San Jose State scores game-winner with 6.1 seconds left to drop EWU to 2-6 on the season
Scoring 23 points in his season debut, sophomore guard Glen Dean was very nearly the hero as the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team dropped a 70-69 decision in the final seconds to Western Athletic Conference foe San Jose State Sunday afternoon (Dec. 12) at The Event Center in San Jose, Calif.
Instead, SJSU’s Justin Graham gets credit for the game-winner as he made a basket with 6.1 seconds left to provide the final margin. Dean was double-teamed and missed a challenged three-point shot in the final seconds that could have won it for the Eagles.
Eastern returns home to face 4-8 Seattle on Wednesday (Dec. 15) in the first half of an Eagle basketball doubleheader. The EWU-SU game is 5:35 p.m., followed by Eastern’s women’s game versus UC-Irvine at approximately 7:30 p.m.
Dean, out for the past two months with a stress fracture in his foot, played 30 minutes after practicing just twice for about an hour each time. Last season’s Freshman of the Year in the Big Sky Conference made 7-of-16 shots from the floor with a trio of three-pointers, sank 6-of-8 free throws and had four assists with just one turnover.
Despite missing the final shot, Dean was a hero to his coach.
“I’ve seen him play better, but it’s pretty hard to be critical of a player who hasn’t played for two months,” said Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine. “He came out and got 23 points on 16 shots, had four assists and only had one turnover. You can make an argument that that was spectacular. If people could see the time and the work he put in -- to be able to play 30 minutes, are you kidding me? And that’s after not doing any running for two months.”
The Spartans are now 6-3, having also defeated the Eagles 67-60 in Cheney back on Nov. 12. Eastern is 2-6 and is still looking for its first NCAA Division I victory of the season.
Eastern trailed by as many as 10 points in the second half before rallying to take a three-point lead with 1:22 left on a pair of free throws by Dean. But the Eagles had a turnover and Dean’s miss in their final two possessions.
“It was a really tough one to lose -- we hung in there with them to the end,” said Earlywine. “We battled back and gave ourselves a chance to win. When you go on the road, that’s what you try to do. We just came up short.”
Eastern’s other point guard, Cliff Colimon, added 13 points as he missed the last three games after re-injuring his ankle in late November. Kevin Winford and Jeffrey Forbes chipped in nine and eight points, respectively, as the Eagles hit 10-of-21 three-point shots and made 45 percent from the field for the game.
Eastern held the Spartans to 39 percent shooting in the second half and out-rebounded SJSU 35-31. Eastern had 14 turnovers -- three less than the first meeting -- but San Jose State had only four. Adrian Oliver, ranked seventh in NCAA Division I with an average of 25.0 points per game entering the rematch, scored 29 to pace the Spartans. He scored 34 in the first meeting.
“There were some good things in the game,” praised Earlywine. “We held them to 39 percent in the second half and we out-rebounded them. We cut down our turnovers but we still had too many. There were some bright spots.”
Eastern trailed as many as eight points in the first half as SJSU scored 13 points off eight EWU turnovers, but Dean’s 10 points and a rebounding edge kept the Eagles in it.
“In the first half it felt like we were getting our butts kicked on the glass, but we were still out-rebounding them by two at halftime,” said Earlywine. “It didn’t feel that way. It felt like we were playing a lot worse than the five-point deficit indicated.”
Eastern trailed 37-32 at halftime, but then a 10-2 run by the Spartans gave them a 10-point cushion that Eastern erased in the following 10 minutes.
“In the second half we got off to a good start, but then we hit a stretch for two or three minutes where we didn’t play very well,” Earlywine explained.
Earlywine said a fatigued Dean might have prevented him for making the game-winning shot.
“We wanted to get it in quickly -- we knew there would be a chance it would be under 10 seconds,” he explained. “A lot of times in situations like that you are better off trying to catch the defense in a scramble mode. I thought that was one of the very few times in the game that really showed that Glen was off of his legs for two months. When he caught the ball his legs gave and he stumbled a little bit. In six seconds he can get to the rim easily, but when he had that little bobble in his legs, they were able to double-team him. I don’t think there is any chance they catch him if Glen is coming full speed on the run like he would have been. I don’t think there is any question that not being able to run and do anything on his legs was the reason he stumbled a little bit.”
With a stretch of three games in six nights, Earlywine was encouraged.
“We had the lead into the last possession, and we guarded our butts off in that possession,” added Earlywine. “(Graham) made a good shot -- that’s what a fifth-year senior should do. We went on the road against a WAC opponent and had a chance to win the game. So there were some good things -- no question.”