Eastern Falls to Montana State-Billings 66-60

Shorthanded again, Eagles play official opener Friday against San Jose State

This time, the Eagles played without a true point guard.

The Eastern Washington University men's basketball team couldn't overcome 25 percent shooting from the field and closed its exhibition season with a 66-60 loss against Montana State-Billings Monday (Nov. 8) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.

Already playing without returning point guard Glen Dean -- the 2009-10 Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year -- the Eagles also played without backup Cliff Colimon, who sprained his ankle in practice on Sunday. Although the Eagles had only 11 turnovers in the game, EWU also had just four assists in 15 baskets for the Eagles, and a total of 45 missed shots from the field.

"Offensively it was pretty obvious we were playing without a point guard," said Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine. "And that was painful -- I'm sure it was painful for our fans to watch I'm sure."

Eastern officially opens the season at home on Friday, Nov. 12 against San Jose State at 5:35 p.m. at Reese Court. Eastern's women's team follows with a game against Cal State Fullerton at approximately 7:30 p.m. as part of a Reese Court doubleheader. Season ticket and single game ticket information is available at www.goeags.com.

Newcomer Cliff Ederaine led the Eagles with a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Kevin Winford, one of three returning starters at guard for the Eagles, made 8-of-9 free throws to finish with 14 points, but he missed all four of his three-point attempts.

Tremayne Johnson had 10 rebounds, but scored only nine points on 2-of-17 shooting from the field. Ederaine also missed five shots from the field in eight attempts, but made 8-of-14 from the free throw line.

"Their shots were at the front of the rim -- I thought they hurried a little bit," said Earlywine of the abundance of misses. "In Ederaine's case, there was some fatigue in his legs. We had him in a full-court situation all night, and looking forward to when he have some more guys, he has the athletic ability to cause some problems up there. That probably wore him down a little bit -- he played more minutes than he should."

Sophomore guard Jeffrey Forbes, a starter who averaged in double figures as a freshman last season, did not play in EWU's 87-82 loss to Seattle Pacific Nov. 2 at Reese Court because of a knee strain. He played just less than 40 minutes against MSU-Billings, but made only 3-of-12 shots and finished with seven points.

"I thought it was really obvious that Jeffrey Forbes missed a lot of practice with his knee injury," said Earlywine. "And it was obvious that Kevin Winford was beat physically. He's out there playing out of position and he's out there picking up the point guard defensively which he doesn't normally do. I can go on down the line. There is a trickle-down effect when you have four or five guards not in practice. I thought that showed tonight."

Eastern never led in the first half and trailed by as many as nine points. But a 17-5 run to open the second half -- fueled by a pair of three-pointers by Morgan Hyslop -- gave Eastern a 40-35 lead. However, EWU went 7:44 without a field goal, and a 14-0 run gave the Yellowjackets a nine-point cushion.

Eastern knotted the game at 56 with 4:18 left, but MSUB scored the next five points and the closest EWU came the rest of the way was three.

A total of 10 Eagles played versus the Yellowjackets, but four logged at least 31 minutes. Eastern had only eight players participate in the SPU game.

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. Dean is out with a stress fracture in his foot, and he will be re-evaluated Tuesday, as will Colimon this week.

Besides Forbes, Eastern also received good news on the prognosis of freshman Geoffrey Allen, who 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 Earlywine said he should return to practice this week.

Also, freshman Carter Warnock saw his first action of the season against MSU-Billings after missing the past two weeks with a severe case of pink eye, and freshman walk-on redshirt Sean Fischer is still out with a nagging shoulder injury. In addition, freshman Willie Hankins has yet to be cleared to play by the NCAA Clearinghouse.

Like Seattle Pacific, Montana State-Billings is a member of the Great Northwest Conference and came one victory shy of a NCAA Tournament berth a year ago. Coached by former Idaho and Lewis-Clark State head coach George Pfeifer, the Yellowjackets finished 15-10 overall and 9-7 in the conference. They are 25-27 overall in Pfeifer's two seasons at the helm, a vast improvement on the 7-49 record the school had the two previous seasons.

The Yellowjackets opened their exhibition season with a 92-79 loss at Idaho State on Nov. 2.

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