December 3, 2007

Hinton Leads Eagles to 65-54 Win

Dec. 3, 2007

Final Stats

Kansas City, Mo. -

Contributing on both ends of the floor, senior Marcus Hinton scored a team-high 16 points Monday (Dec. 3) to lead Eastern Washington University to a 65-54 non-conference men's basketball win over Missouri-Kansas City at Municipal Auditorium.

Senior Kellen Williams had 15 points and sophomore Gary Gibson added 14 for EWU, which is now 3-6 this season. The Eagles now play at No. 3 ranked and 7-0 Kansas Wednesday (Dec. 5) at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kan.

The Eagles, coming off a disappointing 66-57 home loss to Santa Clara last Thursday (Nov. 29), led 34-21 at halftime but by just four with 2:32 left in the game. However, Hinton took over the in the final two minutes, scoring six points in that span as EWU made all six of its free throws in the last 1:43.

"We're very proud," said Eagle head coach Kirk Earlywine. "We played eight guys tonight and five of them had never played in a Division I game a month ago. I'm not going to say it was pretty down the stretch in how we did it, but we were tough enough to hold onto the ball and make our free throws."

"We did it as a team, but Marcus kind of started it off," he added. "To say that I challenged him a little bit the last couple of days would be an understatement. He came out and did what a senior should do. He guarded well on one end of the floor and got himself to the free throw line at the other end and got himself some easy baskets. If I was to single out one guy, I would say he was the difference in the game."

Reggie Hamilton had a career-high 19 points for the Kangaroos, who are now 3-5 after suffering their first home loss in four games. Hamilton had 13 of his 19 points in the second half to fuel the Kangaroo comeback, but he was the only UMKC player in double figures.

Eastern made 45 percent of its shots in the game compared to just 33 percent for the Kangaroos. However, in the first half the Eagles held UMKC to 7-of-21 shooting and just one three-point attempt that it missed. In the second half, the Kangaroos hit 8-of-16 treys.

"We did a good job of guarding," said Earlywine. "They were a team that was attempting 20 threes per game coming into this game, so we had to push out further than what we are comfortable doing, or certainly what we've done against some of the more athletic teams we've faced. We did a terrific and unbelievable job in the first half in holding them to none from the arc. In the second half we let them get going a little bit, but credit them, they hit a couple of tough ones too. When they are at home and you're playing against good shooters, all it takes is one bucket that can sometimes ignite them and get them going. That's what happened in the second half."

Although Eastern was out-rebounded 37-33, the Eagles had just 13 turnovers and made 15-of-18 free throws.

"They took 16 three-point shots in the second half, and that is going to lead to a lot of long rebounds," Earlywine said. "It's tough when you give up 16 offensive rebounds and let a team go 8-of-16 from the arc. But we bailed ourselves out by guarding our butts off on their first shots. Too many times we were running to the rim and we don't have the kind of guys that can go play above the square. We have to run away from the rim and hit somebody wearing the other color shirt."

Earlywine was pleased with his team's offensive execution as the 65 points scored were the second-most EWU has had this season. They were the most in a victory.

"It was much better," he explained. "We've changed how we are running our motion. We still have a long ways to go. When we drive the ball we are still getting knocked out of our drives too much. In a Division I game there is going to be contact when you drive it to the paint and there are too many times where we are taking off-balance shots or bobbling the ball in there. It's something we've worked on a little this week, but we have to get the football pads out and get on balance and be tougher with the ball in there."

Now, the Eagles prepare for a Kansas team that knocked off 22nd-ranked USC 59-55 on Sunday. Heading into that game, the Jayhawks had five players averaging in double figures.

"Just as we did against teams like Washington State, Washington and Michigan, we are going into that game trying to get better," said Earlywine. "We've haven't deviated from that. From day one it's been about preparing for Saturday, December 22nd and our first conference game against Portland State. Nothing has changed. We took a step back in the right direction against Missouri-Kansas City, and I absolutely expect us to go in the right direction on Wednesday in Lawrence."

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