Feb. 24, 2009
Eastern Washington University couldn’t overcome 36 percent shooting in the game and a pair of missed free throws in the final 26 seconds of regulation and lost in overtime 63-59 to Seattle University Tuesday (Feb. 24) in a non-conference college basketball game at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.
The Eagles did not make a field goal in the final 4:08 of regulation, then missed all three of its shots in overtime as Eastern fell to 12-16 on the season. The Redhawks, who held EWU to season-worst 2-of-19 (11 percent) shooting from the three-point stripe, won their 10th-straight game and improved to 18-6 on the season.
"We had a 10-point lead in the first half and a six-point lead with under a minute left," said Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine. "We didn’t do what we needed to do to win the game."
The Eagles had led all but the opening eight minutes of the game, and had a 48-43 lead with 4:08 left on a tip-in by Andy Genao. The Eagles had made seven-straight free throws in the last two minutes to maintain the five-point advantage, but misses by Benny Valentine with 26 seconds left and Gary Gibson with 14 seconds to play led to a game-tying three-pointer by Seattle’s Austen Powers.
Valentine missed a driving runner at the buzzer that could have won the game for the Eagles in regulation. An offensive rebound basket by Michael Wright gave the Redhawks the lead to open overtime, and Seattle went on to out-score EWU 7-3 in the extra period.
"In the end we didn’t make shots from the perimeter," said Earlywine. "We took too many, and the ones we took, we didn’t make them. That only magnifies the problem of taking too many."
Eastern’s Brandon Moore scored a team-high 13 points, Matthew Brunell had a season-high 12 and Genao chipped in eight. Those three players were a combined 12-of-21 from the field while the rest of the team was just 6-of-29. Eastern’s three tallest players -- Moore, Brunell and Mark Dunn -- were a combined 10-of-17."
"We still could have won tonight if (our players) would have realized what the heck was going on out there -- the fact that our three big guys combined for 10-of-17 shooting," said Earlywine.
Powers led Seattle with 19 points and eight rebounds, and helped Seattle to a 35-31 advantage on the boards. Although the Redhawks had 18 turnovers in the game, they overcame that by out-shooting EWU 48 percent to 36 percent from the field.
"I knew how dangerous (this game) was because Seattle University is very good," said Earlywine. "I tried to express that to the players. To start the game I thought we were okay, but somewhere along the line we lost it. Their changing defenses hurt us."
In the first half, Seattle had 11 turnovers to nearly match its season average of 11.7 per game. Eastern led 27-21 at halftime, helped by six points off turnovers and nine fast-break points. The Redhawks, however, forced 10 Eastern turnovers and scored 12 points off those Eagle miscues.
Eastern led by as many as 10 in the first half at 23-13 with five minutes remaining in the half. But a 6-0 Redhawk run helped pull Seattle to within six at intermission.
Taking a break from the stretch run of the league campaign, Eastern faced a Seattle team playing its first season in NCAA Division I in nearly 30 years. An independent without league affiliation, the Redhawks last played in NCAA Division I in 1980.
Despite the loss -- and if all goes well in the next two days -- Eastern’s biggest game of the season will come on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. in its regular season home finale at Reese Court. The Eagles are hoping their postseason hopes are still alive when it hosts defending Big Sky regular season and tournament champion Portland State. The Eagles need to win and hope for the results of other key Big Sky games to go their way in order to qualify for the six-team league tournament, which starts on March 7.
In fact, depending on the result of league games on Wednesday (Feb. 25) and Thursday (Feb. 26), the Eagles will know whether or not Saturday’s game is a must-win game. Or, if things don’t go their way, the Eagles could be eliminated altogether.
The Eagles are now in their 22nd season in the Big Sky, but made just one trip to the Big Sky Conference Tournament in their first 10 seasons in the league. Eastern then qualified for the next nine tournaments, becoming only the fifth league member to do that in the 46-year history of the league. Now, needing a win and some help, the Eagles are trying to snap a two-year skid of not qualifying for the tourney.
To get there, Eastern probably needs to win Saturday to finish at 7-9 in the league, as well as root for Montana to beat Northern Colorado on Thursday and/or for Montana State to lose its final three games (Portland State, Northern Colorado, Weber State). However, there are still scenarios in which EWU could finish 6-10 and qualify with RPI tiebreaker advantages over both Northern Colorado and Northern Arizona.
Eastern enters Saturday’s game with a 12-16 record overall and 6-9 Big Sky mark, having edged Northern Colorado 60-59 on Feb. 21. That victory helped the Eagles eclipse the 11 wins EWU had last season in Earlywine’s first season at the helm.
Beating PSU -- 19-9 overall and 9-5 in the league heading into Thursday’s home game against Montana State -- will be a difficult task for the Eagles after the Vikings exploded for 51 second-half points and romped 83-61 on Jan. 24 in Portland. The Eagles led by seven late in the first half, but were out-scored 24-5 over an eight-minute span to turn that lead into a 12-point deficit. Portland State later went on a 15-0 run to open a 25-point advantage as the Vikings finished the game with an 11-of-30 performance from the three-point stripe and forced 19 EWU turnovers.
"They took it to us in the second half at their place," said Earlywine. "We were never able to recover, and Portland State has a tendency to do that to opponents. They force a lot of turnovers and they make a lot of three pointers -- they can score in bunches. How well we take care of the ball and keep them from going on scoring runs will be a big factor Saturday night."
After closing the month of January with a 2-7 record, the Eagles are now 3-3 February. Before a 67-46 win over Sac State on Feb. 5 -- EWU’s seventh-straight in the series against the Hornets and the 13th-straight win over Sac State in Cheney -- the Eagles hadn’t won since beating Idaho State 71-68 on Jan. 8.