January 13, 2011

Points Hard to Come By in 66-47 Loss to Montana

Eagles fall to 4-12 overall and 1-3 in the Big Sky after making just 30 percent of their shots with 18 turnovers versus Grizzlies

Points were agonizingly hard to come by against the Big Sky Conference men’s basketball leader in defense.

Eastern Washington University made just 30 percent of its shots from the field and had 18 turnovers as Montana defeated the Eagles 66-47 Thursday (Jan. 13) at Dahlberg Arena in Missoula, Mont.

Montana went on a 15-1 run to help open an 11-point halftime lead, then grabbed a 47-27 advantage mid-way through the second half. Sophomore guard Glen Dean was the only Eagle in double figures with 12 points.

Montana entered the game allowing just 60.2 points per game and an 8.2 average winning margin – both tops in the league. It was the second-fewest points EWU has scored this season, having scored only 42 in a 30-point loss at Nebraska on Dec. 18.

“We turned the ball over 18 times against very little denial and very little pressure,” explained Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine as the key to the loss. “We gave the ball away and that led to a bunch of points in the first half. We just can’t give the ball away, and we did.”

Now 4-12 overall and 1-3 in the Big Sky, Eastern next plays at Montana State on Sunday (Jan. 16) in a game televised live regionally by Altitude Sports and Entertainment.  Tipoff in that game is 1:05 p.m. Pacific time.

On Sunday, EWU will try to snap a 15-game losing streak on the road -- nine games this year and six to end the 2009-10 season. The last time Eastern tasted victory on the road was a year ago on Jan. 10, 2010, when Dean made a game-winning, six-foot running bank shot with 3.8 seconds to play in a 75-73 victory at Montana State.

The radio broadcast of the all Eastern games game may be heard on 700-AM ESPN “The Ticket” and via the web at www.espnnorthwest.com, with veteran play-by-play broadcaster Dennis Patchin calling the action. All home games and other Big Sky Conference games may also be viewed free of charge at www.bigskytv.org.

Montana improved to 12-5 overall and 4-1 in the league with the victory. The lone league loss for the Grizzlies came on Jan. 6 by a 63-45 score at Northern Colorado. Montana State, which defeated Portland State 74-65 on Thursday, has also lost just once in the league -- a 72-58 road loss at UNC -- and is 4-1 in the Big Sky and 10-7 overall. Eastern lost to Northern Colorado 75-73 on Dec. 31 in Cheney, Wash.

Eastern was coming off a 74-68 road loss at Portland State on Jan. 8, and two days earlier fell at Seattle 60-51 in a non-conference game. Eastern trailed the entire way versus PSU and all but 2:11 of the game versus Seattle. They led for just 40 seconds versus the Redhawks.

Aside from ties of 0-0 and 6-6, Eastern trailed for all but 2:11 of the game against Montana. The Grizzlies made 44 percent of their shots from the field, and held EWU to just 3-of-13 shooting from three-point range. Eastern, second in the Big Sky entering the game in three-pointers per game (8.2), didn’t attempt its first trey until eight minutes had elapsed.

“It was just the way the game was going,” said Earlywine. “Montana knows we have players who are capable of shooting the ball really well from the arc, and they did a great job of getting out there and forcing us into the paint. And we struggled to score the ball inside over their size. We had a couple of shots that were missed and blocked. The six blocks they had were point-blank shots for us, but those blocked shots weren’t the difference in the game. You have to keep going in there, get fouled and get to the free throw line.”

Eastern trailed early 24-9, but used a 12-3 run to pull within 27-21 with 2:53 to play in the half. Four different Eagles scored in that stretch, including a pair of baskets by Dean.

“We didn’t make a turnover in that stretch,” said Earlywine. “For some reason we’ve lost patience offensively. Everybody that catches the ball is trying to make a play – to make the assist, pass or shot. We are flying off in too many different directions on the offensive end of the floor.”

Montana followed with a 6-1 run and led 33-22 at intermission. In the second half, the Grizzlies used a 12-3 run to open a 47-27 lead with 11:14 to play. Three Grizzlies scored in double figures in the game, led by the 15 points, three steals and three assists by guard Will Cherry.

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