Eastern Out to Prove It Can Win on the Road
Coming off a two-game home sweep, Eagles have rematches with Northern Colorado and Idaho State
EWU at Northern Colorado
Thursday, Feb. 3 - 6:05 p.m. Pacific
Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion - Greeley, Colo.
EWU at Idaho State
Saturday, Feb. 5 - 6:05 p.m. Pacific
Holt Arena - Pocatello, Idaho
Radio: (all EWU games) 700 ESPN "The Ticket" and http://www.espnnorthwest.com
Webcasts (All home games and all Big Sky Conference games): http://www.bigskytv.org
Live Stats: (UNC) http://livestats.prestosports.com/uncbears/
(EWU home games): http://web.ewu.edu/groups/athletics/mbasketball/mblivestats/xlive.htm
Despite a road losing streak that has reached 17 games, Eastern Washington University men's basketball coach Kirk Earlywine vows there will be no backing down this week.
Coming off a pair of home victories, the Eagles look for their first road win of the season when they play road games Thursday (Feb. 3) at Northern Colorado and Saturday (Feb. 5) in Pocatello, Idaho, versus an Idaho State team the Eagles knocked off in their most recent outing. Tipoff in both games is 6:05 p.m. Pacific time.
"We have something to prove," said Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine. "We haven't proven we can win a game on the road, and at some point for the program to get where we want to go, you have to be able to go on the road and win. We've had a couple of close calls but haven't gotten it done."
The radio broadcast of the all Eastern games 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.
While the Eagles are 0-11 on the road this season with a 17-game road losing streak dating back to last year, the Eagles have won seven of 10 games at Reese Court. The Eagles play four of their final eight league games at home. Plus, Eastern will host a yet to be announced opponent on either Feb. 18 or 19 in the ESPN BracketBusters (announced late Monday, Jan. 31).
Eastern used second-half explosions to beat Portland State 65-51 and Idaho State 83-70 last week. The Eagles had a collective 96-62 advantage after intermission in those victories, compared to a 59-52 deficit in the first half as EWU trailed at halftime of both games.
The wins vaulted Eastern into a fifth-place tie with PSU as both are now 4-5 in the league, percentage points ahead of Northern Arizona at 3-4. Eastern is now 7-14 overall while the Bengals are 6-15 overall and 2-7 in the conference. The victory gave Eastern its first back-to-back wins of the season as EWU has now won three of its last four games.
Idaho State does not play again until hosting the Eagles, but Northern Colorado plays at Northern Arizona on Monday (Jan. 31) prior to playing the Eagles. The Bears enter that game 7-1 in the league and 11-8 overall after suffering their first conference loss of the season on a 40-foot basket at the buzzer in a 72-71 loss at Weber State.
"We're not going to back away from it and we're not going to shy away from it," said Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine of playing at Northern Colorado, a 75-73 winner over the Eagles in Cheney on Dec. 31. "I feel pretty confident our guys will take that challenge and we'll go play hard in Greeley on Thursday."
"There is still a lot of basketball to be played, but with each win you play yourself into a little bit better situation," said Earlywine. "We held serve at home, now we have a challenge ahead of us. We have to prove to ourselves, our fans and our league that we can go on the road and win."
Although the Eagles allowed 70 points against an ISU team averaging 62.5 per game entering the contest, Earlywine has been pleased by his team's defense in recent games. Eastern has held only four NCAA Division opponents to 60 points or less, and three of those have come in the last four games. One game earlier at Montana State on Jan. 11, the Eagles held MSU to 30 percent shooting en route to leading 29-23 at halftime, but then allowed the Bobcats to make 73 percent in the second half as the Eagles fell 71-59.
"In seven of eight halves we've guarded pretty darn well," said Earlywine after holding Portland State to 51 points. "We're starting to get there."
However, Earlywine was not as pleased against Idaho State, particularly in the first half when EWU allowed the Bengals to grab eight offensive rebounds, leading to nine second-chance points. Eastern trailed at halftime 33-30.
"I was disappointed we weren't guarding harder considering how well we had been defending the last few weeks," he explained. "And the No. 1 key for us entering the game was block-out because Idaho State is the best offensive rebounding team in the league. I told the guys at halftime they had to decide whether or not they wanted to win."
Coaches Shows Take Place Mondays: Eagle Coaches Shows at Northern Quest Casino and Resort will feature head men's basketball coach Kirk Earlywine and play-by-play announcer Dennis Patchin during the 2010-11 season.
Shows begin at 6 p.m., and take place on Mondays through the end of the season. The show will take place live from Northern Quest in the former broadcast room adjacent to the Q Sports Bar and Restaurant. Fans will be able to order food and beverages and listen to the show from that location, as well as watch Monday Night Football and other sporting events.
The show is aired on 700-AM ESPN "The Ticket" and via the internet at www.espnnorthwest.com
Northern Quest is located at 100 N. Hayford Road in Airway Heights. From downtown Spokane, take exit 277 off I-90 and follow Highway 2 for 4.4 miles, then turn right on Hayford Road and follow for 1.0 miles. From Cheney, take exit 272 off I-90 and follow WA-902 toward Medical Lake for just 0.3 miles. Take a right on Geiger Blvd., followed by a quick left on Hayford Road and follow for 4.4 miles.
Eastern Basketball -- http://goeags.com/sports/m-baskbl/index
Big Sky Conference Basketball -- http://www.bigskyconf.com/index.aspx?tab=basketball&path=mbball
NCAA Basketball -- http://www.ncaa.com/sports/m-baskbl/ncaa-m-baskbl-body.html
ESPN College Scoreboard -- http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/scoreboard
Rodney Stuckey NBA Page -- http://www.nba.com/playerfile/rodney_stuckey/index.html
More Information and Links are Available at: HTTP://WWW.GOEAGS.COM
Recent EWU Men's Basketball Headlines . . .
January 29, 2011 - Eagles Explode in Second Half Again for 83-70 Win
January 27, 2011 - Eastern Out-Scores Vikings by 18 in Second Half in 65-51 Win
January 22, 2011 - Sacramento State Wins Over Eagles With One Second Left, 57-55
January 20, 2011 - Eastern Beats Big Sky's Top Offensive Team 72-59
January 16, 2011 - Despite "Outstanding" First Half, Eagles Fall to MSU 71-59
January 13, 2011 - Points Hard to Come By in 66-47 Loss to Montana
January 8, 2011 - Eastern Overcomes Slow Start But Loses at PSU 74-58
January 6, 2011 - Eastern Falls at Seattle 60-51
December 31, 2010 - Bears Hold Off Eagles for 75-73 Win
December 29, 2010 - Eastern Beats Sacramento State 88-79 in Overtime
December 20, 2010 - Eastern Can't Hold Seven-Point Lead in Second Half and Loses 78-72
December 18, 2010 - Eagles Shoot 21 Percent From the Field and Fall to Cornhuskers 72-42
December 15, 2010 - Eagles Hold Off Seattle 95-91 For First D-I Win
December 12, 2010 - Glen Dean Makes Debut and Scores 23 in Narrow Loss
December 4, 2010 - Eastern Romps Past New Hope 112-41 on Record-Breaking Night
November 30, 2010 - Three-Pointers Bury Eagles as Gonzaga Cruises to 86-57 Win
November 27, 2010 - Winford Sets School Record with Eight Treys in Loss
November 24, 2010 - Eagles Drop Road Game in Boise, 83-54
November 18, 2010 - Fast Start Helps Eastern Win 96-87|
November 16, 2010 - Promising Start for Naught as Eagles Fall to Huskies 98-72
November 12, 2010 - Despite Strong Defensive Effort, Eagles Begin Season With 67-60 Loss
November 8, 2010 - Eastern Falls to Montana State-Billings 66-60
November 5, 2010 - Eagles Should Have More Firepower Available Monday
November 2, 2010 - Shorthanded Eagles Fall to Seattle Pacific 87-82
October 29, 2010 - SEASON OUTLOOK: Returning Guards Key to Eastern's Big Sky Hopes
Eagles in Big Sky Conference Statistics: In Big Sky Conference statistics, Eastern features the league's third-leading rebounder in junior college transfer Cliff Ederaine, who is averaging 8.0 rebounds per game. Teammate Laron Griffin is seventh (6.4), with Griffin and Ederaine ranking 2-3 in the league in offensive rebounds, respectively (3.2, 3.1). As a team, Eastern is leading the league in overall offensive rebounds (13.2) and offensive rebound percentage (.358), and is second in overall rebounds per game (36.1). Ederaine is fifth in blocked shots (1.3), teammate Tremayne Johnson is fourth (1.3) and Griffin is eighth (0.8) as the Eagles rank second as a team in the league (4.3).
Although it has improved in recent weeks, Eastern still ranks last in field goal percentage (.410), and is second-to-last in scoring defense (71.7) and turnover margin (-2.0 per game). The Eagles are third in the league in three-point field goal percentage (.341), and are fourth in three-pointers made per game (8.0) and field goal percentage defense (.430).
Also, Kevin Winford leads in three-pointers made per game (2.6) and is 16th in scoring (11.4). Jeffrey Forbes is second in the league in free throw percentage (52-of-58 for 89.7 percent), sixth in three-pointers made per game (2.1) and 20th in scoring (11.0). Johnson is now 22nd in scoring (10.5), 13th in rebounding (5.3) and 10th in free throw percentage (53-of-68 for 77.9 percent). Glen Dean's averages of 12.5 points, 4.7 assists and 1.7 three-pointers per game would rank 12th, second and 12th, respectively, had he played in enough games to qualify (16 games; he has played in 14).
In statistics from league games only, Eastern's best rankings are third in scoring defense (66.9) and offensive rebounds (11.9), and its worst are seventh in field goal percentage (.411) and total rebounds per game (33.0). Individually, Winford leads in free throw percentage (19-of-21 for 90.5 percent) and is followed by Forbes (19-of-22 for 86.4 percent), while Dean is 14th in scoring (12.1) and third in assists (5.2). Ederaine ranks fourth in rebounds (7.8).
Shooting Turnarounds: Eastern used second-half explosions to beat Portland State 65-51 and Idaho State 83-70 in back-to-back home games on Jan. 27 and 29, respectively. The Eagles had a collective 96-62 advantage after intermission in those victories, compared to a 59-52 deficit in the first half as EWU trailed at halftime of both games.
The Eagles nearly doubled their shooting percentages from the first half to the second. Before intermission, the Eagles made just 35 percent from the field overall (20-of-57) and 25 percent from the three-point arc (6-of-24). After halftime, Eastern made a sizzling 63 percent (34-of-54), including 48 percent from the three-point stripe (11-of-23).
Against PSU, the Eagles made only 29 percent in the first half to fall behind 26-22 at intermission, but exploded for 60 percent shooting in the second half to out-score the Vikings 43-25 and cruise to the huge 14-point win.
Eastern trailed 33-30 at halftime against Idaho State, but made 9-of-12 three-pointers in the second half to out-score the Bengals 53-37 after intermission. Eastern made 75 percent of its shots in the second half after making only 33 percent in the first half. Eastern finished 13-of-24 from three-point range for 54 percent, slightly better than the team's 52.8 percent shooting night overall that was the second-best of the season and the best against a NCAA Division I opponent.
Road Skid Up to 17: A 57-55 loss at Sac State on Jan. 22 extended EWU's losing streak on the road to 17 games -- 11 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 Glen Dean made a game-winning, six-foot running bank shot with 3.8 seconds to play in a 75-73 victory at Montana State.
In the Sac State game, Eastern's three sophomore guards -- Glen Dean, Kevin Winford and Jeffrey Forbes -- combined for 0-of-17 shooting from the field, including all 12 of their three-point attempts. Prior to the Sac State loss, Eastern had finished winless on a four-game road stretch. Eastern closed the stretch with a 71-59 loss at MSU on Jan. 16, and also lost 66-47 at Montana on Jan. 11. In both games against the Grizzlies and Bobcats, a 15-1 run contributed greatly to putting EWU in a hole it could not dig out of.
In the first three games of that four-game road trip, the Eagles trailed from start to finish in each. Eastern trailed the entire way versus PSU in a 74-68 road loss on Jan. 8 and all but 2:11 of a 60-51 loss versus Seattle two days earlier. 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 a 66-47 loss against Montana on Jan. 13.
Eagles Shooting 46 Percent at Home and 36 Percent on the Road: With a 7-3 record at home and 0-11 mark on the road, you don't have to look much further than shooting percentage to see a major reason why. Eastern has made 46.1 percent at home (41.0 percent from the three-point line), leading to an average of 82.0 points per game. On the road, Eastern is shooting at a 36.1 percent clip (29.4 percent from the arc) and has averaged just 57.8 points per game.
Opponents have made only 39.8 percent at Reese Court but 45.8 percent on their home courts. Additionally, Eastern has a plus 5.3 rebounding margin at home, and is a minus 4.5 on the road.
Forbes Hot at Home, Frosty on the Road: Eastern sophomore guard Jeffrey Forbes obviously likes his home court much more than the road. He is averaging a team-leading 15.8 points per game at home, making 48.4 percent of his shots overall and 50.9 percent from three-point range. On the road, he is fifth on the team with a 6.7 average on 28.2 percent shooting overall and 28.8 percent from the arc.
For the season, Forbes has scored in double figures 11 times, and has led the team in scoring twice. He has a team-leading four 20-point performances, including 23 versus New Hope and 21 in back-to-back home games versus Sacramento State and Northern Colorado. He is third on the team with an 11.0 scoring average, making 38.6 percent of his field goal attempts overall and 44-of-109 three-point attempts (38.6 percent). He has also made 52-of-58 free throws (89.7 percent) and is averaging 1.8 assists per outing.
Cliff Notes: Two key Eastern newcomers -- both juniors who transferred from junior colleges -- are known as "Big Cliff" and "Little Cliff," and both were huge in Eastern's 83-70 Big Sky victory over Idaho State on Jan. 29.
Six-foot-seven forward Cliff Ederaine had 13 points, and six rebounds, and made a three-pointer in the second half as the shot clock expired on his first attempt of the year. A 37.6 percent free throw shooter entering the game, he also made both of his free throws. He is from Moreno Valley, Calif., and played previously at College of the Sequoias in California.
"Other than free throws, I don't know if he's taken a shot outside of four or five feet," said Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine. "And to his credit, he knows who he is and what he is. You figure out who you are and what you are and you take pride in it. If you're a defender and a rebounder who doesn't shoot well outside of eight feet, don't shoot outside of eight feet. Big Cliff knows that."
Six-foot guard Cliff Colimon scored 10 with four assists in the victory over the Bengals, including a pair of baskets early in the second half to help turn a three-point halftime deficit into a 13-point win. However, it was his defense on ISU guard Broderick Gilchrest that was the key to the game. Idaho State's leading scorer entering the game with a 15.0 average per game, Gilchrest scored only six points on 2-of-9 shooting. Colimon is from Brooklyn, N.Y., and transferred to Eastern from Eastern Utah Junior College.
"Little Cliff can really guard the ball -- he can crawl up into your jersey and make things fairly miserable for you," Earlywine said. "That was a big reason why we recruited him. There are players in this league who can get hot and score a bunch of points. He's taken on that challenge and kind of relished that role against Idaho State and did a good job on Gilchrest."
For the season, Ederaine has scored in double figures seven times, including a career-high 22 points with eight rebounds against Sacramento State on Dec. 29. He has one double-double with 12 points and 17 rebounds against New Hope on Dec. 4 as his rebounding performance equals the fifth-best recorded performance in school history. He has led Eastern in scoring once and rebounding on 10 occasions, and is averaging 8.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocked shots per game on the season. He is the only Eagle to have started all 21 games this season.
Colimon has scored in double figures seven times, including a career-high 21 points in the second game of his EWU career against Northwest University on Nov. 18. He is averaging 9.0 points, 2.1 assists and 2.2 rebounds per game.
Former Junior College Teammates Tremayne Johnson and Laron Griffin Contributing in Big Ways: Junior forward Tremayne Johnson may have only scored three points, but he had eight rebounds, a career-high four assists and a blocked shot in EWU's 83-70 win over Idaho State on Jan. 29. Three of his rebounds came on the offensive end as he earned praise from head coach Kirk Earlywine.
"He played well, and it shows his maturation that he can affect the game without taking a lot of shots and scoring," he said. "He got us three extra possessions because of his work on the offensive glass."
For the season, Johnson has scored in double figures 10 times, including four performances of at least 20 points. He has led Eastern in scoring five times, including a 20-point effort in a 65-51 win over Portland State on Jan. 27. He is fourth on the team with a 10.5 scoring average for the season, making 43.3 percent of his field goal attempts. He is also averaging 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocked shots per game.
Johnson is an extremely athletic and talented 6-foot-7 forward who played one season with EWU teammate Laron Griffin at Los Angeles Southwest Junior College. Johnson attended EWU for the first time in January 2010 after completing his associate degree, but as a mid-year transfer, could not play because of NCAA rules. He was recruited by San Francisco and Arizona, but originally signed a letter of intent with the Eagles in spring 2009 and then re-signed in November 2009.
A senior, Griffin is in his second year on the floor for the Eagles, and has started 19 of 21 games. He is averaging 6.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 0.8 blocked shots per game. He has led the Eagles in scoring twice and rebounding on eight occasions, with career highs of 19 points, 16 rebounds and five assists against Northwest University on Nov. 18. He also had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds against Sacramento State on Jan. 22, and has a total of six double-figure scoring performances and two in rebounding.
Johnson had by far his best game of the season in Eastern's 95-91 victory over Seattle on Dec. 15. He scored a career-high 26 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the floor and 9-of-10 marksmanship from the free throw line. He also had eight rebounds and four blocked shots as he responded in a big way from a three-point, one-rebound effort at San Jose State on Dec. 12.
"There was a lot of read and react basketball that took the thinking out of it for Tremayne," said Earlywine of Johnson's performance against Seattle. "He has the most difficult position to learn in all the things we are doing offensively. The (two forward positions) are dramatically different in all of our sets, and he has to learn those two spots. Seattle scrambled the game and when they did that it became read and react, and it played into Tremayne's hands."
A starter in six of Eastern's first eight games of the season, Johnson came off the bench in the victory over Seattle. One of his baskets included a high-flying, rim-rattling fast-break that caused fans to gasp in amazement. Earlywine was posed the question of whether or not Johnson was more comfortable coming off the bench than as a starter.
"I don't really care about his comfort as much as mine," laughed Earlywine, who heaped praise upon Johnson for diving on the floor for a loose ball and coming up with a steal with the Eagles leading by four with less than 40 seconds remaining. "Tremayne made an unbelievable effort to get to that loose ball. Two Seattle guys were closer to that loose ball than him, and he beat them to it and dove on it. That may be the first time he has ever dove on the floor for a loose ball in his life. I should go check with him to see if there are any broken bones or if he needs to go to the hospital because I think that's what he thinks is going to happen if he dives on the floor. But seriously, he made an unbelievable effort."
Winford Impressive In Rallies: Sophomore guard Kevin Winford sparked the Eagles to a pair of come-from-behind victories, scoring 12 points in the second half of wins over Portland State (65-51 on Jan. 27) and Idaho State (83-70 on Jan. 29). In the two games he scored 26 points, with 24 of them coming in the second half when he made a collective 9-of-11 from the field and 6-of-7 from three-point range. He was 0-9 overall and 0-7 from the arc in the first half of those games.
The Eagles had a collective 96-62 advantage after intermission in those victories, compared to a 59-52 deficit in the first half as EWU trailed at halftime of both games. In both games, Winford fueled runs that opened up the game for the Eagles. He scored six of EWU's points in a 12-2 run against PSU that gave EWU a 48-37 lead. Two nights later, he hit a trio of threes in a 14-4 Eastern run that gave EWU a 53-43 advantage.
For the season, Winford has scored in double figures 12 times, and has led the team in scoring on six occasions. He is second on the team with an 11.4 scoring average for the season, making 39.1 percent of his field goal attempts overall and 54-of-144 three-point attempts (37.5 percent). He has also made 27-of-32 free throws (84.4 percent), including 19-of-21 in league play (90.5).
Winford poured in 39 points -- including a record 10 three-pointers -- in Eastern's overwhelming 112-41 non-conference victory over New Hope Christian College on Dec. 4. En route to the fifth-best scoring night in school history against New Hope, Winford broke the school record of nine treys he set just a week earlier against Idaho on Nov. 27. As a team, the Eagles broke the school record for made three-pointers (18) and three pointers attempted (43), and tied the mark for field goals made in a game with 45. Previous records were 16 three-pointers versus Cascade on Dec. 14, 2007; 38 attempts versus Nevada on Feb. 14, 1991; and 45 field goals made against U.S. International on Feb. 2, 1991.
Winford's 23 three-point attempts were also a Big Sky Conference record, breaking the previous mark of 17 set by Nevada's Kevin Franklin against Oregon on Dec. 16, 1989. His makes were third-most, with Portland State's Brian Towne owning the record with 12 in a 1998 game against Idaho State. As a team, Eastern was two made three-pointers from the Big Sky record of 20, but its 43 attempts were a record. The previous league mark of 41 was set by Weber State against Utah State in the 1993-94 season.
Against Idaho just seven days earlier, Winford finished with what was then a career-high with 28 points as he made 8-of-16 treys, breaking the record for attempts as well. Winford, a 2008 graduate of Bartlett High School in Anchorage, Alaska, broke the previous record of seven three-pointers set on 11 different occasions by five different Eagles. The latest was Marc Axton versus Gonzaga on Dec. 21, 2004, and the first was Greg Gaulding versus New Mexico on Feb. 1, 1987. Shannon Taylor had five of the performances during his two-year career from 1998-99.
Winford's previous career high for points was 20 set twice last season as a redshirt freshman.
Dean Finally Cleared to Play: Sophomore Glen Dean, the Freshman of the Year in the Big Sky Conference last season when he averaged 12.2 points and 4.4 assists per game, was cleared to practice on Dec. 8.
In 14 games thus far, Dean is averaging 12.5 points and 4.7 assists per game to lead the Eagles in both categories. He has led the team in scoring five times, and has scored in double figures on 10 occasions, including a season-high 23 in his first game back. He had a season-high eight assists against Sacramento State on Jan. 22.
Despite missing valuable practice time, head coach Kirk Earlywine made certain the two months off the floor weren't a total loss for Dean, who is a 2008 graduate of Roosevelt High School in Seattle, Wash.
"Sometimes it's good when players have to step back and take a look at things from the bench," explained Earlywine. "It was very noticeable that Glen sat very close to me during games so he could hear the decision-making process and what happens during games. As a coach on the floor, hopefully that will help him in the long run."
Dean, who was out for two months with a stress fracture in his foot, made his debut on Dec. 12 against San Jose State and finished with 23 points, four assists and just one turnover in 30 minutes of action. Dean made his first appearance of the season at home at Reese Court in Eastern's 95-91 win over Seattle on Dec. 15, and finished with 11 points, four assists and a steal in 28 minutes of action.
Prior to making his debut, he practiced just twice prior for an hour each after getting cleared to play. With the 2009-10 Freshman of the Year back in the lineup, Eastern can concentrate on building its team around a player who averaged 12.2 points and 4.4 assists a year ago.
"It goes to show the amount of time and work he put in on a bike, the stair master, in the swimming pool and in the training room," Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine said. "It's quite a tribute to him and he has an unbelievable work capacity. The reason I feel good about our direction right now is that Jeffrey Forbes, Kevin Winford and Glen Dean know how to work. They know how hard and how long, and that's rubbing off on our other guys."
At the same time, Eastern welcomed back point guard Cliff Colimon, who had missed the previous three games and four total games with a sprained ankle. Plus, forward Rashano McRae missed those same three games and valuable practice time with a concussion.
McRae was coming off his best outing of the year when he suffered his concussion, and had missed valuable practice time early in the year with back spasms. The 6-foot-7 junior college transfer had three points, five rebounds and four assists on Nov. 24 at Boise State.
Coupled with Willie Hankins getting cleared by the NCAA to practice with the team -- but not yet play in games -- Earlywine was overjoyed to have 15 players practicing on Dec. 9 for the first time the entire season.
The Point-Less Eagles: The Eagles played four of its first seven games without the availability of both point guards -- Glen Dean and Cliff Colimon.
Colimon had injured the ankle earlier in the year and missed EWU's opener against San Jose State, then played three games before injuring it again in practice two days after EWU lost at Boise State on Nov. 24. Dean had a stress fracture in his foot and missed the first seven games after earning Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year accolades in the 2009-10 season when he averaged 12.2 points and 4.4 assists per game.
"The only analogy I can think of is trying to play a football without a quarterback," said Earlywine. "If all your quarterbacks get hurt and you have to all of the sudden throw another player from another position in there, he has to be able to recognize coverages, audible, change plays, call the pass protection and those types of things. Chances are it's going to be a disaster."
Eastern averaged 17.9 turnovers per game in their first seven games, including eight in the first half against Idaho in which the Eagles fell behind at intermission 28-22. The lack of an experienced point guard was particularly noticeable in a 66-60 exhibition loss to Montana State-Billings on Nov. 8 as Eastern had only four assists and made just 15-of-60 shots from the field. The Eagles had 12 assists and made 37 percent from the field in a 67-60 loss against San Jose State, but had 12 of their 17 turnovers in the second half after leading 36-33 at intermission.
Colimon, a transfer from Eastern Utah Junior College, started and played Eastern's next three games until the loss to Idaho. He averaged 12.0 points and 2.1 assists in the three games he was able to play during that stretch in an average of 20.0 minutes per game. Because of the absence of a point guard for the most part this season, guard Jeffrey Forbes averaged 35.1 minutes per game in those first seven games. He and guard Kevin Winford (29.3 minutes per game in that span) played all 40 minutes against Idaho, and Forbes also played all 40 versus Gonzaga on Nov. 30.
Good Timing of Bad Situation: Eastern's injuries came at an ideal time, with 11 days between NCAA Division I games. Eastern lost to Gonzaga 86-57 on Nov. 30, and didn't play another DI opponent until San Jose State on Dec. 12. In between, Eastern defeated New Hope -- a member of the National Christian College Athletic Association -- 112-41 and took four days off from practicing for final exams at Eastern.
"When we made the schedule, we had no way of knowing we were going to have three of our top six or seven guys sitting on the bench when final exams rolled around," Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine said. "Having them sidelined with injuries came at a perfect time for us. In essence, we took four days completely off while our players took care of their school work, and that certainly helped us from a health perspective."
For The Second-Straight Season, Eagles Spend First Month Dealing with Injuries: Eastern got off to a rocky start on the injury front when practices started in mid-October for the 2010-11 season. Just a few days into practice, Eastern lost 2009-10 Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year Glen Dean due to a stress fracture in his foot. Dean averaged 12.2 points and 4.4 assists a year ago. He was finally cleared to practice and play on Dec. 8.
Early practices sidelined true freshman Geoffrey Allen, and he was feared lost for the season with what was thought to be a broken hand. But once swelling and bruising subsided, the injury wasn't as severe as first thought and he returned to practice on Nov. 10. He made his debut against San Jose, finishing with three points, three rebounds and three assists in 15 minutes of action. The son of former UCLA and NBA standout Lucius Allen, he is from Los Angeles, Calif., and is a 2010 graduate of Pacific Hills High School
Also, freshman Carter Warnock (who is now redshirting) missed two weeks with a severe case of pink eye, and did not play in EWU's exhibition opener versus Seattle Pacific. Point guard Cliff Colimon missed the second exhibition with a sprained ankle suffered on Nov. 7, and did not play in the season opener against San Jose. He hurt it again in a practice and missed three games from Nov. 27 to Dec. 4. Freshman walk-on redshirt Sean Fischer has a cartilage tear in his shoulder and has yet to make his first appearance in an Eagle uniform.
Actually, the rash of injuries started the week prior to practices starting when men's basketball athletic trainer Donald Sims suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon, then assistant coach Jamie Matthews spent time in the hospital with a staph infection near his eye.
Besides injuries in early practices to Dean and Allen, returnee Laron Griffin and Colimon both suffered minor injuries within seconds of each other during the same drill. Griffin took an elbow to his head and Colimon was poked in the eye. Newcomer Rashano McRae suffered from back spasms in the opening practices and has missed practice time and one exhibition, then a concussion forced him to miss the same three games Colimon missed from Nov. 27 to Dec. 4.
Also, newcomer Willie Hankins was not cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse to practice until Dec. 9 and is still unable to play in games, further thinning further Earlywine's roster. At one point after the first weekend of practices, Earlywine remarked, "I don't know whether to laugh or cry."
A year ago, the Eagles spent the first month of the season dealing with injuries to five Eagles -- Gary Gibson (knees), Brandon Moore (foot and ankle), Abebe Demissie (hamstring), Kevin Winford (concussion) and Matthew Brunell (ankle). The missed time impacted Eastern not only in games, but in practice.
"We've already had a season's worth of bad luck," said Earlywine a year ago before Eastern's league opener on Dec. 5. "Hopefully we're close to being through it and we don't have any more. It's been hard, and it's been hard because you can't practice effectively."
Brunell and Winford suffered their injuries in the second game of the season, and Moore missed the Walla Walla game and parts of another with a sprained ankle. Moore also missed much of the preseason because of a foot injury that required minor surgery. Brunell missed five full games and parts of two others; Gibson missed six games; and Winford missed two.
Brunell continued to be bothered by his injury, and then missed Eastern's game against Sacramento State with an injury to his other ankle. Another sprained ankle, this time by starter Alden Gibbs, kept him out of four games from Jan. 15 to Jan. 23.
Eagles Receiving High Marks Academically: Eastern has a high-achieving team academically, with a team grade point average of over 3.0 in each term a year ago. Glen Dean, Jeffrey Forbes and Kevin Winford were all selected to the Big Sky Conference All-Academic Team, as all three had accumulative GPAs of 3.23 and above through the 2009-10 academic year.
Winford, in fact, is Eastern's nominee this winter for Capital One Academic All-America honors as selected by members of the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). Through fall quarter 2011, Winford had a 3.44 grade point average as an interdisciplinary studies major in liberal arts. The minimum GPA to be nominated is 3.0. He will be selected to the Big Sky Conference All-Academic team for the second time this winter.
Winford, Dean and Forbes are joined by several other recruits with impressive academic credentials, including a 4.0 high school GPA by Carter Warnock and 3.5 and above accumulative GPAs for Jaylen Henry and Geoffrey Allen. Cliff Ederaine expects to major in pre-med in hopes of becoming a doctor.
"That's an overlying theme with this year's incoming class of high school players and several others," said head coach Kirk Earlywine. "Three of our incoming freshmen are 3.5 students or higher, they come from good families and they are high-character kids. We want student-athletes who want to get a degree and are also good basketball players, and many of our student-athletes fall into those categories."
Eagles May Be The Least Experienced Team in NCAA Division I: Eastern has no seniors on its 2010-11 roster, and features a quartet of returning letter winners from last year's team that finished 9-21 overall and 5-11 in the Big Sky Conference. In preliminary results from a recent survey of NCAA Division I teams, no other school has less NCAA Division I experience than the Eagles, whose four returnees have lettered one year each.
Pair of Eagles Return to Puget Sound: Eagles Glen Dean and Jeffrey Forbes returned to the Puget Sound area when Eastern played at Washington on Nov. 16 and Jan. 6 when the Eagles played at Seattle.
Dean is a 2008 graduate of Roosevelt High School in Seattle, and Forbes is a 2009 graduate of Federal Way (Wash.) High School. Forbes helped Federal Way win the WIAA State 4A Championship in 2009.
Weber State Picked as the Team to Beat in League Race: The Eagles have been picked to finish sixth in the Big Sky Conference in both the media and coaches polls. Weber State, which has gone 28-4 in the BSC over the last two seasons and is the two-time defending league champion, is picked first in both polls. However, 2009-10 Big Sky MVP Damian Lillard was lost for the season with a foot injury before league play began.
"Weber State had kind of been the dominant team in the league the last three or four years, and the question we asked ourselves is 'what do we have to do to catch them and beat them?'" said Earlywine. "We can't sit back and hope they digress -- we have to go catch them."
"What we have to understand as a program is that the league is not going to back up -- we are going to have to catch them. In order to do that, the players in the program have to improve themselves -- not only in their skill level but also in their conditioning and strength. On top of that, we have to replace our five seniors with five players who are ultimately better. That's not a knock against those seniors, but that's just what we have to do to get better. You improve the players in your program and you go get better players to replace those who leave. That's what we are trying to do."
Eagles Versus Ranked Teams: Eastern lost to Washington 98-72 on Nov. 16 and 86-57 to Gonzaga on Nov. 30 in EWU's most recent games against nationally-ranked teams. Washington was ranked 17th by Associated Press and 15th in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll, and Gonzaga was 24th by the coaches.
Last year, the Eagles fell 94-52 to Gonzaga on Dec. 28, 2009, in EWU's most recent game against a nationally-ranked foe. The Bulldogs were ranked 22nd by ESPN/USA Today, but were just out of the top 25 at No. 26 by Associated Press. The 2008-09 season was the first time since 2002-03 that Eastern did not play a nationally-ranked team. The Eagles played 12 such games in the five seasons before that.
Eastern is 1-17 versus nationally-ranked teams -- including three games in the 2004-05 season alone as well as three the year before. Seven of the games came under former head coach Mike Burns and five others came under Ray Giacoletti from 2000-2004.
11/30/10 vs. #24 (ESPN/USA Today) Gonzaga - L, 57-86
11/16/10 vs. #17 Washington - L, 72-98
12/28/09 vs. #22 (ESPN/USA Today) Gonzaga - L, 52-94
12/5/07 vs. #3 Kansas - L, 47-85
11/9/07 vs. #10 Washington State - L, 41-68
12/15/06 vs. #22 Oregon - L, 74-100
11/24/06 vs. #16 Washington - L, 83-90
12/19/05 vs. #8 Gonzaga - L, 65-75
12/16/05 vs. #11 Washington - L, 74-91
12/28/04 vs. #14 Arizona - L, 45-79
12/21/04 vs. #13 Gonzaga - L, 70-83
12/5/04 vs. #14 Washington - L, 56-89
3/19/04 vs. #3 Oklahoma State - L, 56-75
12/31/03 vs. #16 Gonzaga - L, 49-70
11/21/03 vs. #14 Oklahoma - L, 59-69
11/15/01 vs. #10 St. Joseph's - W, 68-67
11/25/00 vs. #4 Michigan State - L, 61-83
1/21/85 vs. #10 DePaul - L, 50-72
EWU-Northern Colorado Series History: The Eagles are 5-5 all-time versus UNC (3-2 in Cheney, 2-3 in Greeley), with the first meeting taking place on Dec. 20, 1971, when Eastern beat the Bears 76-68 in Greeley, Colo. Eastern won a pair of games in 2006-07 when the Bears became a Big Sky Conference member.
The Eagles won the first four games in the series until the Bears picked up a 79-66 home win over the Eagles on Feb. 23, 2008, and a 75-68 home triumph early in the 2008-09 season on Jan. 15 in Greeley. In the 2009-10 season, Eastern suffered its first home defeat in the series versus UNC with a 74-71 loss on Jan. 16 and later fell in Greeley 58-54 on Feb. 18. Earlier this season, Eastern suffered a heart-breaking 75-73 home loss to the Bears on New Year's Eve.
Earlier This Season . . . Bears Hold Off Eagles for 75-73 Win: Elliott Lloyd blocked a shot by Glen Dean with one second remaining to preserve Northern Colorado's 75-73 Big Sky Conference men's basketball victory over Eastern Washington Dec. 31 at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.
Eastern's Jeffrey Forbes, who scored 21 points to lead the Eagles, had knotted the game with 1:18 left before UNC's Devon Beitzel scored the last of his 23 points with a jumper with 59 seconds left. That was the final score of the game as Dean followed with three missed free throws in the final 46 seconds, then the Eagles couldn't capitalize on a Bear turnover with 11 seconds to play.
"That one was hard to stomach losing like that," said Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine.
"We were 13-of-27 from the arc and we thought if Glen could get to the paint it would be very difficult for them to come help off anybody," Earlywine explained of the final play. "And if they did, we could get a three. It didn't work out this time. We had what we wanted but it didn't go in."
Forbes made 6-of-8 three-pointers and 7-of-11 shots overall as he led four Eagles in double figures. Dean, Cliff Colimon and Kevin Winford each scored 13, with Dean finishing with a game-high six assists. Cliff Ederaine added six points and seven rebounds as he entered the game as the Big Sky leader with an average of 8.6 boards per game.
The Bears used a 7-0 run early in the game to take a 21-14 lead and didn't trail the rest of the half until the final seconds on a rebound basket by Eastern's Rocky Brown. That gave EWU a 43-42 advantage at intermission.
Beitzel scored 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field in the first half as the Bears made 54 percent of their shots from the field, including 5-of-9 three-pointers.
Winford, Colimon and Forbes combined for 30 of Eastern's 43 points as Eastern made 8-of-13 treys. Forbes made all three of his, and Winford made all five of his free throws. Eastern sank 48 percent of its shots in the first half, but was out-rebounded 18-13.
There were three ties and six lead changes in the first half, then there were five more ties and three lead changes in the second half. The biggest lead for either team was eight in the first half by UNC (24-16), and Eastern's largest leads were three in the first half and one in the second.
Northern Colorado made 49 percent of its shots from the field and out-rebounded Eastern 35-27. The Eagles made 42 percent from the field, and stayed in the game by making 13-of-27 three-pointers. Eastern missed 10 free throws (16-of-26) while the Bears missed just six (24-of-30).
EWU-Idaho State Series History (Since 1983-84): Eastern has won 20 of the past 29 meetings against the Bengals, including sweeps in the 2001-02, 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons. Idaho State swept the Eagles in the regular season in 2002-03, but Eastern won the third meeting by a 76-67 score in the semifinals of the Big Sky Conference Tournament. Last year, Eastern lost at Idaho State 80-74 but won 79-71 in Cheney where the season ended for both teams.
Since Eastern became a member of NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season, the Eagles are 31-26 against the Bengals, including a 22-7 record in Cheney and 8-18 mark in Pocatello (1-1 on neutral courts). Eastern lost eight-straight games to ISU from 1993 to 1997, and leads in the all-time series 34-27 (24-6 in Cheney, 9-20 in Pocatello, 1-1 neutral).