I told our team I was perfectly happy with what we did offensively, other than the ball not going in. We repeatedly had the ball at the front of the rim and we repeatedly had good looks from the arc. It was discouraging that we continually missed really good looks."
Trailing 11-10 early in the game, Chicago State went on a 12-0 run as the Eagles went scoreless for about 4 1/2 minutes. Another 9-0 run later in the half helped open a 15-point lead as the Cougars led 34-20 at halftime.
In the 57-point loss at Brigham Young, the Eagles scored the first basket against BYU and then were out-scored 33-0 over the next 10 minutes. Eastern scored only 14 points in the first half of that game and 20 in the second.
Chicago State's Jonathan Montgomery, a player who was 0-of-8 from three-point range in his first two games and then missed his team's next eight games, made 3-of-5 treys for nine first-half points.
As a team, Chicago State made 5-of-8 three-pointers in the first half for 46 percent after entering the game making only 22 percent with only 2.8 makes per game. The Cougars were just 1-of-9 in the second half and finished with six three-pointers, and made 46 percent of their shots overall.
"We played much better in the second half," said Earlywine. "We didn't play awful in the first half -- we just couldn't make a shot. I thought our energy level in the first half was good and our zone defense was good. Credit them -- they jumped up and made some big shots.
"It gave them confidence and the credit goes to them," he added. "Montgomery stepped up and hit them from the arc. They are not a good-shooting team, but they made shots tonight. They shot a higher percentage from the arc than we did and we had a lot better looks at the basket."
Eastern's offensive woes continued in the second half, but their defense helped cut the lead to double digits. Eventually, a three-pointer by Forbes with 1:46 to play cut the lead to 57-53. But Eastern failed to score after that and Chicago State clinched the win by making 5-of-6 free throws down the stretch.
"It has been hard, but nobody is feeling sorry for us," Earlywine added. "When things like this happen, to use an old cliché, you have to pull yourselves up by your bootstraps and dig in. We have to play in less than 15 hours against a quick and athletic team."
Following a short Christmas break, the Eagles play at nationally-ranked Gonzaga on Dec. 28 in the team's first game against a nationally-ranked foe in two seasons. Eastern then hosts Sacramento State in a Big Sky Conference game on Dec. 31 at 3:05 p.m., which will be EWU's first home game since defeating Seattle University 100-97 in overtime on Dec. 12.