Eastern Holds Off Lutes, 83-72

Chiverton and Colimon each score 26, as Eagles improve to 6-5 heading into game Tuesday at 7-1 Saint Mary’s

Despite only a day between games to prepare, a pair of Eagles had season-best scoring nights to lead Eastern Washington to an 83-72 non-conference men’s basketball victory over Pacific Lutheran Friday (Dec. 16) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.

Junior Collin Chiverton scored 18 first-half points on his way to a team-high and season-high 26. Point guard Cliff Colimon also added a season-high 26 points – one away from his career high – and finished with seven assists. Both players made six 3-pointers as EWU finished 16-of-22 as a team.

“I’m really happy about the win,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. “The teachable moment from this game is that we had a big lead that was cut down. But we showed poise, called a timeout and made some baskets. I think in some ways this might help us down the road more than a 30- or 40-point win. And again, these guys were dead tired, but I don’t want to take anything away from PLU. They played amazing tonight.”

One game after making only 26 percent from the field – including a 1-of-12 performance by Colimon -- Eastern made 57 percent of its shots against PLU. The Eagles made a blistering 60 percent in the first half when they sank 8-of-12 3-pointers.

“We didn’t put the ball in the basket at UCLA, but tonight we shot 57 percent,” said Hayford. “Colimon played tough tonight.”

The Eagles remained unbeaten in four games thus far at home as they improved to 6-5 on the season. Pacific Lutheran, a member of NCAA Division III and the Northwest Conference, fell to 4-4.

The Eagles were coming off a 60-47 loss at UCLA on Wednesday (Dec. 14). Eastern was within two points against UCLA with just 14:35 left to play, but the Eagles couldn’t overcome a 26 percent shooting night and the Bruins pulled away. Other than the shooting, Eastern’s performance was splendid with a 42-32 rebounding advantage over the towering Bruins, one less turnover than UCLA and a defensive performance that held the Bruins to 42 percent shooting from the field.

After practicing in the Los Angeles area Thursday morning, the Eagles returned to campus on Thursday evening for another practice session. Twenty-four hours later, the Eagles played the Lutes.

“We just got off a five-day road trip, and a six-hour trip back,” explained Hayford, who played without junior Kevin Winford for the second-straight game because of an infection in his tongue. “Then we got to the gym last night and I practiced the team hard. I made them get up early this morning and practice again. So to give credit where credit is due, our players did great opening up an 18-point lead. But then their legs got tired and we were playing short-handed -- it’s an eight-man rotation without Kevin. But it’s what we need to do -- we need to teach. We need to be with them in the gym and teach them toughness.”

 The EWU-PLU game was tied twice early before EWU used early runs of 11-6 and 11-3 to open a 30-19 lead with 9:57 left to play before intermission. Chiverton scored 18 of those 30 Eastern points.

The Eagles went on to lead by as many as 18 at 42-24 on a 3-pointer by Colimon. The Eagles led 42-33 at halftime as Cameron Schilling paced PLU with 14 points and five assists in the first half.

In the second half, Eastern couldn’t shake the pesky Lutes, who made 6-of-11 3-pointers after intermission. Schillling finished with 18 points, while Cameron Reister scored 12 of his 15 points in the second half, and finished with five baskets from behind the arc.

The Lutes cut the score to 65-62 with 5:55 left, but didn’t make a basket in the final two minutes of the game. Eastern, meanwhile, made 7-of-9 free throws in the last 50 seconds to clinch the win.

Eastern makes one more pre-Christmas trip to California to face Saint Mary’s in Moraga, Calif., on Dec. 20. The Gaels, a member of the West Coast Conference, are 7-1 heading into a home game Saturday (Dec. 17) versus Bethune-Cookman.

Then, the Eagles open Big Sky Conference play on the road at Montana State (Dec. 28) and Montana (Dec. 30), meaning the Eagles are in the midst of a stretch in which they play five of six games on the road. In its first 10 games, Eastern’s highlights have been NCAA Division I road victories over Hawaii (89-72) and Idaho (73-66), and the lowlight came in the form of a 75-49 road loss at Washington State – one of three setbacks to Pac-12 Conference opponents the Eagles suffered.

Eastern is now 30-25 all-time versus the Lutes. Pacific Lutheran and Linfield, a team Eastern defeated 104-54 in its last home contest on Dec. 8, are members of the NCAA Division III Northwest Conference. That’s the same league Hayford belonged to the past 10 seasons while he was at Whitworth. Hayford is now 18-4 against the Wildcats and is 19-3 versus the Lutes, who knocked off Linfield 76-68 on Dec. 3 in McMinnville, Ore.

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