December 18, 2008

Eastern Falls to UMKC 68-61

Dec. 18, 2008

Final Stats

A 9-0 run in the final two minutes helped give Missouri-Kansas City a 68-61 victory over Eastern Washington University Thursday (Dec. 18) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.

The Eagles, who lost for the first time in five home games this season, fell to 6-4 with the loss while the Kangaroos improved to 5-8. In both halves the Eagles relinquished nine-point leads.

Eastern held UMKC to 38 percent shooting for the game -- including just 31 percent in the second half. But 14 missed free throws by EWU, as well as 32 percent shooting and nine turnovers in the second half, doomed the Eagles.

Junior Brandon Moore scored a season-high 16 points to lead EWU. Missouri-Kansas City center Spencer Johnson had 23 points and 11 rebounds as UMKC out-rebounded Eastern 36-35.

"One of the factors was the fact that we had eight turnovers in the first eight minutes of the second half," explained EWU head coach Kirk Earlywine. "We were out-rebounded by a team with a 6-foot-6 center. We took 14 three-pointers when we had such a huge size advantage, and all we had to do was keep pounding it into the post."

"More than anything else, we had a couple of guys whose minds weren’t right," he continued. "When you have guys on the floor who aren’t on the same page with the coach and the rest of the team, it is pretty difficult to win."

Eastern’s Andy Genao added 14 points and five rebounds on 4-of-6 shooting from the field and 6-of-7 from the line. Moore made 4-of-7 free throws and Mark Dunn sank 3-of-4, but the rest of EWU’s team was 5-of-14 at the line.

Junior college transfer Chris Busch, playing in just his second game as an Eagle, had six points and three rebounds, but made only 1-of-5 from the floor and 4-of-10 from the line. Benny Valentine, whose 18.4 scoring average entering the game led both EWU and the Big Sky Conference, had just two points on 1-of-9 shooting from the field. He missed all five of his three-point attempts as EWU was just 3-of-14 as a team.

In the first half, the Eagles scored eight unanswered points to take a 26-17 lead with 5:35 left on a three-point play by Moore, who scored seven of Eastern’s points in the run. He scored 12 points in the first half, as did Genao, as the Eagles made 12-of-22 shots for 55 percent.

However, UMKC made 46 percent of its shots with five three-pointers, helping the Kangaroos pull to within 35-32 at halftime.

Three-pointers by Milan Stanojevich and Trey Gross to open the second half gave EWU a 41-32 lead, but the Eagles were never able to extend the advantage to double digits. The Kangaroos led three times before the game was knotted at 59 with 2:30 to play.

But Eastern missed its next three field goal attempts and two free throw attempts, and also had a turnover, as the Kangaroos went on their 9-0 run. Five of the points were scored at the free throw line.

The game was the first of three games in a five-day span to end EWU’s pre-Christmas schedule. The Eagles next face a difficult test at Washington of the Pacific 10 Conference on Saturday (Dec. 20) before returning home to face Evergreen State on Monday (Dec. 22). Tip-off in both games is 7:05 p.m., with the UW game televised live regionally on Fox Sports Net.

Eastern was playing a UMKC squad the Eagles defeated 65-54 on Dec. 3, 2007, a victory which represented one of three road victories the Eagles had the entire season. The Kangaroos ended a three-game, seven-day road trip with a 1-2 record.

Eastern was coming off a 75-55 loss at Hawaii last Saturday (Dec. 13) that left head coach Kirk Earlywine wondering what happened to the team that had started 6-2, including a victory in its Big Sky Conference opener just a week earlier.

The game in Hawaii marked the season debuts for returning starter Adris DeLeon and Busch, a pair of projected starters who missed the first eight games of the season. Both were officially cleared to play on Dec. 12 after final exams were completed and grades submitted.

Washington is a Pacific 10 Conference foe off to a 6-3 start as well. Powerful 6-7 forward Jon Brockman is averaging a team-high 16.8 points and 11. 4 rebounds per game, but he had a sprained ankle and did not play in last Sunday’s (Dec. 14) 84-83 loss to preseason Big Sky Conference favorite Portland State. In last year’s 82-62 Husky win over the Eagles, Brockman made 13-of-19 shots from the floor to finish with 26 points and eight rebounds.

Next Monday’s opponent, Evergreen State, is 6-2 on the season heading into home games against Southern Oregon (Dec. 19) and Oregon Tech (Dec. 20).

Earlywine is in his second season at the helm after leading the Eagles to an 11-19 record overall and 6-10 Big Sky Conference mark last season. Season tickets, including several packages with selected games, are now on sale. Information is available at http://WWW.GOEAGS.COM.

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