Despite Fast Start in Second Half, Cold-Shooting Eastern Falls to Montana, 74-60

Eagles make only 21 percent in first half as Grizzlies hand EWU a fourth-straight loss

A hot start in the second half couldn’t overcome a cold first half.

Montana took a 13-point first-half lead and went on to a 74-60 victory over Eastern Washington University in a Big Sky Conference men’s basketball game Thursday (Jan. 26) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.

Eastern went on a 10-2 run to start the second half and pulled within one later in the half, but EWU could never capture the lead. The Eagles made just 21 percent of their shots in the first half and only 34 percent in the game.

“I was really pleased with the way the guys came out in the second half,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. “But you have to give Montana credit, they were the better team.”

Eastern lost for the fourth-straight time and fell to 3-5 in the Big Sky and 9-12 overall. The Grizzlies improved to 7-1 in the Big Sky and 14-6 overall.

The Eagles close out a three-game home stand by hosting Montana State on Saturday (Jan. 28), starting at 6:05 p.m. Pacific time. The Bobcats beat Portland State 70-65 on Thursday to improve to 6-2 in the league and 11-8 overall.

 “We have to turn this around,” said Hayford. “Last year, EWU won ten games and were trying to get that tenth win.”

Junior Collin Chiverton scored 22 points to lead EWU, giving him his fifth-straight 20-point performance and 11th in 21 games this season. Cliff Ederaine added his fourth double-double of the year and fifth in his career with 10 points and 13 rebounds, and Laron Griffin nearly had one with 12 points, eight boards and a pair of blocked shots.

Montana made 46 percent of its shots from the field, and had 19 assists on 26 baskets. The Grizzlies also had three fewer turnovers than EWU (14-11), only the second time in 21 games this season the Eagles have had more than their opponents. The only other time came against Saint Mary’s on Dec. 20.

“We do need to get more consistent in all of our efforts,” said Hayford. “We had a tough night shooting in the backcourt and taking care of the ball in the backcourt. That was the difference tonight.”

The Grizzlies jumped out to a 40-27 halftime lead, thanks largely to EWU’s 5-of-24 (21 percent) shooting in the first 20 minutes. The Eagles made one of their first 15 shots and kept the score close thanks to its 14-of-18 free throw shooting. Montana, meanwhile, made 14-of-28 field goal attempts, including 6-of-12 3-pointers.

It was a first half of streaks. Montana led early 11-4, but EWU scored five-straight to pull within 14-13. Montana followed with a 12-5 run to take a 26-18 lead, then EWU scored five-straight again to pull within 26-23 at the 5:08 mark. However, the Grizzlies out-scored EWU 14-4 the rest of the half, leading by as many as 14.

The Eagles were fast out of the gate after intermission, with Chiverton scoring eight points in a 10-2 Eastern run that cut the UM lead to 42-37. The Eagles cut it to one with 14:36 left on a basket by Griffin, but the Grizzlies responded with a 9-2 run to regain an eight-point lead at 55-47 with 12:00 left. Eastern came no closer than five the rest of the way.

“The story of this game is the first half -- that’s the difference on the scoreboard at the end of the night,” Hayford said. “If we played like we did in the second half in the first half, it’s a different story, but it wasn’t. You have to give Montana credit. We shot 20 percent in the first half. You’re going to end up being down 13 points at half when you shoot 20 percent.”

A month ago, Eastern upset MSU 75-61 before falling to UM 79-71 in a game the Eagles led by nine early in the second half. Since then, MSU has lost only once to unbeaten league leader Weber State (8-0).

 “It’s going to take a really good effort to beat Montana State,” added Hayford. “We have to find the right balance within the next 48 hours, get fresh legs and correct some mistakes.”

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 and via iPhone application (search for “Spokane Radio” and download the free app). It will also be televised in the Spokane area and throughout Eastern Washington on SWX (SWX Digital 6.2 in Spokane, 25.3 in the Tri-Cities & 23.3 in the Yakima area; Comcast 115; Time Warner 306; Charter 287, Cable One 466).

Saturday is “Alumni Appreciation Night” with free tickets available for alums at when they sign-up by Jan. 24. There will be also a post-game autograph session featuring Eagle players, and 2011 Walter Payton Award Winner Bo Levi Mitchell will be recognized at the game as well. In addition, EWU coaches will wear sneakers instead of dress shoes with their suits to demonstrate their support for the American Cancer Society as part of the annual Coaches vs. Cancer Suits and Sneakers awareness weekend.

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