With Early 27-7 Lead, Eastern Rolls to 73-66 Victory

Hot shooting and defense in opening 10 minutes helps Eagles win their third-straight game heading into Saturday test at Washington State

This time, the Eagles did the long-range bombing.

After falling victim the last two seasons to Idaho’s 3-point shooting attack, the Eastern Washington University sank them early and often Wednesday (Nov. 30) and rolled to a 73-66 non-conference men’s basketball victory over the Vandals at Memorial Gym in Moscow, Idaho.

The Eagles jumped out to a 27-7 lead and made eight treys in the first half alone. They finished with 13 as EWU won its third-straight game – with an average winning margin of 14.7 points per game. A late Idaho barrage made the game close after the Eagles led 59-41 with 8:21 to play.

“That will make the drive home to Cheney a little easier,” said first-year head coach Jim Hayford. “I’m really, really proud of our players. We had a great offensive rebounding effort, and obviously, we came out shooting the ball really well and got them on their heels. Idaho came back with some big punches, but we didn’t rest on that big lead and showed poise. I’m just very proud of our players.”

Last year, Idaho made 11 3-pointers and knocked off EWU 70-60 in Cheney. A year earlier in Moscow, the Vandals made their first seven shots from the arc and took a 45-23 halftime lead en route to a 54 percent shooting night.

The roles were reversed Wednesday, as EWU led 38-24 at intermission. Idaho cut the lead to nine early in the second half, but Eastern used an 8-0 run to pull away for the win to improve to 4-2 on the season. Idaho fell to 3-3.

“To come out and hold them to four points in the first 9 1/2 minutes was the biggest stat right there,” said Hayford of the fast start. “I loved our defensive scheme and our players executed it well.”

Five Eagles scored at least nine points, led by the 13 of senior point guard Cliff Colimon, who also had a game-high six assists. Senior forward Cliff Ederaine, who was this week’s Big Sky Conference Player of the Week after leading EWU to impressive victories over Hawai’i (89-72) and UC Davis (79-59), finished with 13 points, eight rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot.

Junior Jordan Hickert came off the bench to hit four 3-pointers and finish with 12 points – nearly double his previous high of seven. Junior guard Jeffrey Forbes and junior forward Collin Chiverton each had a trio of 3-pointers and finished with nine points apiece. Senior forward Laron Griffin finished with 10 rebounds to lead EWU’s 37-33 advantage on the boards, which included 15 offensive caroms.

“We did a great job of getting Big Red open against their 6-10 player – he didn’t want to chase him around,” Hayford said of the 6-foot-9 Hickert. “He got nine shots off and made four in 20 minutes of action. The players stuck with the game plan and that’s why we are driving home with a win.”

Eastern finished the game making 13-of-28 3-pointers, while Idaho made 8-of-20. Idaho out-shot Eastern overall 44 percent to 42 percent, and both teams had nine turnovers.

Forbes, who nearly played the entire game, held Idaho leading scorer Deremy Geiger to eight points on 2-of-7 shooting from the field. In last year’s meeting, Geiger scored 23 versus EWU and came into Wednesday’s game averaging a team-leading 15.2 points per game.

“We tried to get Jeff a rest early, but as soon as we took him off they brought Geiger back on, so we had to get Forbes back in there too,” Hayford explained. “He’s like a Timex – he takes a licking but keeps on ticking – he can play forever and I love that about him. He’s drawing that tough defensive assignment and taking pride in it.”

Eastern jumped out to early leads of 5-0, 8-2 and 21-4 as it made five early treys. Idaho meanwhile made just two baskets in the first 10 minutes, and back-to-back 3-pointers by Chiverton and Forbes gave EWU a 27-7 advantage. Chiverton scored all nine of his points in the first half, and Forbes and Hickert each had six as the Eagles led 38-24 at halftime.

Idaho cut the lead to 45-36 early in the second half, but EWU held the Vandals scoreless in the next four minutes. Eastern’s 8-0 run was capped by a trey by Forbes, and later, back-to-back 3-pointers by Colimon and Hickert gave EWU a 59-41 lead with 8:21 left.

Eastern helped Idaho’s comeback cause late by making only five of its last 10 free throws.

Eastern now plays at Washington State of the Pac-12 on Saturday (Dec. 3) at 3:35 p.m. at Friel Court. The Cougars are 3-4 after burying Grambling 69-37 on Wednesday (Nov. 30). Prior to that, WSU was coming off a 64-63 loss to UC Riverside on Sunday (Nov. 27), as WSU lost all three games at the 76 Classic in Anaheim, Calif.

The radio broadcast of Saturday’s game, featuring play-by-play announcer Dennis Patchin, may be heard on 700-AM ESPN, via the web at www.espnnorthwest.com and via iPhone application (search for “Spokane Radio” and download the free app). Saturday’s game will also be televised regionally by Root Sports (formerly Fox Sports Northwest).

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