Jan. 8, 2009
A late 7-1 run and a season-high 20 points from senior Milan Stanojevic helped Eastern Washington University hold off Idaho State for a 71-65 Big Sky Conference men’s basketball victory Thursday (Jan. 8) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.
Stanojevic made all 10 of his free throws as the Eagles made 20-of-21 as a team for 95 percent. Senior Brandon Moore added 17 points and seven rebounds on 5-of-5 free throw shooting, and Benny Valentine added 14 points. Valentine, the Big Sky’s leading scorer with a 16.7 scoring average, also had four steals and a pair of rebounds.
"When you step up there and go 20-of-21 that certainly helps," said Earlywine, whose team entered the game eighth in the league in free throw percentage at 66.3 percent. "We needed all of them. Milan is older and Brandon stepped up and made his, and he is older. That's what old and experienced players are supposed to do."
Eastern next hosts Weber State on Sunday (Jan. 11) at 1:05 p.m. Pacific time in an early showdown among Big Sky Conference leaders. The Eagles are now 3-1 in the Big Sky Conference and 9-7 overall while Weber State improved to 2-0 in the league and 8-7 overall with an 80-66 victory over league favorite Portland State.
Former Eagle and current Detroit Piston Rodney Stuckey will be on hand Sunday to have his jersey retired at halftime of the game, which will be televised live regionally by Altitude Sports and Entertainment. Tickets are available via ticketswest.com or 1-800-325-7328, with a $2 discount available for that game on adult tickets in the upper reserved section of Reese Court.
Stuckey, who is averaging 13.5 points and 5.1 assists per game for the Pistons, will also be available to the public after the game for a special autograph session. Stuckey will sign one item per person with fans provided a commemorative replica card of the banner that will hang at Reese Court.
Stanojevic also made 4-of-6 shots from the field, including 2-of-4 three-pointers. He came one point from his career high of 21 points set Jan. 3, 2008 versus Northern Arizona.
"Idaho State did not play as much zone as I was expecting," said Earlywine. "The times that we've seen zone this year we've been very efficient attacking zones. I thought if they played zone we could free Milan up (for three-pointers). He made two early and they got real anxious guarding him. They fouled him a couple times, and put him on the free throw line."
The game was tied at 49 in the second half -- the eighth tie of the game -- when the Eagles went on a 9-0 run to take a 58-49 advantage with 7:44 to play. Stanojevic made all four free throws when Idaho State head coach Joe O’Brien picked up two technical fouls and was ejected from the game at the 8:01 mark.
But the Bengals, who are now 4-12 overall and 1-1 in the league, fought back to knot the game at 60 at the 2:59 mark.
"When we took the nine point lead in the second half, I thought it was uncharacteristic of our guys to give that lead back," said Earlywine. "Then I was happy that we were tough enough to recapture the lead and hold on. Obviously the four points on the technical free throws helped a lot."
Junior Mark Dunn gave Eastern the lead for good with a pair of free throws and Stanojevic then made three to give EWU a 65-60 advantage. Dunn assisted on a basket by Moore with 47 seconds to play to close the 7-1 run. Valentine closed out the scoring with a pair of free throws with 25 seconds left and a rebound and driving layin with five seconds to play.
Eastern’s defense held Idaho State’s leading scorers Matt Stucki and Amorrow Morgan to a combined 19 points after entering the game averaging a combined total of nearly 25 per game. They were a combined 6-of-13 from the field, with Morgan finishing with 13 points and six assists. Stucki played just 19 minutes because of foul trouble and finished with six points.
"I thought we did a really good job guarding both Stucki and Morgan," said Earlywine. "I thought we guarded those guys really hard. The best players on teams have been hurting us, but I thought we stepped up and took a challenge tonight to guard those two guys."
The Eagles used an 8-1 run in the first half to take a 21-14 advantage with 6:06 left. Three different players scored in the run, including three-pointers by Stanojevic and Gary Gibson, as well as a driving layin by Valentine.
Eastern led 27-25 at halftime as Stanojevic scored 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field. Valentine added four points and three steals as the Eagles held ISU to just 22 field goal attempts in the first half. Eastern scored 11 points off seven ISU turnovers.
The Eagles are now 3-6 on the road this season and 6-1 at home as they recently concluded a three-game, seven-day road trip with an 87-74 victory on Jan. 4 at Sac State. Eastern opened the league season with a 61-55 victory over Montana State on Dec. 6, which represented EWU’s last win over a NCAA Division I opponent until the victory over the Hornets.
Weber State’s other league victory was over Northern Colorado in overtime 88-84 on Jan. 3, but have WSU has no common opponents with EWU yet this season.