EASTERN WASHINGTON USES BIG FIRST AND SECOND HALF RUNS TO DEFEAT MENâ€™S BASKETBALL, 79-75
CHENEY, Wash. -- Eastern Washington used a 13-0 run to open the game, and later added a 21-5 run in the second half to propel the Eagles to a 79-75 victory over Sacramento State in a Big Sky Conference men’s basketball game Thursday afternoon at Reese Court.
The Hornets went 0-for-6 and turned the ball over twice in their first eight possessions of the game allowing Eastern Washington to jump out to a 13-0 lead with 15:19 to play. The Eagles later extended the lead to 25-10 after Brandon Moore converted a layup with 10:46 to play in the first half. However, the Hornets immediately went on a 13-3 run to trim Eastern’s lead to five points (28-23) with 5:40 left. Sacramento State whittled the lead down to four points late in the first half, but Mark Dunn hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to give EWU a 33-26 halftime lead.
The Hornets continued to chip away early in the second half, eventually taking their first and only lead of the game at 36-35 on a Michael Selling jumper with 15:52 remaining in the contest. The Eagles then went on what proved to be a game-changing 21-5 run over the next four minutes and 55 seconds to take a commanding 56-41 lead with 10:57 to play. Again, Sacramento State battled from behind, getting all the way back to within three points of the lead (65-62) after Mike Marcial’s jumper at the 2:31 mark.
Down the stretch, every time Sacramento State got within one possession of the EWU’s lead, the Eagles responded with free throws. A John Dickson three-pointer cut the Eagles lead to 75-73 with 19 seconds remaining, but Dunn knocked down a pair of free throws to put the Eagles back up four points. The Hornets’ Sultan Toles-Bey then knocked down two free throws to draw back within two points (77-75) with 12 seconds left, but Glen Dean buried both his free throw attempts to give Eastern Washington a 79-75 lead with 10 seconds left. That wound up being the game’s final score. The Eagles hit 10 of their last 12 free throw attempts spanning the final 53 seconds to ice the victory.
The loss dropped Sacramento State to 6-9 overall and 1-2 in the Big Sky. The Hornets lost their third straight on the road, and today marked their first Big Sky road contest after splitting the first two conference games at home (80-65 loss to Weber State; 64-63 win over Idaho State).
Prior to today’s victory, Eastern Washington, which was playing at home for the first time since Dec. 12, had dropped five straight games (all away from home). The Eagles (5-10, 1-1) had shot below 30 percent from the field in three of their last four games prior to shooting 41.7 percent (25-60) from the floor and 44.0 percent (11-25) from the three-point arc today. Four of Eastern Washington’s five victories this season have now come at home, and the team is 4-2 inside its friendly confines.
Sacramento State continues to have problems with Eastern Washington as the Eagles have now won eight straight meetings in the series between the two teams. In addition, Eastern Washington is 15-1 against Sacramento State in Cheney, including 14 straight wins on the home floor.
In the Hornets’ loss to Loyola Marymount last Sunday, the Lions used runs of 10-0 and 9-0, respectively, in the first and second halves to beat Sacramento State by four points. It was much of the same today, as the big runs in both halves helped propel the Eagles to the four-point victory. Six of the Hornets’ last 11 games have now been decided by four points or less, and the Hornets are 3-3 on those occasions.
Leading all scorers was Eastern Washington’s Dean, who dropped in 29 points, including a school-record tying seven three-pointers (in just 12 attempts). Dean also added seven assists in 34 minutes. Dunn added 26 points and nine rebounds, and combined with Dean to score 55 of Eastern Washington’s 79 points. Dunn was efficient from the field, going 9-of-14 from the field, 2-of-2 from the three-point line and 6-of-6 from the free throw line. His nine rebounds were a team high. Moore added nine points and seven rebounds, and Jeffrey Forbes had nine points and four assists. Dunn, Moore, Dean and Forbes scored all but six of the Eagles’ points.
Despite being outscored, 49-46, in the second half, Eastern Washington shot a blazing 54.5 percent (12-22) after intermission, including 5-of-11 from the three-point arc. The Eagles also finished the game shooting 81.8 percent (18-22) from the free throw line.
Sacramento State had five players score in double figures, led by Antonio Flaggs’ season-best 18 points as the senior shooting guard went 6-of-8 from the field, 3-of-5 from the three-point line and 3-of-4 from the charity stripe. In the two conference games he has appeared, Flaggs is averaging 14.0 points and has hit five of his 11 three-point attempts.
Dickson added 11 points and seven rebounds, Marcial had 10 points, Selling added 10 points and Toles-Bey finished with 10 points, five assists and two steals. Senior Justin Eller had nine points and nine rebounds, and junior Duro Bjegovic chipped in seven points, six rebounds and three assists.
The Hornets outscored Eastern Washington in points in the paint (30-24), second-chance points (12-6) and bench points (17-4), but the Eagles were able to score 19 points off 14 Sacramento State turnovers.
The Hornets finished the game shooting 43.6 percent (24-55) from the field, 46.7 percent (7-15) from the three-point line and 69.0 percent (20-29) from the free throw stripe.
Sacramento State returns to action in two days when the team travels south for a matchup at Portland State on Saturday, Jan. 2, at 7:05 p.m. Portland State is the defending Big Sky Conference Tournament champions and has won 11 straight home games dating back to last season.