Vikings Beat Eagles in Overtime in Battle for Fourth in Big Sky

Eastern begins home stand with third-straight loss, as Charles Odum hits game-winner with two seconds to play

Portland State came up with a scoring run and big plays down the stretch to spoil the opening game of Eastern Washington University’s home stand, as the Vikings came up with a 78-76 overtime victory over the Eagles Saturday (Jan. 21) in a Big Sky Conference men’s basketball game at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.

In a battle for fourth place in the league standings, PSU’s Charles Odum hit the game-winner with a contested shot in the lane with two seconds to play in overtime. The Vikings made a 3-pointer with 10 seconds remaining in regulation to help send the game into overtime, just after the Eagles missed free throws with 16 and 24 seconds to play that could have helped widen their lead to four and perhaps preserve the win.

The Eagles led 55-49 with six minutes left, but allowed the Vikings to go on an 8-0 lead and regain the lead. The game featured eight lead changes and 14 ties -- a season high for EWU.

“These are all really close games -- we’re right there with them,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford of his team’s last two league outings, including a 71-70 loss at Northern Colorado on Jan. 14. “We’ve had an overtime game and a one-point loss in our last two league games. I need to keep coaching, keep grinding and get this thing turned around. I never said it would be easy when I took the job and it’s not easy.”

The Vikings improved to 10-9 overall and 4-3 in the conference, and EWU fell to 9-11 overall and 3-4 in the Big Sky. The Eagles, who are now in a fifth-place tie with Northern Colorado and Idaho State, have lost three-straight games while Portland State has won four of its last five.

Eastern continues its homestand with games at Reese Court Jan. 26 versus Montana and Jan. 28 against Montana State. Both begin at 6 p.m. Pacific time.

Junior Collin Chiverton and senior Tremayne Johnson combined for 42 points for the Eagles, but EWU shot an uncharacteristic 6-of-25 from 3-point range. Eastern entered the game ranked second in NCAA Division I with an average of 9.9 treys per game.

Eastern finished the game making just 40 percent of its shots overall (28-of-70), and, until a late shooting flurry by PSU, had held the Vikings to sub-par shooting from the field and the line. Portland State finished the game at 46 percent from the field (23-of-50), but made only 3-of-13 3-pointers. The Vikings were 29-of-43 (67 percent) from the free throw line, including 22-of-34 in the second half and overtime.

“Obviously we’re just fouling way too much,” Hayford said. “When you send the other team to the line 19 more times than you that hurts.”

Chiverton had his fourth-straight 20-point game – and 10th in 20 games this season – as he made 7-of-21 shots from the field. A cool 4-of-11 from the 3-point arc, Chiverton had entered the game ranked seventh nationally with an average of 3.4 treys per game.

Johnson came off the bench to provide Eastern a spark with eight points in the first half and 12 in the second half and overtime. He finished with a double-double with 10 rebounds and two blocked shots, and had entered the game with just a total of nine points in his previous five games.

Johnson, who averaged 10.0 points a year ago as a junior, entered the game averaging only 6.3 this season. It was his best performance, with his previous high of 14 points and 10 rebounds coming in a 79-71 loss at Montana on Dec. 30.

Guard Jeffrey Forbes started, but was limited to one minute because of a hand injury suffered in EWU’s previous game Monday (Jan. 16) at Seattle.

“Jeff is a shooting guard and he’s having a hard time gripping the ball, so it’s hard to shoot it which makes it hard to dribble it too,” explained Hayford. “We knew we’d be using him as a defensive specialist.”

Senior point guard Cliff Colimon added 14 points and three assists for EWU, but he played just 31 of a possible 45 minutes because of early foul trouble. He fouled out late in regulation and wasn’t available for overtime, as he fouled PSU’s Lateef McMullan on a 3-pointer with 10 seconds to play that helped send the game into overtime.

“Cliff has a lot better game in him than he showed tonight but I will win or lose with him every night,” Hayford said. “He’s a really tough man.”

The Eagles finished with a 40-38 rebounding advantage, including 18 offensive boards. Laron Griffin had a season-high 13 in 35 minutes before fouling out. Eastern also had just nine turnovers to PSU’s 11, marking the 19th time in 20 games this season the Eagles have had fewer turnovers than their opponent.

“I’d like to see us shoot the ball better from three,” said Hayford. “I liked our rebounding efforts -- I thought we were great on the boards. And we protected the basketball really well today.”

Portland State jumped out to a 16-9 lead then led 19-15 when Eastern had its best scoring run of the half. The Eagles scored five-straight points to take its first lead of the game at 20-19 on a free throw by Chiverton. Johnson scored the other four points with a rebound basket and a dunk after a steal by Parker Kelly.

The game was tied at halftime 27-all, with Johnson leading the way with eight points. At the end of regulation, Johnson missed a free throw that would have given EWU a four-point lead with 24 seconds to play, then Chiverton missed a shot from the charity stripe with 16 seconds that also kept the Eagles from making it into a two-possession game.

On PSU’s next possession, Colimon fouled on the game-tying trey by McMullan, who missed the go-ahead free throw. Johnson’s potential game-winning shot was blocked by PSU’s Charles Tapscott and sent the game into overtime.

“If we make that free throw we’re up by four and it doesn’t matter,” Hayford said. “The only thing that could’ve hurt us was a three and we must have been guarding them pretty close on it because we fouled them too. Fortunately he missed that one. We got the matchup we wanted (on Johnson’s miss) but we just couldn’t finish.”

The Eagles made 3-of-6 shots in overtime with a pair of 3-pointers, and made all four of their free throws. But PSU made 4-of-5 shots and 6-of-7 charity shots.

“At the end of the day they made some good plays,” added Hayford. “They had to make that three to force overtime.  We were obviously closely guarding him close because we fouled him. 

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