Chiverton has seventh 20-point outing of the season as Eastern moves into third place in the Big Sky standings
With third-place on the line, Cliff Colimon seized the opportunity.
The senior point guard scored 11 of his 17 points in the final five minutes as Eastern Washington University downed Sacramento State 65-60 in a Big Sky Conference men’s basketball game Thursday (Jan. 12) In Sacramento, Calif., in the first of three road games in five nights for the Eagles.
“I’m just really proud that our players found a way to win,” said first-year EWU head coach Jim Hayford. “They said in the locker room, ‘we used to find a way to lose – now we found a way to win.’ That’s why I’m happy – you are happy when your players put so much work into it and can have the joy of a win.”
After having not won this season when it trailed at halftime, the victory over Sac State was EWU’s second-straight comeback victory after trailing at intermission. It also was the first time this season that any Eastern game has been decided by six points or less.
The Eagles improved to 3-2 in the league with its second road breakthrough of the season, and moved into sole possession of third-place in the Big Sky standings behind Montana (4-0) and Weber State (5-0), who square off Saturday (Jan. 14) in Ogden, Utah. Now 9-8 overall, the Eagles are just ahead of 2-2 Montana State and Northern Colorado, EWU’s next opponent in two days.
“I’m really, really happy for our players,” said Hayford. “:It was one ugly basketball game, but somehow we found a way to make enough plays down the stretch to get a conference road win. I do give Sacramento State tremendous credit – they laid their hearts out there and were doing everything they could. It was a real physical game.”
Colimon scored 11 of EWU’s last 15 points, all in the last 5:02 of the game. In the first 35 minutes of the contest he scored only six points, as the Eagles suffered through a 35 percent shooting night (18-of-51) overall from the field and 31 percent (9-of-29) from the 3-point arc.
“For us to win the game and shoot only 35 percent must show our defense is pretty solid and we’re taking care of the ball,” Hayford said.
Ailing junior Colin Chiverton led the Eagles with 21 points, making 6-of-8 shots from 3-point range and 1-of-2 inside the arc. He also made 1-of-2 free throws as he finished with his seventh 20-point outing in 17 games this season. However, it was his first 20-point outing since Dec. 16, as he has struggled with a stress fracture in his foot originally injured in the off-season.
“As closely as they guarded him, Chiv had a tremendous offensive night – 21 points in 25 minutes,” praised Hayford.
Colimon scored 10 of his points in a pair of five-point spurts prior to his late-game heroics, but he struggled otherwise on 4-of-11 shooting from the field. Colimon, who had averaged 22.0 points in EWU’s four league games, made 8-of-9 free throws and also had a career-high seven rebounds and five assists.
“I think our team has developed toughness,” explained Hayford. “It showed in Colimon -- it was a hard night, but he made the big plays down the stretch. I think that shows toughness.”
Eastern now plays at Northern Colorado on Saturday (Jan. 14) at 3:05 p.m. Pacific time, followed by a non-conference game at Seattle on Monday (Jan. 16).
The radio broadcast of the games 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 against Northern Colorado, which was moved from 4:05 p.m. to 3:05 p.m. Pacific time to avoid a conflict with the Denver Broncos in the NFL Playoffs, is televised regionally by Altitude Sports and Entertainment.
Northern Colorado fell to 2-2 in the league standings and 5-10 overall when it lost at home to Portland State 86-75 on Thursday. Besides a 61-53 win over Sac State, the Bears have defeated NAU 80-64 and lost to Idaho State 57-55 in its other three Big Sky games.
The Hornets, now 5-10 overall, have lost all four of their league games thus far – 73-64 to Northern Arizona, 74-63 to Weber State and 61-53 to UNC.
The Eagles took an early 7-0 lead against the Hornets, but their shooting woes followed and EWU was out-scored 18-3 as the Hornets took command. Eastern, which made just 24 percent of its shots in the first half, rallied to pull within 29-25 at halftime.
Sac State led most of the second half, with EWU’s lone lead in the first 15 minutes coming with 11:29 to play. However, five-straight points by Colimon capped an 8-2 run to give the Eagles a 55-52 advantage with 4:14 remaining.
Eastern made 8-of-10 free throws in the last 2:56 to help clinch the win. Four of them were by Colimon, who also made EWU’s lone field goal in that stretch with a driving layin with 32 seconds to play. On the ensuing possession, he had his seventh rebound of the game on a Sac State miss, was fouled and made two free throws to give EWU a 63-58 lead with 14 ticks left on the clock.
Eastern has just 10 turnovers – including only three in the first half – compared to 14 for the Hornets. Eastern has now had fewer turnovers than its opponents in 16 of 17 games thus far. Eastern also made 20-of-28 free throws (71 percent) compared to 18-of-27 (67 percent) for Sac State.
“We got to the free throw line – that was something we haven’t been doing well,” added Hayford. “We actually shot more free throws than the other team. That was just enough to make the difference and win by two possessions.”
Eastern’s Cliff Ederaine chipped in 10 points, four rebounds and five assists, but he fouled out 6:14 left.