Sac State wins in Cheney for the first time since 1995 as Eastern’s rally in the closing minutes falls short
Sacramento State buried Eastern with six 3-pointers in the first half to take a 40-21 lead at halftime, and Eastern Washington University’s rally came up short as the Hornets beat the Eagles 75-71 Saturday (Feb. 4) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.
The victory was the third-straight for the Hornets, who ended a 15-game losing streak to the Eagles at Reese Court. Eastern saw its two-game winning streak end, but the Eagles are still in fifth-place in the Big Sky Conference standings. Eastern is now 5-6 in the league and 11-13 overall, while Sac State improved to 3-8 in the Big Sky and 8-14 on the season.
“I’m really proud of the effort and character our team showed in the second half,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. “Obviously, I wish we weren’t down by 19 at halftime. That continues a trend for us to start slow in the first half. So we need to figure out why we are not bringing the same energy in the first 20 minutes as we are in the last 20 minutes.”
Eastern had owned a 16-1 record versus Sacramento State in Cheney, and had won the last 15 meetings at home dating back to a 68-67 Hornet victory on Jan. 19, 1995. The Eagles are now 26-10 all-time versus Sacramento State, and EWU has still won 19 of the last 25 meetings.
The Eagles have had mixed success at home this season, and actually have a better league road record (3-2) than home record (2-4) thus far. After a 4-0 start at home, EWU is now 6-4 at Reese Court.
Senior guard Cliff Colimon led the Eagles with 25 points, and senior forward Cliff Ederaine had his sixth double-double of the season and seventh in his career with 15 points and eight rebounds. His rebounding performance equaled the fourth-best in recorded school history, and he also had a team-high six assists.
“Ederaine had a great game for us tonight with 18 boards and 15 points,” said Hayford. “I thought Colimon showed great resolve. He wasn’t going to let us lose and did everything in his power.”
Senior forward Laron Griffin added eight points, but played just 22 minutes before fouling out. Senior forward Tremayne Johnson chipped in eight points, six rebounds and two blocked shots, but also fouled out after playing only 21 minutes. Jeffrey Forbes added seven points, five assists, four steals and three rebounds.
The Eagles made only 40.7 percent of their shots in the game, including a paltry 26 percent in the first half. Sacramento State made 47 percent of its shots, including 9-of-20 3-pointers.
Eastern also didn’t help its cause at the free throw line, making only 18-of-33 for 55 percent. It was the second-worst percentage of the season for EWU, ranking only behind the 46 percent they made versus Cal State Fullerton (5-of-11).
“We did not make free throws -- we needed to make more,” explained Hayford. “And so they were building a lead in the first half. We were missing some point-blank shots, and if we got fouled we missed our free throws. That is why they were able to get such a big lead.”
The Hornets sank 50 percent of their shots in the first half, with six treys. Joe Eberhard, who scored a team-high 21 points, made two threes just before halftime to give Sac State a 40-21 halftime lead.
“We had a couple of bad possessions at the end of the first half and they made back-to-back threes,” Hayford said. “We came out of the timeout and called zone, but we had four guys who went zone and one guy who went man and I don’t know why that happens. Those six points at the end of the first came back to bite us.
“When our team shoots well I like it when the other coach gives my players credit for making shots,” he added. “I think I need to give credit to Sacramento State for having one of their better shooting nights tonight.”
The poor half followed a trend this season for the Eagles. They fell behind at intermission versus Washington State 41-25, Saint Mary’s 40-25, Montana 40-27 and UCLA 28-18.
The Eagles used a 7-0 run to cut the lead to 11 early in the second half, and finally sliced the deficit to single digits at the 6:02 mark. Eastern cut the lead to three with 36 seconds to play on three free throws by Colimon, but Sac State iced the game by making nine of their last 10 free throws. Until then, the Hornets had made only 15-of-27 in the game.
“We have to find out why we don’t come to the first half of games with the same urgency as the second half of games,” Hayford said. “You look at the difference in energy from the first half to the second half and we need to be able to bring that from the beginning of the game.”
Eastern returns to action next Saturday (Feb. 11) in Ogden, Utah, when the Eagles take on league-leading Weber State. The Wildcats are 10-1 in the league and 18-4 overall, and knocked off EWU in Cheney 76-69 on Jan. 5.