Dec. 11, 2006
Santa Clara, Calif. -
The Eagles were well aware that winning Monday (Dec. 11) at the Leavey Center in Santa Clara, Calif., was going to be a tall order.
Featuring three of its top five scorers standing 6-foot-10 or taller, Santa Clara's starting front line combined for 49 points and 19 rebounds as the Eastern Washington University men's basketball team lost 91-68 to the Broncos in a non-conference game.
Eastern trailed by just one at halftime, but allowed Santa Clara to go on a 13-2 run to start the second half and open a 12-point advantage. John Bryant, a 6-10, 320-pounder, led the way with 20 points and 11 rebounds in the contest as the Broncos trailed by no less than 10 the rest of the way and led by as many as 25.
"We can't play a team this good on their home floor and not come out and give a good effort," said Eagle head coach Mike Burns. "I don't know why we thought it would get easier in the second half. But we came out without much energy and we paid a price for it."
The Eagles fell to 5-5 on the season heading into Friday's game at unbeaten (8-0) and 22nd-ranked Oregon in Eugene, Ore. The Broncos improved to 7-3 and are now 5-1 at the Leavey Center where the team's only loss was 78-70 to nationally-ranked Nevada.
Eastern sophomore standout Rodney Stuckey picked up two quick fouls in the game and was scoreless in the first half. He had 12 points in the second half, but it was the first time in Eastern's last 37 games -- a streak that lasted more than a year -- that he has not been EWU's leading scorer. It was also the fewest points Stuckey has scored in his 40-game EWU career as he played just 25 minutes.
Despite the absence of Stuckey and 13 first-half turnovers, Eastern actually led by as many as five in the first half at 31-26. Eastern stayed in the game thanks to 8-of-11 three-point shooting in the first 20 minutes.
But in the last five minutes of the half, Eastern made only 2-of-9 shots and had seven of its turnovers. That set the stage for Santa Clara to nail 11 of its first 19 shots in the second half as the Eagles came out flat.
"Under those circumstances, things were going okay," Burns said of trailing by one point at intermission. "I was somewhat happy with the first half effort even though we turned the ball over too many times. I don't know if we were fatigued coming out in the second half, but we played like it. That was unfortunate because I thought we were in a position to win this one."
The Broncos, who defeated Utah and former Eastern head coach Ray Giacoletti 83-72 at home on Nov. 18, made 22-of-39 shots in the second half for 56 percent. Bryant did much of the damage in both halves, but 6-11 Sean Denison added 12 points and four rebounds and 6-7 Mitch Henke had 17 points and four boards.
"In the first half we did a pretty good job," Burns said of Eastern's defensive effort. "In the second half we let them whip the ball around. We had to front the post tonight because of our size disadvantage. If you allow them to work it around the floor they are going to find the post. "
Eastern led the rebounding battle by two at halftime, but were out-rebounded by 12 in the second half. Santa Clara, which scored 17 second-chance points, had 19 offensive rebounds compared to 22 defensive boards for the Eagles. The result was 17 more field goal attempts in the game for the Broncos.
"Part of rebounding is rotating to the ball," explained Burns. "When the entire team does not do that you are going to give players an open lane to the basketball. In the second half they were catching it on the weak side of the glass and laying it in. We were not where we needed to be."
Former Eagle Danny Pariseau started and finished with five points, nine assists and five rebounds for the Broncos. Eastern's Paul Butorac, a teammate of Pariseau's on EWU's 2004 NCAA Tournament team, had 11 points and six rebounds for EWU.
Pariseau played for the Eagles from 2003-05, redshirted at Santa Clara last season and entered Monday's game averaging 10.6 points and 3.9 assists per game. Pariseau came to EWU after a stellar career at Shadle Park High School in Spokane, Wash. He started 36 of 89 career games for the Eagles, averaging 5.9 points and 3.2 assists per game.
Eastern concludes its four-game road stretch against Oregon on Friday (Dec. 15), then doesn't play another road game until Jan. 4. Eastern hosts Idaho on Dec. 21, takes a short break for Christmas, then starts Big Sky Conference play on Dec. 28 and 30 versus Montana State and Montana, respectively. All three games begin at 7:05 p.m. Pacific time at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.
It will be the earliest Big Sky start in school history for the Eagles.