Jan. 6, 2007
Flagstaff, Ariz. -
Eastern Washington University did a good job of staying within striking distance of Northern Arizona Saturday (Jan. 6) at the Walkup Skydome in Flagstaff, Ariz.
But the Eagles couldn't stop the Big Sky Conference favorite from doing the striking as Tyrone Bazy and Stephen Sir combined for 54 points to lead NAU to a 109-101 league victory.
Eastern, in the midst of a stretch in which eight of 10 games are on the road, is now 2-2 in the league and 8-8 overall. The Eagles play at Idaho State (Jan. 11) and Portland State (Jan. 13) this week before returning home for rematches against Northern Colorado (Jan. 18) and Northern Arizona (Jan. 20).
The Lumberjacks, who defeated Portland State 85-78 on Thursday, are 3-1 in the Big Sky and 8-7 overall after entering the season as the preseason pick by league coaches to defend their regular season title.
Bazy scored 32 to lead NAU, which made 61 percent of its shots from the field. Sir added 22 on 5-of-5 shooting from the three-point line as NAU made 8-of-11 treys as a team. The Lumberjacks also made 33-of-38 free throws for 73 percent.
"We looked like we were guarding on roller skates," said Eagle head coach Mike Burns. "They shot the ball well all night long. When they sink 8-of-11 three pointers and make 33 free throws, it's going to be tough to win a basketball game."
Eastern was led by the 23 points of Rodney Stuckey, but the Eagles made just 45 percent of their shots after a 61 percent shooting of their own in an 88-87 win at Northern Colorado on Thursday (Jan. 4). Stuckey suffered through a 6-of-21 shooting night a year and a day after making 15-of-21 in Flagstaff to finish with a school-record 45 points in a 105-95 Eagle loss.
"A lot of shots that normally fall for him didn't," said Burns of his sophomore standout, who also finished with seven rebounds, six assists and a pair of steals. "That happens on the road. This is the toughest road trip we'll face all year, and to come to Flagstaff on the back end is very demanding. I'm sure that had something to do with it."
Paul Butorac added a career-high 21 points, including 14 in the first half when EWU was out-scored 49-43. But he had just three rebounds as the Eagles were out-rebounded 36-33. After leading the rebounding war 19-16 in the first half, the Eagles were out-rebounded 21-13 after intermission.
"When we were getting defensive rebounds we were scoring in transition," said Burns. "Rebounding was probably the difference in the game in the second half."
Eastern used a 17-6 run in the first half to rally from a 10-point deficit and take a 39-38 lead on a three-pointer by Matt Penoncello. But Eastern had a pair of turnovers down the stretch in the first half and never led again.
"During that stretch we had two silly turnovers back-to-back," said Burns. "We had put ourselves in good position to maintain or extend that lead. We didn't play well in the first half at all, but there we were. It was just unfortunate that we didn't take better care of the basketball."
In the second half, Eastern fell behind by as many as 11 before pulling to within 77-73 with 8:48 to play. But Northern Arizona scored 10-straight points to regain an 87-73 advantage. Sir made his fifth three-pointer of the game in that run as the closest Eastern came after that was six with 15 seconds to play.
"They do a good job of screening and make it difficult to guard him," said Burns. "But on a couple of those he flat out shot it right in our face. With a guy like Stephen Sir, if he makes his first one and gets it going, he's going to pull up from 25 with a guy in his face. And that's what he did."
Penoncello equaled his season high with 13 points off the bench. Eastern's bench, after scoring 77 points in its two league victories thus far, had 35 against the Lumberjacks. Northern Arizona, however, finished with 56.
Ruben Boykin Jr. added a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds for NAU, and Josh Wilson chipped in 11 points and seven assists.