Dec. 3, 2006
It wasn't deja vu, but it certainly seemed like it.
Despite 32 points by Rodney Stuckey, Eastern Washington couldn't hold off Cal State Northridge in the final 3 1/2 minutes of a non-conference college basketball game Sunday afternoon (Dec. 3) at the Matadome in Northridge, Calif.
Less than a week after a 110-100 shootout victory over Cal State Fullerton, the Eagles found themselves in another high-scoring affair Sunday. Despite falling behind in the first half by 15 points, Eastern got its bearings and rallied to take a three-point lead in the final minutes. But the Matadors forced two key turnovers down the stretch and made 11-of-13 free throws in the last 3:11 to pull out the win.
"This is a tough place to play and was against a good team, but we felt we could come in here and get a win," said Eagle head coach Mike Burns "We're just a little disheartened that we didn't get it done."
Eastern is now 4-4 on the season, with all four wins coming at home and all four losses coming on the road. The Matadors, a member of the Big West Conference just like Cal State Fullerton, is 5-3.
Eastern returns to the road at Portland on Dec. 9, then must play at Santa Clara and Oregon before returning home on Dec. 21.
"Sometimes that is what happens on the road," said Burns, whose team has final exams at EWU this week. "We just have to bounce back. We have three more road games coming up."
Eastern's un-doing Sunday was 20 turnovers, 10 missed free throws and 14 offensive rebounds allowed in the wild game. Eastern also had 23 fouls, many of those just trying to stay with the athletic Matadors.
"Between the offensive glass and trying to play without fouling, those were the two things that really hurt us tonight," said Burns. "We told our guys that if we turn the basketball over and give up offensive rebounds it's going to be difficult to win games. Tonight, that was the case. You can't do that on the road -- especially on the road."
With several Eagles is moderate foul trouble, Eastern went to a zone defense in the second half. It helped slow down Cal State Northridge, but the Eagles couldn't keep the Matadors off the glass. Eastern had just 19 defensive rebounds as it was out-rebounded for just the third time this season, 33-30. The Matadors turned their offensive rebounds into 23 points in addition to the 41 points they scored off EWU's turnovers.
"I thought we did a good job with the zone," said Burns, "and if we would have rebounded a little bit better out of it, the result might have been different. They are an athletic team that goes hard to the glass."
Stuckey had the 10th 30-point game of his 38-game Eastern career, and his fourth already this season. He had now led the Eagles in scoring in 35-straight games. He added seven assists, six rebounds and four steals, but scored just 10 points in the second half when the Matadors used a zone defense much of the time.
"They played a lot more zone in the second half and in that zone they made an attempt to keep the ball out of his hands," explained Burns. "I just thought we took a couple of quick shots that maybe if we could have moved the ball a little more we could have gotten Rodney a look. You have to give Northridge credit."
Paul Butorac added 20 points and six rebounds for the Eagles, but he was just 8-of-14 from the free throw line while making 6-of-9 shots from the field. Omar Krayem added 10 points and a pair of steals, but he had eight turnovers.
Calvin Chitwood led the Matadors with 30 points, nine rebounds and four steals. He was a perfect 12-of-12 at the free throw line and made 8-of-12 shots from the field. Jonathan Heard added 19 points on 8-of-9 shooting from the line and 6-of-7 from the field.
Eastern fell behind early by scores of 11-0, 15-2, 22-8 and 28-13 before the Eagles got untracked. Stuckey scored 22 points as EWU rallied to knot the score at 51-all at halftime.
The Eagles took their first lead of the game on a three-point play by Derek Risper to open the second half, then it was a back-and-forth battle the rest of the way. There were a total of 10 lead changes and two ties in the final 20 minutes.
Eastern trailed 81-75 with 8:43 left, but four different Eagles scored during a 9-0 run that gave Eastern an 84-81 advantage with 6:42 to play on a steal and layin by Stuckey.
The Eagles led 92-89 with 3:32 left on a basket by Butorac, but turnovers at the 3:00 and 1:27 marks helped the Matadors regain a three-point lead. Eastern missed three of its last four field goal attempts and two of its last three free throws as EWU scored just six points in the final three minutes of the game.
Just a week earlier, Eastern's registered a 110-100 shootout victory at home on Nov. 27 over Cal State Fullerton. Eastern's 110 points was the 13th-most in school history and the third-most versus a NCAA Division I opponent. The only other times Eastern scored more versus a D-I opponent were both against U.S. International (118-83 on Feb. 2, 1991 and 116-82 on Feb. 8, 1986).
The combined 210 points made it the fifth-highest scoring game in school history. The record was 225 in a 118-107 loss to Carroll College on Dec. 8, 1967.