Dec. 5, 2007
Lawrence, Kan. -
Early in the second half, 39-26 looked pretty good.
But it wasn't pretty after that for the Eastern Washington University men's basketball team as it lost to No. 3 Kansas 85-47 Wednesday (Dec. 5) in a non-conference game at legendary Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kan.
Equaling the highest-ranked team Eastern has ever played, Kansas used runs of 13-0 and 12-0 to open a lead of 42 points in the second half. Wednesday's game was the 99th consecutive sellout at 16,300-seat Allen Fieldhouse as Kansas has won 85 percent of its games there since it was opened in 1955 with a current record of 603-106.
Junior Adris DeLeon came off the bench to score a season-high 24 points for Eastern, and Kellen Williams contributed his third double-double of the season. Williams scored 13 points and had 11 rebounds as EWU fell to 3-7 heading into this Sunday's game at 1-6 Idaho. Kansas is now 8-0.
Kansas, which is trying to win its fourth-straight Big 12 regular season title and challenge once again for the national title, was led by the 17 points and nine rebounds of Darnell Jackson. Darrell Arthur added 15 points and six boards as the Jayhawks out-rebounded EWU 48-27 and forced 22 turnovers.
Eastern allowed Kansas to score 28 points off their turnovers and the Eagles gave up 24 second-chance points on 17 offensive rebounds for the Jayhawks. Kansas had 44 points in the paint compared to just eight for EWU.
In the first half, Eastern held the Jayhawks to 45 percent shooting from the field, including just 2-of-6 from three-point range. Kansas scored 16 points off 13 EWU turnovers in the first 20 minutes, but had only six second-chance points on five offensive rebounds.
In the second half, Kansas scored 12 more points off nine EWU turnovers and had 18 second-chance points. The Jayhawks had 12 offensive rebounds and 20 missed shots.
"Their second-chance points hurt us," Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine said. "Our block out was good in the first half -- they only had five offensive rebounds on 16 missed shots. That is about what we aim for -- 25 percent or less. But in the second half they had 12 offensive rebounds and 20 missed shots. That was not enough competitiveness on our part."
Earlywine was not altogether disappointed with the effort, but he was displeased in the second half performance by his team.
"In the first half we limited their shooting percentages and held them to five offensive rebounds, so those are things we can walk away from here feeling good about. But they cranked up their pressure in the second half. We turned it over five times in the first four minutes and then gave up offensive rebounds."
"And then we were non-competitive in transition -- we didn't run hard enough to get back," he added. "When you combine that with their second-chance points and their points off turnovers, there wasn't much to feel good about in the second half."
DeLeon hit 8-of-11 shots from the field, including a trio of three-pointers. The point guard also made all five of his free throws and had a pair of assists.
"There were times in the game where he played good," said Earlywine. "He scored and he had a nice draw and kick to Matt Brunell for a three. But at other times he continues to over-handle the ball and it hurts us when he does that."
Williams made 5-of-9 shots and also had three treys. He had 11 of the team's 27 rebounds, and he and DeLeon combined for 37 of the team's 47 points. Besides that duo, the other seven EWU players were just 4-of-32 from the field.
Eastern fell behind early 7-0, and trailed by as many as 21 in the first half. But DeLeon and Williams combined for all nine Eastern points in a 9-2 run spanning both halves to pull within 39-26 early in the second half. But Kansas had a 13-0 run followed shortly after that by a 12-0 run that gave the Jayhawks a 69-33 advantage with seven minutes left.
Eastern has three more non-league games left to play in preparation for Big Sky Conference play that begins on Dec. 22 at home against Portland State. After Sunday's game at Idaho, Eastern opens a six-game homestand by hosting Cascade on Dec. 14. Eastern had entered the Kansas game coming off a 65-54 win at Missouri-Kansas City on Monday (Dec. 3).
"It's a huge game for us," added Earlywine of Sunday's game at Idaho. "The philosophy I've always taken is that the most important game on your schedule is the next one. I don't know if we took a step backward against Kansas, but I know we didn't go forward. That's a little disappointing. So we have get back to moving forward on Sunday afternoon."
Coached by fifth-year head coach Bill Self, Kansas has made 36 NCAA Tournament appearances in school history with 12 Final Four appearances and NCAA titles in 1952 and 1988. Last year, after entering the NCAA Tournament ranked second nationally, the Jayhawks won three NCAA Tournament games (Niagara, Kentucky, Southern Illinois) before losing in the "Elite Eight" to UCLA to finish the year 33-5.
Eastern had never played the Jayhawks and is now 0-15 against current members of the Big 12 Conference. Kansas has not lost in 10 games against current members of the Big Sky Conference, including an 87-46 victory over Northern Arizona on Nov. 21.
The last meeting Eastern has had against a member of the Big 12 was in the first round of the 2004 NCAA Tournament when Eastern put a first-half scare into No. 3 Oklahoma State before falling 75-56. The Cowboys are the highest-ranked team Eastern has ever faced, equaling the ranking of the Jayhawks in this week's Associated Press poll.
The whirlwind of games for EWU will get a little easier for Earlywine after Wednesday's game. Eastern takes on an Idaho team Sunday that is now 1-6 after a 65-49 loss Wednesday at Central Arkansas.
Idaho lost on the road at UC Riverside 56-55 on Nov. 24, just nine days after Eastern rallied at home for a 59-51 win over the Highlanders. The Vandals also lost by 31 points (74-43) on Nov. 16 to a nationally-ranked Washington State team the Eagles lost to by 27 (68-41) on Nov. 9. Most recently, Idaho lost in overtime to Big Sky member Idaho State 71-69 on Dec. 1, and the lone victory for the Vandals was a 110-52 season-opening victory over Cascade College on Nov. 9.
After playing at Idaho, Eastern takes on Cascade at home on Dec. 14 in the first of six-straight games at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash. Then, Eastern plays a non-conference game against Portland (Dec. 17), has its earliest league start in school history when PSU visits on Dec. 22 and then closes out the year by hosting UC Santa Barbara on Dec. 29. League play continues in January with home games against Northern Arizona (Jan. 3) and Sacramento State (Jan. 5). All six of those home games begin at 7:05 p.m. Pacific time.
Eastern is coming off a 15-14 finish to the 2006-07 season as the last three EWU seasons have yielded a collective record of 38-49. The Eagles had their string of consecutive Big Sky Conference Tournament berths snapped at nine last season as EWU finished with an 8-8 league record.