Jan. 17, 2008
Eastern Washington University junior guard Adris DeLeon proved to be "2 hard 2 guard."
DeLeon poured in 42 points -- the third-most in school history -- as the Eagles cooled off one of the hottest teams in the league by defeating Northern Colorado 91-85 in overtime Thursday (Jan. 17) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.
Eastern rallied from a late seven-point deficit in regulation as a three-pointer by Milan Stanojevic with 23 seconds to play helped send the game in overtime. Eastern then scored 12-straight points in overtime and cruised to the win.
Four Eagles -- DeLeon, Stanojevic, Kellen Williams and Brandon Moore -- combined for all but two of EWU's 91 points. Williams had his eighth double-double of the season with 21 points, 13 rebounds and four assists.
It wasn't a must-win situation for the Eagles, but it was an important game for the Eagles to win to keep pace in the Big Sky Conference standings. In 14 of 18 league games heading into Thursday night, the home team had won and the Eagles didn't want to be the first to lose two at home this season. In the other two league games Thursday, the home team lost.
Eastern is now 3-3 in the league and 8-12 overall while Northern Colorado is 2-3 in the Big Sky and 8-9 on the season. Eastern snapped a two-game losing streak as it ended the two-game winning streak of the Bears.
"I thought it was a really gutsy effort from our guys," said Eagle head coach Kirk Earlywine of EWU's first home game with school in session since late November. "Make no mistake about it, being at home really helped us. Having our students back here for the game probably was the difference in the game."
DeLeon, who earned his nickname on the streetball circuit in New York City, hit 14-of-28 shots from the field and 11-of-16 free throws. He made just 3-of-10 three-point attempts as most of his points came on drives to the basket. Eastern had a season-high 46 points in the paint, beating its previous most by 10.
The only scoring performances better in school history were the school-record 45 that current Detroit Piston scored against Northern Arizona on Jan. 5, 2006, and the 44 David Peed scored versus UC-Irvine on Dec. 13, 1988.
"I didn't even realize that he had 42," said Earlywine. "We're trying to get him to understand that he has to play with efficiency on offense. Take 20 shots to get 20 points. He's getting a little better and guys are really learning how to play with him. Obviously 42 points -- that was the difference in the game."
Moore added 14 points and equaled his career high with nine rebounds. Stanojevic made his last three-pointers to finish with 12 points and three assists on a 4-of-10 shooting night from the arc.
"I didn't say a word to him," said Earlywine of the early-game misses by his Serbian sharp-shooter, who now has 51 treys for the season. "You have to have a short memory and he does. I thought he took a couple bad ones in the first half. But I give him, Kellen and Adris some latitude on offense, because we need those guys to make baskets for us to win."
Williams played all 45 minutes in the game, DeLeon and Stanojevic played 42 and Moore logged 38.
"The guys obviously played really hard minutes," said Earlywine. "The five guys that started the second half barely came out of the game."
In a game that featured nine ties and seven lead changes, Northern Colorado surged ahead to take a 62-55 lead with 6:36 left in regulation. But in the next 9 1/2 minutes, Eastern would out-score the Bears 28-16 to take an 83-74 lead with two minutes remaining in overtime.
DeLeon and Stanojevic each scored nine points in that stretch. DeLeon iced the win by making 4-of-5 free throws in the final minute.
"We were down 20 to Northern Arizona here and came back, and we've been down double digits a number of other times at home as well," said Earlywine of the team's comeback. "Our guys are pretty resilient, especially with the number of three-pointers we take. We're going to hit some droughts, but hopefully the good ones outweigh the bad ones when we're shooting from the arc."
Eastern's next game is in a week when the Eagles visit Montana on Thursday (Jan. 24), followed by a game at Montana State on Saturday (Jan. 26). The following week, Eastern plays those two opponents at home.
"We're going to give our guys a little time off to get some rest," added Earlywine. "We had guys playing really long minutes. This off day on Saturday will give the guys a chance to rest before the next road trip. In order to win in this league, you've got to find a way to win on the road."
Williams has now led Eastern in rebounding in 19 of 20 games this season, including a current streak of 16-straight games. Four times in that stretch he has been tied for the team lead in that category, with the only time he has not led the squad coming on Nov. 18 at Washington when he finished with a season-low four and Moore had five.
Williams has also scored in double figures in 12-straight games dating back to Nov. 29 when he had a season-low two points against Santa Clara. He has scored in double figures in 16 total games this season and has been EWU's leading scorer five times.
Williams has averaged 17.1 points, 10.5 rebounds and has made 60.4 percent of his field goal attempts in EWU's seven victories this season.
Northern Colorado, a member of NCAA Division I since the 2003-04 season and member of the Big Sky since 2006-07, defeated Weber State 55-52 on Jan. 6. The Bears followed that with a 62-56 victory at San Diego State from the Mountain West Conference. It was a victory that UNC head coach Tad Boyle called "probably our biggest win since going Division I."
Eastern was coming off road losses at Idaho State (58-56) and Weber State (74-64) in a pair of games the Eagles could have easily won. Eastern missed three shots down the stretch versus the Bengals with the game up for grabs and also misfired on four free throws in the final five minutes that could have made a difference.
The game against defending Big Sky champion WSU was a four-point game with 12:37 to play, but the Wildcats followed with a 12-3 run to bump the lead back to 13. The loss was a disappointing homecoming for Earlywine, who spent seven previous seasons as a Weber State assistant coach.