EWU Men's Basketball - Eagles Beat Sac State, But Playoff Fate Still Undetermined

Feb. 24, 2007

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Now, the Eagles pay close attention to the rest of the Big Sky Conference schedule.

Rodney Stuckey led three players in double figures with 18 points as the Eastern Washington University men's basketball team kept alive its hopes of a 10th-straight appearance in the Big Sky Conference Tournament with an 80-72 victory over Sacramento State Saturday (Feb. 24) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.

Senior Paul Butorac added 17 points and eight rebounds, and freshman Brandon Moore chipped in 13 points and nine rebounds. Eastern, which finished the regular season 15-14 overall and 8-8 in the Big Sky, registered its first three-game winning streak of the season with the win over the Hornets.

"It has been a trying season and there have been times when the ball hasn't always bounced in our favor," said Eagle head coach Mike Burns. "But we're hoping that over the course of the next three or four days we will catch some breaks. If that happens, we are a team that has won our last three games and I think our best basketball could be ahead of us."

Coupled with Portland State's 70-63 victory Saturday over Idaho State and Montana's 85-64 win over Northern Colorado, the only teams Eastern can catch in the league standings are Idaho State (7-7) and Montana State (8-6). However, Eastern loses all tiebreakers with the Bobcats, so the Bengals are the only team Eastern is concerned with.

In remaining league games that will impact the final playoff berths, Montana State hosts Northern Arizona on Sunday, Montana plays at Idaho State on Monday and the Bobcats play at Idaho State on Tuesday.

In all, there are still 32 scenarios that can play out, and Eastern earns the sixth and final berth in eight of them, which all include Idaho State getting swept by MSU and UM. In the other 24 scenarios, Idaho State gets the berth.

"I would be very disappointed if we didn't make the conference tournament, mostly for our seniors because they deserve to keep playing," said Burns. "We've controlled what we could control and now we just have to wait and see what happens."

Eastern took an 11-point lead in the second half, but Sac State rallied to take a 66-65 lead with 7:06 to play. But a three-pointer by Marcus Hinton gave Eastern the lead for good, and he added a layup and dunk to complete EWU's 7-0 run and open a six-point lead with 3:22 left. Although Eastern missed five-straight free throws at one point in the last 6:15, the Eagles made 7-of-12 in the last 1:28 to clinch the win.

"You have to take your hat off to Sacramento State for their performance tonight," said Burns of the Hornets, who ended their season 9-19 overall and 4-11 in the Big Sky. "On one hand they didn't have a lot to play for, but they played hard tonight and made it a very, very difficult game for us to win. I'm proud of the effort our guys put forth."

Four Eagle seniors -- Butorac, Rhett Humphrey, Neal Zumwalt and Derek Risper -- played their final home games in EWU uniforms on Saturday. Risper had a game-high 11 rebounds and Zumwalt finished with eight points.

The Eagles registered their first Big Sky Conference weekend sweep of the season.

"I'm very proud of our seniors," added Burns. "They played their hearts out tonight with effort plays -- getting rebounds and tips."

It would seem, based on history, that even an 8-8 record should be good enough for EWU to get into the tournament. Since the league expanded in 1970-71 (it has had at least eight teams ever since), a .500 record has always been good enough for a top six finish.

However, the Big Sky is as competitive as ever this year and now has nine members with the addition of Northern Colorado.

The top six teams in the nine-team league advance to the Big Sky Conference Tournament. The quarterfinals take place on March 3 and are hosted by the No. 3 and 4 seeds. The winners of those two games and the top two teams in the regular season standings receive byes to the semifinals on March 6. The semifinals, as well as the nationally-televised championship game the next night, will be hosted by regular season champion Weber State.

"I would be very disappointed if we didn't make the conference tournament, mostly for our seniors because they deserve to keep playing," said Burns. "We've controlled what we could control and now we just have to wait and see what happens."

Eastern took an 11-point lead in the second half, but Sac State rallied to take a 66-65 lead with 7:06 to play. But a three-pointer by Marcus Hinton gave Eastern the lead for good, and he added a layup and dunk to complete EWU's 7-0 run and open a six-point lead with 3:22 left. Although Eastern missed five-straight free throws at one point in the last 6:15, the Eagles made 7-of-12 in the last 1:28 to clinch the win.

"You have to take your hat off to Sacramento State for their performance tonight," said Burns of the Hornets, who ended their season 9-19 overall and 4-11 in the Big Sky. "On one hand they didn't have a lot to play for, but they played hard tonight and made it a very, very difficult game for us to win. I'm proud of the effort our guys put forth."

Four Eagle seniors -- Butorac, Rhett Humphrey, Neal Zumwalt and Derek Risper -- played their final home games in EWU uniforms on Saturday. Risper had a game-high 11 rebounds and Zumwalt finished with eight points.

The Eagles registered their first Big Sky Conference weekend sweep of the season.

"I'm very proud of our seniors," added Burns. "They played their hearts out tonight with effort plays -- getting rebounds and tips."

It would seem, based on history, that even an 8-8 record should be good enough for EWU to get into the tournament. Since the league expanded in 1970-71 (it has had at least eight teams ever since), a .500 record has always been good enough for a top six finish.

However, the Big Sky is as competitive as ever this year and now has nine members with the addition of Northern Colorado.

The top six teams in the nine-team league advance to the Big Sky Conference Tournament. The quarterfinals take place on March 3 and are hosted by the No. 3 and 4 seeds. The winners of those two games and the top two teams in the regular season standings receive byes to the semifinals on March 6. The semifinals, as well as the nationally-televised championship game the next night, will be hosted by regular season champion Weber State.

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