Despite another impressive first-half performance and a late rally, the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team missed its first 10 shots in the second half and went on to lose to Utah Valley 86-83 Tuesday at the Leavey Center in Santa Clara, Calif. The game was part of the 2012 College Basketball Experience (CBE) Hall of Fame Classic, which is hosted by the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
The Eagles led 43-32 at halftime, but didn’t make a field goal for more than seven minutes to open the second half as the Wolverines went on a 19-3 run to take the lead for good. Eastern made just 38 percent of its shots in the second half, including just one of its first 16 3-pointers after intermission.
Eastern got hot late in the game to cut the lead to one, but five free throws and a late Wolverine basket kept the Eagles winless this season. Eastern’s Justin Crosgile missed a desperation 40-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Five Eagles scored in double figures, led by the 16 points and 11 rebounds by freshman Venky Jois – his first double-double as an Eagle.
The senior trio of Collin Chiverton, Jeffrey Forbes and Kevin Winford combined for 24 key points in the first half, but had just 10 after intermission. Chiverton and Forbes each finished with 13, and Winford scored eight.
Point guard Justin Crosgile chipped in 13 points, eight rebounds and nine assists, but he made just 3-of-17 shots overall and 1-of-11 shots from beyond the arc. Six-foot-10 center Martin Seiferth, the Big Sky Conference leader in blocked shots, came one away from his own school record with six blocks against UVU. He also finished with 14 points and nine rebounds, including 12 points and eight boards after intermission.
“There were some really good performances,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. “We took care of the ball, and Venky and Martin looked very solid tonight. When we did get the ball inside, Martin and Venky did a good job. Jeff also had a really solid game. This one really does sting, but there are some players and plays that I am very, very proud of.”
One game earlier against Saint Mary’s, the Eagles led 31-26 late in first half, but the Gaels went on runs of 9-0 and 16-3 to take command.
“As we get into December, we will be able to show them the video and show them winning basketball plays and losing basketball plays,” Hayford said. “We’ll get them to see that.”
The Eagles are 0-4 this season as they continue its difficult six-game road stretch to start the 2012-13 season, and Utah Valley improved to 3-2. The Eagles are in the midst of playing four opponents in the span of six days in California.
Eastern trailed just once in the first half, and used a 9-3 run to open a 24-16 lead. The lead ballooned to as many as 12 before EWU led at intermission 43-32.
The Eagles made 47 percent of their shots in the first half, 7-of-20 3-point attempts and had only three turnovers. But at one point, EWU was shooting at a 52 percent clip before making just four of its last 11 shots.
Eastern’s shooting worsened after intermission, as the Eagles missed their first 10 shots and didn’t make a field goal in the first 7:13 of the half. Meanwhile, the Wolverines went on a 19-4 run to open the second half and take a 51-47 lead.
“We have to be able to handle freedom in our offense a little bit better,” said Hayford. “You want shooters to have confidence that the next one is going in, but we could have used a little bit better discretion.”
“The 54 points we gave up I the second have is even more alarming,” he added. “We can do a lot better than that.”
A short time later, an 11-2 run opened a 66-54 lead for Utah Valley with 9:41 to play. Eastern cut the lead to three on two occasions, but couldn’t come any closer until back-to-back 3-pointers by Jordan Hickert and Danny Powell cut Utah Valley’s lead to 79-78 with 50 ticks remaining.
Eastern continues play Wednesday (Nov. 21) at 6 p.m. Pacific time in the CBE Classic against South Carolina Upstate (1-3), an 85-65 loser to host Santa Clara (3-0) in Wednesday’s first game. After a day off for Thanksgiving, Eastern plays Santa Clara at approximately 4 p.m. on Nov. 23.
“We have to teach them how to win – sometimes when you are losing you are learning. This was a tough lesson tonight. Tomorrow will be a good opportunity to talk to our team about playing with a little bit of wisdom.”
Including Saint Mary’s, three of Eastern’s four opponents in California had 20-victory seasons a year ago. Utah Valley was 20-13 overall and 9-1 in the Great West Conference to capture the league title. USC Upstate was 21-13 and finished second in the Atlantic Sun Conference with a 13-5 mark. Santa Clara was 8-22 overall and 0-16 in the WCC last season.
Eastern doesn’t play at home until Cal State Fullerton visits on Nov. 30.