Jan. 31, 2008
It was a game of second chances, but Eastern Washington University did little with theirs while Montana State made the most of theirs.
The Bobcats had 14 offensive rebounds that led to 17 second-chance points as MSU recorded its second-straight Big Sky Conference men's basketball victory over the Eagles with a 64-57 win Thursday (Dec. 31) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.
"I thought we got whipped physically," said Eagle head coach Kirk Earlywine. "The game was on the backboards and our two centers didn't get a defensive rebound in the game and they got 50 percent of their misses. They had 14 offensive rebounds on 28 misses. It's hard to win when you give people that many chances."
Just five days earlier, the Eagles fell to the Bobcats 74-69 on Jan. 26 in Bozeman, Mont. Eastern lost a 19-point lead in the second half versus MSU in a game in which the Eagles had a 44-27 lead at halftime but were out-scored 47-24 after intermission. In the rematch, EWU had a promising 21-9 start and six-point lead in the first half erased in the second half by MSU.
"That's the million dollar question -- I don't know the answer," Earlywine said of losing a double-digit lead against MSU for the second-straight game. "Part of it is that we have a limited bench and Montana State did a good job of using their bench. It's excuses. Maybe we missed some shots because we were tired, maybe we didn't get rebounds because we were tired, maybe we didn't get to loose balls because we were tired. But those are excuses -- we haven't made excuses all year and we aren't going to start now."
The win lifted the Bobcats to 5-3 in the Big Sky Conference and 13-8 overall. The Eagles, who were playing without leading scorer Adris DeLeon who was out with the flu, fell to 8-15 on the season and 3-6 in the league. Just eight players were available for the Eagles and all saw action.
The Eagles will host Montana on Sunday, Feb. 3, in a game televised live regionally by Altitude Sports and Entertainment and KSKN Channel 22 in Spokane. Tipoff in that game is 1:05 p.m. Pacific time -- about 2 1/2 hours prior to the start of Super Bowl XLII. Montana lost to Portland State 70-68 on Thursday.
Senior Kellen Williams led the Eagles with his ninth double-double of the season with 11 points and 10 rebounds, but he made only 3-of-12 shots from the field while playing 37 minutes. Brandon Moore added 12 points and five offensive rebounds, and Trey Gross chipped in 12 points and five boards.
Gary Gibson, was played all 40 minutes as EWU's point guard in place of DeLeon, finished with eight points, three assists, four steals and five turnovers. He had entered the game averaging 6.0 points per game while DeLeon has averaged a team-leading 13.4.
"I don't even have the slightest clue," said Earlywine of the status of DeLeon for Sunday's game against Montana. "Tonight at the game is the first time I've seen Adris in three days. If the doctor and trainer say he can play I will put him in there as much as he can go. He's the only guy we have that can break defenses down. He can create shots for other guys. There is no question he has a significant impact on the game."
The Eagles made only 36 percent of their shots while MSU made 45 percent. Eastern forced 19 turnovers and had only 11 itself, but the Eagles were out-rebounded 43-28.
"I thought we got some pretty good shots," said Earlywine. "Maybe fatigue was a little bit of a factor in that."
Eastern held the Big Sky's leading scorer, Carlos Taylor, to just 13 points on 4-of-15 shooting from the field. Taylor had entered the game averaging 18.4 per game and scored 20 against EWU in Bozeman.
"I thought we made one mistake tonight that game him a clean look," said Earlywine. "Their best offense was to just chuck it up there and go fetch it. It didn't matter how good a job we did of guarding him. They were just going and getting the ball a second and third and fourth time. We weren't putting a body on them, blocking them out and rebounding the ball. Our effort on him was for naught."
Eastern led early 21-9 on a steal and dunk by Gibson with 9:36 left. Montana State had 13 turnovers in the first half, but they rallied to pull within 33-27 at halftime.
"I thought we guarded pretty well in the first half until the last four minutes," said Earlywine. "I thought we were alert and we got our hands on a lot of balls. We caused turnovers. I would have liked to stretch that lead out like we were able to do in Bozeman. But if you told me we were going to have a six-point lead at halftime at home in a conference game, I would take that."
There were three ties and five lead changes in the second half before MSU took its biggest lead of the night at 58-54 with 2:13 to play. Eastern cut it to three, but a rebound basket by Branden Johnson gave MSU a five-point edge with 22 second left. Casey Durham clinched the win with two free throws with eight seconds remaining.
Sunday's EWU-UM game will also provide for another early rematch of a recent game after the Eagles lost 80-61 in Missoula against the Grizzlies on Jan. 24. The Eagles have now lost eight of the last nine meetings with Montana after winning 10 of the previous 14.
"They out-rebounded us 36-15 less than a week ago and we got our butts whipped on the glass tonight by a team that isn't as physical as Montana," said Earlywine. "So I think as best we can we are going to have to find a way to rebound the ball. It's a little bit of a dilemma and conundrum here. A lot of rebounding is just hard work and physical toughness. But how can I do that without taking our guys' legs away? Kellen keeps playing long minutes game after game after game. I could come in tomorrow and do rebounding drills for an hour, but we'll be dragging our tails on Sunday afternoon."