Nov. 20, 2007
Three games in four nights.
That's the upcoming challenge for the Eastern Washington University men's basketball team as it takes a 1-3 record into the Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout Nov. 21-24 at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage, Alaska.
The Eagles open the tournament Thursday (Nov. 21) against Virginia Tech of the Atlantic Coast Conference in a game that begins at approximately 10:45 p.m. Pacific time. In their second game on Nov. 23, Eastern will play either Michigan (Big Ten) or Butler (Horizon). On Nov. 24, Eastern will take on Gonzaga, Western Kentucky, Texas Tech or host Alaska Anchorage.
Next Thursday (Nov. 29), Eastern will play Santa Clara in one of only two home games in Eastern's first 11 outings of the season. Tipoff in that game is 7:05 p.m. Pacific time at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.
It has certainly been a whirlwind of games for first-year Eagle head coach Kirk Earlywine. And it doesn't get any less challenging as Eastern also plays at nationally-ranked Kansas on Dec. 5, and on Dec. 22 opens Big Sky Conference play at home against Portland State in the earliest BSC start in school history.
The Eagles are 1-3, with losses by 27 points to Washington State of the Pacific 10, 35 to New Mexico of the Mountain West and 14 to Washington of the Pac-10. Eastern's lone win was a 59-51 victory at home over UC Riverside on Nov. 15 when the Eagles rallied from a 14-point deficit.
In its last outing, Eastern actually out-scored Washington 41-37 in the second half as Adris DeLeon scored 16 of his team-high 22 points after halftime. Gary Gibson and Matt Brunell chipped in 10 and nine points, respectively, in the second half. But a 24-point deficit was too much for EWU to overcome, as well as the 26-point night by Washington's 6-foot-7, 255-pound All-America candidate Jon Brockman.
Eastern's first two opponents (WSU and UNM) had a 41-25 record last year, including a 26-8 record and NCAA Tournament appearance by the Cougars. Washington, Virginia Tech, Michigan and Butler all had at least 19 victories a year ago, and collectively were 92-45.
The is the second time in three years the Eagles have played in the Great Alaska Shootout, and EWU is looking for its first victory. Eastern fell 83-73 to Marquette on Nov. 23, 2005, then lost two days later to Southern California 69-51. Eastern closed the tournament the next day with an 80-72 loss to Southern Illinois.
But getting by a well-rested Virginia Tech team won't be an easy task. The Hokies are 1-0, having defeated Elon 69-64 on Nov. 9 in their opener. Last year, Virginia Tech was 22-12 and defeated Illinois 54-52 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament before losing to Southern Illinois 63-48 in the second round.
Freshman Jeff Allen, a 6-7, 258-pound forward, led the Hokies against Elon with 19 points, 10 rebounds, four steals, two blocked shots and a pair of assists. He made 7-of-11 shots from the floor including a three-pointer. Deron Washington, a 6-7 senior, also had a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Washington is the team's top returning scorer, averaging 12.0 points and 5.3 rebounds a year ago. A.D. Vassallo, a 6-6 guard, had 17 points in the season-opening victory after averaging 11.1 points last season.
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.
EWU Head Coach Kirk Earlywine on Playing UC Riverside After WSU & UNM Games: "They don't get any easier. We go from the Pac-10 to the Mountain West to the Pac-10 to the ACC, and then maybe the Big 10. But nobody is feeling sorry for us. That is who is on the schedule and we'll go play them next. Virginia Tech is a team an awfully lot like Washington, but they may even be a little longer and more athletic than the Huskies. Like Washington, they have a 6-foot-7, 260-pounder in the post -- he's not as good as Brockman yet because he's a freshman. But it's a similar team. We have to clean-up some things offensively and we have to make sure we go in there with a level of competitiveness that gives us a chance to win the game."
Tough Early-Season Schedule a Formidable Task for Earlywine and Undermanned Eagles: This early stretch of difficult games has provided a formidable task for first-year head coach Kirk Earlywine, who was named as head coach at EWU on the late date of June 14, 2007. He pieced together a makeshift roster built around returning starter Kellen Williams and returning letter winners Brandon Moore and Marcus Hinton.
Besides those three players, EWU's roster entering the season included one 2006-07 redshirt and nine newcomers. However, three of the new players are transfers and are not eligible to play this season. In addition, walk-on Blake Solomon would have been a 10th newcomer but he had to leave the team because of his wife's health.
That leaves the Eagles with 10 players, and returning redshirt Jack Loofburrow (foot) and freshman Petar Milasinovic (ankle) have missed all four EWU games thus far. Thankfully, Adris DeLeon was cleared to play by the NCAA over questions regarding his junior college transcripts. His appeal was approved on Nov. 9 in time for him to play that night against Washington State, giving EWU eight players in uniform.
DeLeon was not eligible prior to that, but the seven players Eastern did have available helped engineer a 91-49 romp over NCAA Division III Pacific in an exhibition game on Nov. 3. Five scored in double figures, led by the 25 of true freshman Trey Gross who was making his collegiate basketball debut.
Earlywine on Tough, Early-Season Stretch: "It's a tough stretch right now, but I knew back in August what the challenges that were ahead of us. We have to find a way to get better."
Shootout Was Late Addition for New Coach: Under the duress of a short time frame in which to work, new Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine filled his roster and schedule for the 2007-08 men's basketball season during the summer months.
One of his decisions was to agree to become a last-minute replacement at the Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout in Anchorage, Alaska. Eastern, which was 0-3 in its only other appearance in the Shootout in 2005, was a late replacement for Liberty in the eight-team tourney.
"The schedule was pretty much complete," Earlywine said at the time. "The wrinkle with the Great Alaska Shootout only added to my to-do list."
Eagles Versus Ranked Teams: Eastern is 1-12 versus nationally-ranked teams -- including three games in the 2004-05 season alone as well as three the year before. Seven of the 13 games came under former head coach Mike Burns and five others came under Ray Giacoletti from 2000-2004.
11/9/07 vs. #10 Washington State
12/15/06 vs. #22 Oregon - L, 74-100
11/24/06 vs. #16 Washington - L, 83-90
12/19/05 vs. #8 Gonzaga - L, 65-75
12/16/05 vs. #11 Washington - L, 74-91
12/28/04 vs. #14 Arizona - L, 45-79
12/21/04 vs. #13 Gonzaga - L, 70-83
12/5/04 vs. #14 Washington - L, 56-89
3/19/04 vs. #3 Oklahoma State - L, 56-75
12/31/03 vs. #16 Gonzaga - L, 49-70
11/21/03 vs. #14 Oklahoma - L, 59-69
11/15/01 vs. #10 St. Joseph's - W, 68-67
11/25/00 vs. #4 Michigan State - L, 61-83
1/21/85 vs. #10 DePaul - L, 50-72
Big Crowds: Eastern's first two games of the 2007-08 season drew crowds of 10,216 (at Washington State) and 12,016 (at New Mexico), marking the 16th and 17th times since the 2000-01 season that Eastern has played in front of crowds in excess of 10,000 fans.
Last season, the Eagles played in front of 10,000 at Washington after the previous two games there drew 9,876 (2005) and 9,418 (2004). In the 2004-05 season, Eastern played in front of a crowd of 14,535 fans at Arizona, 10,216 at Wichita State and 12,000 against Gonzaga. Three of the 10,000+ crowds also came in the 2003-04 season. Several other games have been played in the first game of pre-season tournaments that have drawn at least that many fans, but the Eagles haven't faced the host team.
Unfortunately, Eastern has failed to win all 17 of those games in which it has played in front of at least 10,000 fans. Here is a list of those crowds:
12,016 - 11/12/06 vs. New Mexico - L, 57-92
10,215 - 11/9/06 vs. Washington State - L, 41-68
10,000 - 11/24/06 vs. Washington - L, 83-90
11,879 - 12/19/05 vs. Gonzaga - L, 65-75
14,535 - 12/28/04 vs. Arizona - L, 45-79
12,000 - 12/21/04 vs. Gonzaga - L, 70-83
10,216 - 11/20/04 vs. Wichita State - L, 62-80
16,840 - 3/19/04 vs. Oklahoma State - L, 56-75
12,299 - 12/31/03 vs. Gonzaga - L, 49-70
11,031 - 12/5/03 vs. Iowa - L, 54-70
11,268 - 11/21/03 vs. Oklahoma - L, 59-69
10,210 - 3/12/03 vs. Weber State - L, 57-60
11,000 - 12/22/02 vs. Gonzaga - L, 64-67
16,374 - 11/15/02 vs. Wisconsin - L, 55-81
10,432 - 12/28/01 vs. Indiana - L, 60-87
12,533 - 11/24/01 vs. Minnesota - L, 68-86
14,759 - 11/25/00 vs. Michigan State - L, 61-83
Eagles Picked to Finish In Back of the Pack: Defending Big Sky Conference Champion Weber State is the coaches' pick to repeat as men's basketball champion, while the media like the Montana Grizzlies to win it all in 2007-08. Both preseason polls were released Nov. 1 by the Big Sky Conference.
Weber State, who shared the regular-season title in 2006-07 with Northern Arizona and beat the Lumberjacks in the championship game, garnered four first-place votes from the coaches and 60 total points. Montana also earned four first-place votes from the coaches, who are not allowed to vote for their own team. The Grizzlies received 57 points from the coaches. Portland State earned the other coaches' first-place vote, and 52 total points. Northern Arizona was tabbed fourth by the coaches with 44 points.
The media had the same four teams as its top squads, but selected Wayne Tinkle's Montana Grizzlies first. The Grizzlies received 14 of 26 first-place votes, and 218 total points. Weber State, led by reigning Big Sky Coach of the Year Randy Rahe, earned eight first-place votes and 200 total points. Like the coaches, the media selected Portland State third. Ken Bone's Vikings earned two first-place votes and 183 total points. Northern Arizona was picked fourth, earning two first-place votes and 155 total points. Mike Adras' Lumberjacks have played in the conference championship game three of the last four years.
The coaches selected Idaho State fifth, followed by Montana State, Northern Colorado, Eastern Washington and Sacramento State. The media picked Montana State fifth, followed by Idaho State, Sacramento State, Northern Colorado and Eastern Washington.
Weber State lost Big Sky MVP David Patten, but returns three starters from last year's team which finished 11-5 in conference and 20-12 overall. The Wildcats will be led by junior guard Juan Pablo Silveira, senior forward Arturas Valeika, and senior guard Dezmon Harris. Silveira was a second team All-Conference pick last season.
Montana returns junior first-team all-conference forward Jordan Hasquet, senior All-Conference forward Andrew Strait, and sophomore guard Cameron Rundles, the 2006-07 Big Sky Freshman of the Year. Montana was 10-6 in conference last season, and 17-15 overall.
Portland State placed fourth in the Big Sky last season, finishing 9-7 in league and 19-13 overall. The Vikings advanced to the conference semifinals, falling to Weber State. The Vikings return senior Dupree Lucas, the 2006-07 Newcomer of the Year, as well as senior center Scott Morrison, and senior guard Deonte Huff.
Northern Arizona lost All-Conference stalwarts Ruben Boykin Jr., Stephen Sir, and Tyrone Bazy, but returns junior point guard Josh Wilson and senior center Kyle Landry.
Northern Colorado is in its second year in the Big Sky Conference. Unlike 2006-07, the Bears are eligible to compete in the conference tournament. The top six finishers in the regular season will advance to the postseason tournament, which begins on Saturday, March 8 with first-round games. The semifinals and championship will be played March 11-12 at the site of the regular-season champion. The first games of the regular season are on Friday, Nov. 9.
School (First-place votes) - Points
1. Weber State (4) - 60
2. Montana (4) - 57
3. Portland State (1) - 52
4. Northern Arizona - 44
5. Idaho State - 37
6. Montana State - 33
7. Northern Colorado - 19
8. Eastern Washington - 15
9. Sacramento State - 12
School (First-place votes) - Points
1. Montana (14) - 218
2. Weber State (8) - 200
3. Portland State (2) - 183
4. Northern Arizona (2) - 155
5. Montana State - 114
6. Idaho State - 111
7. Sacramento State - 74
8. Northern Colorado - 56
9. Eastern Washington - 55
MORE EARLYWINE QUOTES
Earlywine on Starting With a Win over Pacific: " It does feel good. It's something that I've worked toward for a long time. This is my 23rd year, not to mention the time I spent with my dad who was a high school coach. I've been preparing for this opportunity with no guarantee it would ever come. I have the opportunity and I'm humbled and grateful to Eastern Washington for giving me that opportunity and I'm going to do my best not to disappoint anybody here."
Earlywine on Effort Against Pacific: "Our ability to sustain effort over a long period of time was good. We continued to guard well for the most part, our block out was acceptable, and we did a decent job of taking care of the ball. We had some offensive fouls and turnovers from illegal screens and so forth that are good turnovers if there is such a thing."
Earlywine on his EWU Debut: "I was excited and I was anxious -- I know the players were. We had a number of guys who have never played a Division I basketball game before tonight. And for that matter, I've never been a head coach in a Division I basketball game before so there was a little bit of anxiety on my part too. Mostly because I wanted our fans and our students to see a team on the floor that they were proud of. I think our guys played very, very hard. We were unselfish on the offensive end, which I really like. We gave an effort that our fans and our students can be proud of."
On Trey Gross Against Pacific: "I'd like to say that he surprised me, but he really didn't. He did exactly what he's done in practice. He's been our most consistent perimeter guy in practice. He has terrific basketball savvy. I'd like to claim that that's coaching, but he showed up with that. For an 18-year-old to go out there and get those kind of numbers in his first game, albeit an exhibition game, it was still pretty impressive."
Earlywine on Piecing Together a Roster: "It's been very difficult after taking over in the middle of June. We granted a (letter of intent) release to anybody who asked for one and some of them chose to do that. During the course of the summer where I would normally be recruiting players for the following year, I was trying to piece together a roster for this year. It was the difficult, and the fact we added 10 new players to three returning players has made it very, very hard."
Earlywine on Yearly Goal to Win Big Sky: "I don't want to term it a rebuilding year and I don't want to say that there is a three-year plan or a four-year plan or anything like that. I think that would be a tremendous disservice to Kellen Williams and Marcus Hinton -- our two seniors. When I took the job I said our goal every year would be to win the Big Sky. The past three winners of the Big Sky were teams that were not in the conference tournament the year before. We would like to make it four. I haven't seen anything yet from our guys that leads me to believe we aren't capable of doing that."
Earlywine on Familiarity with the Big Sky: "There were five new coaches last year, so I don't know the league as well as you think I would being only one year removed. Familiarity of the road trips will be a little bit of an advantage. More than anything else I think maybe its more of an advantage in terms of recruiting knowing what level of player we need to win this league and not wasting time chasing guys that are going to sign higher or ones that maybe aren't good enough to win in this league. When you go to a new league there is a feeling out process with recruiting that I don't have."
Earlywine on Players He Has Been Impressed With: "The returning guys have really stood out to me. Brandon Moore and Kellen Williams have been very, very solid in practice. I think experience is a big factor. Experience in the Big Sky is a huge factor in success in this league. I'm not saying that you have to have it, but in my seven years at Weber State it seemed like the older, more experienced teams were better. The returning players here have caught my eye just in terms of the consistency of their effort. That's to be expected because they are our only two guys that have played any significant minutes of Division I basketball."
Washington 82, Eastern Washington 68: Junior guard Adris DeLeon provided a much-needed scoring punch with 22 points, but Washington had its own scoring punch in the first half as the Huskies recorded an 82-68 non-conference men's basketball victory over Eastern Washington Nov. 18 at Bank of America Arena in Seatle, Wash.
DeLeon scored 16 second-half points to pull the Eagles to within 15 in the second half. That and 10-straight EWU points by Gary Gibson helped pull the Eagles to within 14 points, but Jon Brockman hit a pair of huge baskets down the stretch to help the Huskies survive.
"We had to re-capture our heart and our toughness a little bit, and I thought we did that in the second half," said Eagle head coach Kirk Earlywine. "That made me happier."
DeLeon had 22 points, five assists and a pair of steals. Gibson chipped in 13 points and Matthew Brunell added 11. DeLeon, Gibson and Brunell were all playing in just their fourth NCAA Division I game.
"Some of our ball screens hurt them a little bit," said the first-year EWU head coach of EWU's second-half comeback. "We made better decisions off of those ball screens. Adris made really good decisions with the ball and got shots for his teammates. He did that early in the game today but we missed them."
"He has to continue to make the right decisions and trust his teammates," Earlywine added. "When he drives it in there and gets stopped he can't go crazy -- he has to get it out to guys that are open at the arc. He did a better job with that."
Brockman, Washington's 6-foot-7, 255-pound All-America candidate, led all scorers with 26 points. He made 13-of-19 shots from the floor and had eight rebounds.
"He's a load down there," Earlywine added. "We knew that going into the game, and I wasn't sure if we were going to be able to do anything to stop or slow him down. For the most part we didn't, but there are a bunch of people who can't do a lot with him either. So we are not alone."
The Eagles were out-rebounded 38-28 as they allowed the Huskies to grab 17 offensive rebounds. Washington made 51 percent of their shots in the game, including 58 percent in the first half. Eastern made just 34 percent in the first half but improved to 54 percent after intermission.
"No matter what happens on the offensive end of the floor for us, we still have to be competitive defensively and with our block-out," Earlywine said. "Our block-out was awful, and we don't have the size and athletic ability to not block out. We can't run to the front of the rim and think we are going to turn it into a run and jumping contest. We are not going to win an athletic contest against teams like Washington. We have to throw our bodies on them."
Eastern fell behind early 24-11, then found itself down 45-27 at halftime.
"We were certainly better and more competitive in the second half than we were in the first," said Earlywine. "I thought we got overwhelmed a little bit in the first half with Washington's length and quickness. They did a good job of pressuring us out of what we wanted to do offensively."
Washington led by as many as 24 at 62-38 before DeLeon took over. He scored eight-straight EWU points to pull the Eagles to within 64-49 with 8:11 to play.
A 7-0 run by the Huskies helped Washington regain a 22-point lead, then it was Gibson's turn to take over. He scored the first 10 points in a 12-0 run as the Huskies went scoreless for 2 1/2 minutes. Brunell's basket with 3:40 to play cut the lead to 71-61.
Despite Brunell's three-pointer that pulled EWU to within nine with 2:05 left, Brockman hit a pair of baskets in an 11-7 Washington run to end the game.
Eastern Washington 59, UC Riverside 51: Shooting in each half went in different directions for both teams, but Eastern Washington University's defense saved the day as the Eagles defeated UC Riverside 59-51 in a non-conference men's basketball game Nov. 15 at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.
Eastern held the Highlanders to 18 points in the second half as new EWU head coach Kirk Earlywine recorded his first official win. Eastern made only 21 percent of its shots in the first half in falling behind by as many as 14 and 33-22 at halftime, but held UCR without a point for a nearly seven-minute span to help the Eagles improve to 1-2 this season. The Highlanders fell to 0-3.
"I told the guys the guys after the game, `A, congratulations' and `B, thanks,'" said Earlywine. "It was my first win as a Division I coach and we got it in a fashion that I really liked. I thought we showed tremendous mental toughness tonight."
"The fact that they hung in there being down double digits at halftime shows the mental toughness we need going forward," he added.
Senior Kellen Williams the only returning starter for the Eagles, led EWU with 17 points, 13 rebounds, three assists and three steals while playing the game's entire 40 minutes. It was his second double-double in 60 career games for EWU and his rebounding total was three more than his previous career high of 10.
"(It's nice) when you have a guy get 17 of your 59 points, 13 rebounds and play all 40 minutes -- that's what we need him to do," said Earlywine. "He's our best-conditioned guy. He took unbelievable care of his body over the summer.
"He's going to have to play long minutes for us this year and we need to him to play long minutes well," Earlywine continued. "He can't compromise the quality of his play just because of the minutes. Obviously he's not going to play 40 every night, but he was playing so well tonight that we had to leave him in there."
True freshman Trey Gross added 15 points for EWU, including 4-of-4 free throws in the final 38 seconds to clinch the win. Senior Marcus Hinton chipped in 14 points on 12-of-15 shooting from the free throw line.
UC Riverside made 64 percent of its shots in the first half, but just 25 percent in the second half. Larry Cunningham led the Highlanders with 20 points.
"We were guarding in the first half, but they were making unbelievable shots," Earlywine said. "I had to convince our guys to stay the course, and that's not easy sometimes to do when you don't have experience to draw from. I kept telling them in the timeouts and at halftime that 'We're playing good. Don't deviate.'
Eastern, meanwhile, made just 21 percent of its shots in the first half and 48 percent in the second half. The Eagles started the second half with a 17-2 run to take its first lead of the game. The Eagles led by as many as nine in the second half.
"I thought we got as good of shots in the first half as we did in the second half, but we just didn't make them," added Earlywine. "We did do a great job with a lead. We have not had a lot of time to spend in practice on situation basketball, because our numbers have been so short. In spite of that, we did a good job tonight."
"Either I tricked them or they have some faith in the coaching staff, because they did keep doing what we asked them to do," he added.
New Mexico 92, Eastern Washington 57: The start was impressive, but the tables quickly turned as New Mexico rolled past Eastern Washington 92-57 in a non-conference college men's basketball game Nov. 12 in front of 12,016 fans at the famed "Pit" in Albuquerque, N.M.
Eastern opened an early 10-3 lead, but runs of 12-0 and 17-0 by the Lobos quickly turned that advantage into a large deficit for the Eagles as EWU had a pair of five-minute scoring droughts in the first half. Eastern fell to 0-2 on the season while New Mexico, playing its first home game under new head coach Steve Alford, improved to 2-0.
"Four minutes into the game our players did exactly what we were supposed to do and what they were coached to do on both ends of the floor," said first-year Eagle head coach Kirk Earlywine. "We blocked out, stayed in our stance and didn't have any breakdowns defensively. We executed exactly what we were supposed to do offensively."
"We played eight guys, and five of them were playing in their second Division I game ever," he said of the game's turnaround. "I told our players that I don't understand how they can do exactly what they were coached to do for the first four minutes, then all of the sudden start doing something else."
Now, it's Earlywine's turn at a home opener as the Eagles host UC Riverside on Thursday (Nov. 15) in a game that begins at approximately 7:45 p.m. at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash. The EWU women's team hosts Nevada at 5:30 p.m. in the first game of a Reese Court doubleheader.
True freshman Trey Gross scored 14 to lead the Eagles and junior Adris DeLeon also finished with 14 points and added three assists. Senior Kellen Williams chipped in eight points, eight rebounds, three assists and a pair of steals.
Four players scored in double figures for New Mexico, led by the 13 points and 12 rebounds by All-America candidate and NBA prospect J.R. Giddens. Jamaal Smith led all scorers with 15 points and added four assists.
"New Mexico is good," praised Earlywine. "(Coach Alford) only has 10 guys, but those 10 players are pretty good. Giddens is a pro talent -- he has NBA potential. I don't know if all the pieces will fit together so that he can play in the NBA, but he certainly has the talent."
New Mexico out-shot Eastern 56 percent to 34 percent, and the Eagles made 10-of-32 three-pointers. Eastern, however, was out-rebounded 42-23 and allowed New Mexico to grab 11 offensive rebounds. In a 68-41 loss last Friday at 10th-ranked Washington State, Eastern was only out-rebounded 34-26 and gave up seven offensive boards.
"Our block-out was pretty good Friday night at Washington State but it was really bad tonight," said Earlywine. "We went from being a really good block-out team to a really lousy block-out team in a span of 72 hours. Sometimes we lose track of the fact they are 18-22 year olds, they are human beings and they are not robots. I have no answer for our lack of block-out tonight."
Sophomore Brandon Moore scored five early points for the Eagles and DeLeon hit a three-pointer to help Eastern to an early lead. When Milan Stanojevic fed Williams for a fastbreak layin, Eastern led 10-3 with 16:35 to play in the first half.
But shortly after that, Williams -- Eastern's lone returning starter -- was whistled for his second foul of the half while helping on defense. He went to the bench and New Mexico proceeded to go on a 12-0 run, forcing five Eagle turnovers as EWU went five minutes without scoring and 6 1/2 minutes without a field goal.
After EWU cut the lead to five at 20-15, New Mexico went on a 17-0 run as EWU went scoreless for five more minutes. The result was a 37-15 advantage for the Lobos, who led 47-29 at halftime.
The 6-foot-9 Moore led the Eagles with eight points in the first half, and was matched by 6-9 Daniel Faris for UNM with eight. Darren Prentice led all scorers with nine in the first half as nine Lobos scored.
Eastern had 11 turnovers in the first half and allowed eight offensive rebounds. The Lobos has six turnovers, but just two in the last 16 1/2 minutes of the half. New Mexico made 57 percent of its shots in the first 20 minutes.
In the second half, the Lobos continued to build on their advantage, leading by as many as 39 in the final minutes. Eastern came no closer than 19, but that came early in the second half before New Mexico used a 14-4 run to put the game out of reach.
"Maybe it was a case that our guys couldn't handle prosperity," added Earlywine. "Things came a little too easily so they decided to do their own thing. I hope they learn a lesson from what happens when you try to do your own thing."
Eastern's Mountain West Conference foe on Monday was 15-17 a year ago and just 4-12 in league play, but will no doubt be much improved under Alford, who was 308-183 in 16 previous seasons as a head coach. New Mexico opened its season by beating at Colorado 54-47 on Friday (Nov. 9). The Lobos defeated Eastern New Mexico 94-50 in an exhibition game on Nov. 2.
Eastern has lost all four games previously played versus New Mexico, with losses on Dec. 18, 1978 (117-94), Feb. 17, 1987 (90-81), Dec. 3, 1993 (121-62) and Nov. 23, 1996 (69-53) -- all at the "Pit" in Albuquerque. The 1993 and 1996 games took place in the Lobo Classic, including the '96 championship game.
In recent games against the Mountain West Conference, Eastern fell to UNLV (79-82 on 11/14/06), Brigham Young (66-97 on 12/27/05), San Diego State (66-79 on 12/20/03) and Wyoming in the NIT (71-78 on 3/20/03). Eastern has a current four-game losing streak to the MWC dating back to a 75-70 victory over San Diego State (11/23/02).
#10 Washington State 68, Eastern Washington 41: Trailing by just 12 at halftime, Eastern Washington University allowed 10th-ranked Washington State to pull away in the second half as the Cougars went on to a 68-41 victory over the Eagles Nov. 9 at Beasley Coliseum in Pullman, Wash. The season-opening game was played in front of a sold-out crowd of 10,215.
Eastern trailed just 31-19 at intermission in the first Eagles-Cougars meeting in nearly 10 years. But EWU, which received a boost earlier in the day when Adris DeLeon was cleared to play by the NCAA, allowed WSU to go on a 10-0 run to start the second half in the first game of the EWU head coaching career of Kirk Earlywine.
"I was really pleased with our intensity level and effort in the first half," said Earlywine. "I wasn't at all discouraged or disappointed at halftime, although I got the sense that our players were because the points were hard to come by."
Junior Milan Stanojevic led the Eagles with 11 points, including a trio of three-pointers. Senior Kellen Williams, one of just three returning Eagle players, added nine points and six rebounds. DeLeon chipped in six points.
Earlywine said he was encouraged with EWU's game at WSU, in which the only glaring difference was shooting -- WSU made 50 percent compared to EWU's 30 percent.
"We can take some good things out of the first half for sure," he said. "But you have to eliminate mistakes. Victory favors the team that makes the fewest mistakes -- it's not the team that makes the most spectacular plays or the highest number of great plays. That's a big part of what makes Washington State very good. They don't make mistakes and beat themselves. We have to go back and look at the mistakes we made and eliminate those."
Eastern led early 3-2 on a three-pointer by Stanojevic, but the Cougars took a 25-11 advantage and never led by fewer than 11 the rest of the way. Derrick Low scored 11 of his team's points in the first half en route to a 14-point output in the game.
"We were still hanging in there," said Earlywine of his team's first-half performance. "We had three really bad, technical mistakes and Washington State scored on every one of them. That is what good teams do that are experienced, smart and talented. If we took away those three mistakes in the first half, we were okay.
Washington State used a 10-0 run to start the second half to open a 22-point cushion before Eastern scored on two free throws with 15:55 left by Stanojevic. Eastern's first field goal in the second half was a three-pointer with 13:25 to play by DeLeon, whose eligibility appeal regarding his junior college transcripts was approved by the NCAA in time for him to play Friday night.
"I thought if we could get three or four stops in a row and a bucket or two that we could squeeze them a little bit and make the crowd uneasy," said Earlywine. "But that didn't happen."
Washington State led by as many as 30 points in the second half as Aron Baynes scored 10 of his team-high 15 points in the half, and Robbie Cowgill added nine of his 13.
"I don't think it was Washington State's defense in the second half as much as it was our defense," explained Earlywine of the 37-22 scoring advantage WSU had in the second half. "We caved in. We tried to catch ourselves after that, but they did what a good and experienced team does. They kept their foot right on our throat and didn't give us a chance to get back in it or show a sign of life. We didn't squeeze them at all."
Eastern played all eight of its available players against WSU, and all of them played at least 18 minutes. Center Brandon Moore, who finished with five points and a pair of rebounds, logged the most minutes with 32.
"We got the ball into the post a little bit better in the second half," Earlywine said. "Brandon Moore scored a couple of baskets inside that we have to have."
"We have some guys who can shoot the ball," he added. "Adris DeLeon was sky-high tonight and sped up. We played eight guys tonight and five of them were playing in their first Division I game ever. The game became fast for them mentally, and there is no cure for that except to play games. I feel good about our perimeter players, but we can't become too reliant on perimeter jump shots. We also have to get the ball inside to our bigs and our guards."
"We have to keep pointing toward Big Sky Conference play and keep improving," added Earlywine. "You can learn and improve by both winning and losing. I know which one is a lot more fun and which one I prefer. But tonight we got beat and we have to get better from this game."
The Eagles are now 11-51 all-time against Washington State, having lost 91-72 in Cheney the last time the two teams met on Dec. 5, 1998. The year prior, on Dec. 22, 1997, at the Tri-Cities Coliseum in Kennewick, Wash., Eastern upset the Cougars 83-82. That snapped a 17-game losing streak against WSU dating back to the last Eastern win in the series on Dec. 1, 1952, by a 72-71 score in overtime.
The Cougars, under first year head coach Tony Bennett, finished 26-8 a year ago and had a 13-5 record in the Pacific 10 Conference to finish second. Washington State enters the 2007-08 season ranked 10th in the Associated Press preseason poll.
The Cougars took the nation by storm last season with Bennett earning several national coach of the year accolades. They finished the year ranked 13th in the Associated Press poll after advancing to the NCAA Tournament where they defeated Oral Roberts 70-54 in the first round before losing to Vanderbilt 78-74 in overtime.
Both the Eagles and Cougars started the season by winning exhibition games by large margins. On Nov. 3, Eastern jumped out to a 34-12 lead and romped past NCAA Division III Pacific 91-49. Eastern's 42-point winning margin was slightly more than WSU's 38-point victory (80-42) the next day over NAIA member Lewis-Clark State.
MORE EWU NOTES
Eastern 12-66 Versus the Pacific 10 Conference: With losses to Washington each of the last five seasons and a 1-9 record all-time against the Huskies, Eastern is now 12-65 all-time versus current members of the Pacific 10 Conference. Eastern has a current eight-game losing streak versus the Pac 10 after losing at Washington State 68-41 on Nov. 9 and Washington 82-68 on Nov. 18.
Eastern's win at Washington in the 2002-03 season snapped a five-game losing streak versus Pacific 10 Conference opponents dating back to Eastern's 83-82 overtime win versus Washington State on Dec. 22, 1997, in Kennewick, Wash. That victory was Eastern's first-ever victory over a Pacific 8 or Pacific 10 Conference opponent since the inception of the conference in 1968. It was also Eastern's first win over Washington State since Dec. 1, 1952, when the Eagles pulled out a 72-71 overtime win in Pullman. The Cougars had led the all-time series 49-10 and had won 17-straight games over the Eagles prior to that EWU victory.
Prior to falling at 16th-ranked Washington 90-83 on Nov. 24, 2006, Eastern's last game against a Pacific 10 opponent was a 91-74 loss to 11th-ranked Washington on Dec. 16, 2005. In the 2004-05 season, Washington was ranked 14th in the nation and defeated EWU 89-56. The Huskies also prevailed 104-91 in 2003, but Eastern defeated the Huskies 62-58 in December 2002. Washington won the previous four meetings which all took place between 1990 and 1997.
Other recent meetings against the Pac 10 have yielded losses to Oregon (100-74 on Dec. 15, 2006), Arizona (79-45 on Dec. 28, 2004), California (56-27 on Nov. 16, 2001 and 94-63 on Nov. 25, 1998), Oregon State (58-50 on Dec. 19, 2000 and 78-62 on Dec. 15, 1999) and Washington State (91-72 on Dec. 5, 1998).
EWU in Exhibitions: Eastern has won its last 12 exhibition games, which are contests that do not count in EWU's season record or statistics. dating back to the last loss on Nov. 13, 1999, to the Northwest Basketball Camp (NBC) Thunder. In that 73-71 loss, former Pepperdine player Shann Ferch made a three-point play with 19 seconds to lift NBC to the win. Here is a list of recent exhibition games:
11/3/07 - Pacific - W, 91-49
11/4/06 - Northwest Nazarene - W, 98-55
11/13/05 - UC-San Diego - W, 75-44
11/13/04 - Central Washington - W, 79-63
11/12/03 - Ukraine Touring Team - W, 83-55
11/7/03 - Northwest Sports - W, 100-79
11/7/02 - Northwest Basketball Camp (NBC) Thunder - W, 99-72
11/1/02 - Northwest Sports - W, 117-73
11/2/01 - NBC Thunder - W, 108-106
10/10/01 - Alumni - W, 94-85
11/14/00 - SON Blue Angels - W, 90-78
11/4/00 - NBC Thunder - W, 72-63
11/13/99 - NBC Thunder - L, 71-73
11/5/99 - The Hoop USA - W, 106-64
A Look at the 2007-08 Eagles: Just three short years ago in 2004, the Eastern Washington University men's basketball program was basking in the glow of playing in its first-ever NCAA Tournament.
Now, it's the job of new Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine to return the Eagles to prominence after three EWU seasons that yielded a collective record of 38-49. In the 2006-07 season, the Eagles had their string of consecutive Big Sky Conference Tournament berths snapped at nine.
Earlywine has a little recent history on his side in that effort.
"The last three years in the Big Sky, the team that won (the regular season conference title) and hosted the (six-team) tournament was not in the tournament the year before," he explained, citing the success of Weber State (2007), Northern Arizona (2006) and Portland State (2005). "I don't see any reason why we can't make it four in a row and be hosting the Big Sky Tournament at Reese Court next March."
Eastern's program was rebuilt from 1995-2000 by Steve Aggers, then Ray Giacoletti took the program to new heights from 2000-2004 with a NIT Tournament berth in 2003 followed by the NCAA berth in 2004. Giacoletti was 69-50 overall and 41-17 in the Big Sky in his four seasons. His .707 winning percentage in conference games is fourth-best in the 44-year history of the league among coaches with at least four seasons at the helm.
Giacoletti and Earlywine share common threads in coming to Eastern. Both were assistants at large Division I schools (Giacoletti at Washington and Earlywine at Utah) and both had head coaching experience at NCAA Division II schools (Giacoletti at North Dakota State and Earlywine at Pfeiffer).
"With the tradition over the last nine or 10 years at Eastern with coach Aggers and coach Giacoletti, this is a place that has proven that it can win the Big Sky Conference," he said. "Unless you're in the top 20 or 25 where you're trying to get to the Final Four, every school should have as their goal to win their conference, and that will be our first and foremost goal every year."
Earlywine has added nine new players to three returning letter winners and a returning redshirt. The returning players include senior 6-foot-4 forward Kellen Williams, the lone returning starter who averaged 8.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game in 2006-07. He is a 2003 graduate of Franklin High School in Seattle, and played one year at Highline Community College in the Seattle area.
The other two players returning made their Eagle debuts last season.
Sophomore center Brandon Moore came off the bench in 26 of the 27 games he played. The 2005 graduate of Bethel High School in Graham, Wash., averaged 5.9 points and 3.6 rebounds while making 59.8 percent of his shots from the field. Eastern's biggest player at 6-9, 240 pounds, he was selected as the team's most inspirational player.
Marcus Hinton started nine of 25 games and was named the team's most improved player. The 6-3 guard finished the season with 33 points in his last two games, including 24 and the game-winning shot in an 82-79 win over Idaho State on Feb. 22. A 2004 graduate of Wilson High School in Tacoma, Wash., and transfer from Centralia (Wash.) Community College, Hinton finished with a 6.0 scoring average and made 14-of-25 three-point attempts.
Earlywine New Coach at Eastern: Eastern Washington's new head coach is Kirk Earlywine, a former assistant coach at Big Sky Conference rival Weber State.
Earlywine, 43, was named head coach on June 14, 2007, by EWU President Dr. Rodolfo Arévalo. He is the 16th head coach in the history of Eastern, which will celebrate its 100th recorded season of men's basketball in the 2007-08 season.
He comes to EWU after spending one season as the top assistant coach at UNC Wilmington - his 21st as an assistant at the NCAA Division I level. He also spent the 1995-96 season as a head coach at Pfeiffer University in Misenheimer, N.C.
His 22-year collegiate coaching career includes seven seasons at Weber State where he worked as associate head coach on the staff of Joe Cravens. The Wildcats won 116 games while Earlywine was there - the most in the Big Sky in that span.
The 2002-03 Weber State team had a perfect 14-0 Big Sky finish. The Wildcats defeated Eastern 60-57 for the Big Sky title, then lost to Wisconsin 81-74 in the NCAA Tournament. The following season, Eastern advanced to its first-ever NCAA Tournament before going 38-49 the past three seasons under Mike Burns.
Earlywine's team at Pfeiffer was 21-8 overall and 14-4 in conference play to advance to the NCAA Division II Championships. It was the school's first season as a D-II member after playing previously as a member of the NAIA.
He took over the team in July 1995 with only two players returning and picked up a 71-62 first-round NCAA Division II Tournament victory over 12th-ranked N.C. Central. The season ended with a 49-47 loss to undefeated and No. 1 ranked Virginia Union in the regional semifinals.
Earlywine's first full-time post as an assistant coach came in 1987-88 under the colorful Rick Majerus at Ball State. He worked two seasons for Majerus in Muncie, Ind., including an outstanding campaign in 1988-89 that featured the Mid-American Conference title, a 29-3 record and a first-round victory over Pittsburgh in the NCAA Tournament.
Earlywine then followed Majerus to Utah in 1989-90 and stayed four seasons. In his second year in Salt Lake City, the Utes went 30-4, captured the Western Athletic Conference title and reached the "Sweet Sixteen" with a sterling 30-4 record. Utah advanced to the NIT Final Four in 1991-92 and captured the WAC championship once again in 1992-93.
His next stop as an assistant came in 1993-94 when Earlywine served on Leonard Drake's staff at Central Michigan. He spent two seasons with the Chippewas before landing his first head coaching job at Pfeiffer, where one of Earlywine's assistants was a young Benny Moss.
More than 10 years later, Earlywine's 21st year as a D-I assistant came in the 2006-07 season at UNC Wilmington where he worked for Moss.
Eastern Just The Fifth BSC School to Make Nine-Straight Tournament Appearances: Although its streak came to an end in the 2006-07 season, Eastern is just the fifth school in league history to make nine-straight appearances in the Big Sky Conference Tournament. Eastern started the streak back in 1998 after making just one trip to the tourney in their first 10 seasons as a member of the conference.
Weber State had its string of 24-straight appearances stopped in 2005-06, and Montana had a string of 21-straight from 1978-98. The other streaks were 16 by Idaho (1981-96) and 11 by Nevada (1982-92). Two years ago, Eastern equaled the streak of eight by Northern Arizona (1997-04).
Interestingly, Montana's 77-69 victory over the Lumberjacks on Feb. 28, 2005, extended Eastern's streak and ended NAU's. Eastern's streak started in 1998 with an end-of-year victory at Montana. That "winner advance, loser eliminated" game ended Montana's 21-year streak.
Eastern is now 7-9 in 10 appearances in the league tournament. Eastern ended its season with losses to Montana in both 2005 and 2006, but the year before won the title with a 71-59 championship game victory over Northern Arizona.
Here is a list of Eastern's appearances in the Big Sky Tournament.
2006 - Semifinal (Flagstaff, Ariz.) - #3 seed vs. #2 Montana - L, 71-73 (ot)
2006 - Quarterfinal (Cheney, Wash.) - #3 seed vs. #6 Portland State - W, 81-75
2005 - Quarterfinal (Missoula, Mont.) - #6 seed vs. #3 Montana - L, 48-58
2004 - Championship (Cheney, Wash.) - #1 seed vs. #2 Northern Ariz. - W, 71-59
2004 - Semifinals (Cheney, Wash.) - #1 seed vs. #5 Weber State - W, 72-53
2003 - Championship (Ogden, Utah) - #2 seed vs. #1 Weber State - L, 57-60
2003 - Semifinals (Ogden, Utah) - #2 seed vs. #4 Idaho State - W, 76-67
2002 - Championship (Bozeman, Mont.) - #2 seed vs. #5 Montana - L, 66-70
2002 - Semifinals (Bozeman, Mont.) - #2 seed vs. #3 Weber State - W, 62-57
2001 - Championship (Northridge, Calif.) - #2 seed vs. #1 CS Northridge - L, 58-73
2001 - Semifinals (Northridge, Calif.) - #2 seed vs. #5 Northern Arizona - W, 58-53
2000 - Semifinals (Missoula, Mont.) - #2 seed vs. #3 Northern Arizona - L, 65-82
1999 - Quarterfinals (Ogden, Utah) - #6 seed vs. #3 Portland State - L, 74-80
1998 - Quarterfinals (Flagstaff, Ariz.) - #3 seed vs. #6 CS Northridge - L, 98-104 (ot)
1990 - Championship (Boise, Idaho) - #2 seed vs. #1 Idaho - L, 62-65
1990 - Semifinals (Boise, Idaho) - #2 seed vs. #5 Weber State - W, 83-67
Four Eagle seniors - Paul Butorac, Rhett Humphrey, Neal Zumwalt and Derek Risper - played their final home games in EWU uniforms on Feb. 24 when Eastern beat Sacramento State 80-72. Including a 71-70 victory over UC Santa Barbara and an 82-79 win over Idaho State, Eastern ended the season with its first three-game winning streak of the season. The Eagles won four of their last five games.
The top six teams in the league advanced to the Big Sky Tournament. Eastern finished in a tie for fifth, but tiebreakers kept the Eagles out of the tourney for the first time since 1997. Regular season champ and tourney host Weber State went on to win the title and advance to the NCAA Tournament.
Eastern is just the fifth school in league history to make nine-straight appearances in the Big Sky Conference Tournament. Eastern started the streak back in 1998 after making just one trip to the tourney in their first 10 seasons as a member.
With a home win over Weber State on Feb. 7, Eastern was 1-4 against teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament (Weber State, Oregon, Gonzaga and UNLV). Oregon and UNLV both advanced to the Sweet 16.
Eastern played eight of its first 10 league games on the road, and Eastern won four of those games. During the brutal road stretch, Eastern logged 6,557 miles during the five-week stretch of games. Between Jan. 3 and Feb. 3, Eastern was on the road 19 of 32 days.
En route to earning Big Sky Conference Player of the Week honors for the third time in the 2006-07 season and the seventh time in his career, Rodney Stuckey scored a season-high 36 points in Eastern's 92-86 home loss against Portland State on Feb. 10. He scored in double figures in 58 of 59 games in his career, and was Eastern's leading scorer in all but seven. He had a streak of 15 in a row broken when Marcus Hinton made a game-winning three-pointer with 2.6 seconds left in EWU's 82-79 victory against Idaho State on Feb. 22. Hinton scored 24 and Stuckey had 23.
Setting a school record in the process, Marcus Hinton made a three-pointer with 2.6 seconds to play to give Eastern an 82-79 victory over Idaho State on Feb. 22. He made all six of his treys to break the school's single game percentage record that was previously held by Greg Gaulding with a 5-of-5 performance versus Gonzaga on Jan. 20, 1987. Hinton finished with a game-high 24 points after entering the game averaging just 5.1 points per game on the season. In Eastern's next game - an 80-72 win over Sacramento State - he scored all seven points in a 7-0 EWU run in the second half to give Eastern the lead for good. For the weekend, he made 12-of-17 shots (7-of-8 three-pointers) for 33 points in just 37 minutes of action.
Rodney Stuckey averaged 24.4 points in 59 career games - 24.8 as a senior and 24.2 as a junior - with a total of 1,438 points that moves him into fourth on EWU's all-time leaders list. It took him just 43 career games to join 14 others as the only Eastern players in school history to score 1,000 points in a career.
Eastern ranked third in NCAA Division I with an average of 84.2 points per game that was also the fourth-best average in school history. VMI was the nation's leader at 100.9 per game. Rodney Stuckey was seventh individually with an average of 24.6 points per game and 18th in steals with an average of 2.4. Eastern was also ranked sixth in assists (17.7) and sixth in field goal percentage (.495). Paul Butorac was eighth in field goal percentage (.640).
Eastern's average of 84.2 points per game was a pace that ranked just behind the school record of 90.0 set by the 1971-72 team. The 1970-71 squad averaged 86.3 and in 1975-76 Eastern averaged 85.2. The last time Eastern scored or allowed points in the 80's came in 1990-91 when the Eagles averaged 80.9 and allowed 82.0.
With 99 blocked shots in his career, Paul Butorac broke the school record of 79 held by Chris White (1998-00). He set the record against Washington on Nov. 27 when he had three blocks. Although no records exist for dunks, Butorac had 101 career dunks, including 41 as a senior. He had five at Cal State Northridge on Dec. 3.
On his way to setting a total of 10 school records, Rodney Stuckey broke the school's career free throw record against Sacramento State on Jan. 25. He had 376 in his two-year career to break the school record of 317 set by Randy Buss from 1970-72. Stuckey's 465 attempts are second, just 34 from EWU's record of 499. He made 15-of-16 free throws against the Hornets, missing his final attempt that would have equaled the Big Sky and EWU records for single game free throw percentage (16-of-16) set by Jason Lewis on Jan. 27, 2001, against Weber State.
Although the final score wasn't indicative of how close the games actually were, Eastern's road games against Montana State (84-67 loss) and Montana (85-78 loss) featured 22 ties and 29 lead changes. Eastern won at UC Santa Barbara on Feb. 17 in a game that featured 15 lead changes and eight ties. Four of Eastern's losses were nail-biters, including a 102-98 loss at Cal State Northridge on Dec. 3 in which the Eagles held a three-point lead with 3:32 remaining. Eastern lost to then-16th ranked Washington 83-70 in a game that featured 13 ties and 16 lead changes before the Huskies pulled away. Eastern also narrowly lost at UNLV 82-79 after rallying from a 15-point deficit with 7 1/2 minutes to play. The Eagles opened Big Sky Conference play on Dec. 28 with an 82-79 loss to Montana State in which Bobcat Carlos Taylor made a 25-foot three-pointer at the buzzer for the win.