Hoping to rest Collin Chiverton's ailing foot, Eastern leading scorer tallies 12 after intermission to even EWU's win-loss records at 8-8 and 2-2
There is something to be said about a consistent starting lineup.
Eastern Washington University leading scorer Collin Chiverton came off the bench in the second half to score 12 points and spark the Eagles to a 76-59 Big Sky Conference men's basketball victory over Northern Arizona Saturday (Jan. 7) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.
Eastern scored 49 points after trailing 31-27 at halftime, as the Eagles won for just the first time in seven games this season when trailing at halftime.
"I'm really proud of our team," said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. "They were resilient. We made some good adjustments at halftime and our players did what we asked them to do. I'm just really proud of them."
For the first time this season, Hayford used a different starting lineup, and had hoped to keep Chiverton on the bench to rest an nagging foot injury. But with the regular lineup intact to begin the second half, the Eagles made a blistering 58 percent of their shots after intermission to even their league record at 2-2 and their overall mark at 8-8.
Eastern now must go on the road for three games in five-day span, including league games at Sacramento State (Jan. 12) and Northern Colorado (Jan. 14), and a non-conference game at Seattle (Jan. 16). Northern Arizona fell to 1-3 in the Big Sky and 5-11 overall with the loss.
"We were going to see if we could make it through the night without him," Hayford said of the 6-foot-6 forward, who entered the game averaging 16.2 points per game. "But at halftime we made the decision to let him play, and obviously we were a better team with him on the floor.
"He did put the ball in the basket," he continued. "Collin is a tremendous offensive player and before his career is over you'll see a very healthy Collin -- and you've seen glimpses of that. I'm just really proud of the effort he gives to his teammates."
The victory over NAU came two nights after getting beaten by seven points, 76-69, by league favorite Weber State. Senior point guard Cliff Colimon, who scored 18 points in the loss to the Wildcats, scored a game-high 22 versus the Lumberjacks. He scored Eastern's first nine points of the game with a trio of 3-point baskets, and finished the game with six assists and just two turnovers in 39 minutes of action.
Junior Jeffrey Forbes scored 15 points for EWU, and senior forward Laron Griffin had 11 points and nine rebounds in a season-high 35 minutes of action. Mired in foul trouble in most games, Griffin entered the game averaging just 20.1 minutes per outing.
Northern Arizona, which lost at Portland State 82-62 on Thursday, is under the direction of interim coach Dave Brown after long-time head coach Mike Adras resigned after a 2-7 start. In his second week at the helm of the men, on Dec. 17 the 70-year-old Brown – the second-oldest current coach in NCAA Division I – led the Lumberjacks to a 69-68 upset over Arizona State of the Pac-12 Conference.
The ASU game was the first appearance of the season by talented guard Gabe Rogers, who had averaged 10.8 points and 2.6 assists in his first five games since returning from a shoulder injury. Rogers scored 11 versus the Eagles, but had just four in the second half. James Douglas scored only two points in the second half after netting 15 before intermission.
The Eagles led early 11-7 thanks to Colimon's hot shooting, but NAU turned a 16-14 Eastern advantage into a 24-18 lead with a 10-2 run. NAU made 57 percent of its shots in the first half, compared to just 37 percent for the Eagles.
But Chiverton scored all 10 Eastern points– including a pair of 3-pointers – during a 10-4 run to open the second half. His layup with 16:09 left gave Eastern the lead for good at 37-35.
The Eagles continued to build the lead the rest of the game, opening a 68-53 advantage with 1:51 left on a 3-pointer by Forbes. Besides the 12 points by Chiverton in the second half, Forbes scored all 15 of his points after intermission, Colimon had nine and Griffin added seven in the second half as EWU made 18-of-31 shots from the field, including 6-of-14 from the 3-point stripe.
But Hayford was also impressed by his team's defensive effort after halftime.
"I thought we did a much better job of guarding their dribble penetration in the second half," Hayford explained of his team's halftime adjustments. "They were picking us apart.
"Jeff Forbes had an outstanding second half as well," he added.
Eastern had just 10 turnovers to 16 for NAU, marking the 15th time in 16 games this season that EWU has had more or equal turnovers as its opponent. Eastern also out-rebounded NAU 31-26, finishing with 14 offensive rebounds to lead to a 14-7 advantage in second-chance points.
"We didn't shoot too well in the first half, but our rebounding in the second half was outstanding," Hayford said. "At halftime Douglas had 15 points and he only finished with 17. We did a very good job with some adjustments there. We talked about how we wanted to guard Douglas. And obviously with 15 points in the first half and only two in the second, our players did their job."