Hot and cold.
Despite a late rally, the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team had two cold stretches and that was enough for Sacramento State to pick up a huge 60-53 road win over the Eagles in a Big Sky Conference battle Saturday (Jan. 12) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.
Eastern led by 10 at intermission after a 52 percent shooting half, but then made only 2-of-13 shots to start the second half, including a 6:37 scoreless stretch. The Eagles were able to regain the lead down the stretch, only to miss their last four shots and enable Sac State to score the game’s final eight points.
The loss dropped Eastern to 2-4 in the league and 4-12 overall, while the Hornets improved to 3-3 in the league and 8-6 overall.
“Our team showed great character to fight back, to not hang their heads and to get the lead,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. “In those last couple minutes, give them credit. They made shots, and we didn’t.”
Senior point guard Kevin Winford finished with 12 points and six assists to lead the Eagles, with true freshman Venky Jois and sophomore Martin Seiferth each scoring 10. Jois also had seven rebounds, six blocked shots, two steals and two assists, and true freshman Thomas Reuter finished with five assists and a pair of steals. Jeffrey Forbes and Parker Kelly each scored eight for the Eagles, but both were scoreless in the second half.
Eastern was coming off three of its five best shooting efforts of the season, including a season-best 50.0 percent in an 82-59 win over Northern Arizona two nights earlier. The Eagles looked like they would be well on their way toward another high percentage, but made only 8-of-28 in the second half for 29 percent. Eastern finished at 40 percent for the game.
“We missed good looks,” said Hayford. “It was not lack of execution -- we just missed some good looks. That’s the way basketball works -- you have to make baskets. We have good shooters, and they will shoot the ball well.”
The Hornets, meanwhile, made 39 percent in the first half and 48 percent in the second half. They made eight of their first 12 shots after intermission to score 21 of the first 25 points of the second half.
“In basketball you have to make shots,” said Hayford. “We had some good looks, but they didn’t go in. On the other end they had good looks, and their shots went in. In the first half, we had good looks that went in, and in the first half they had good looks that didn’t go in. Overall it evened out.”
Eastern made its first four shots and jumped out to an 8-0 lead as three different Eagles scored in the early going. Sac State cut the lead to 10-8 before EWU went on a 10-0 run. Kelly scored eight points and Jois had the other two, and EWU took a 20-8 lead on Kelly’s 3-pointer with 8:04 left.
The Eagles made 52 percent of their shots in the first half and held Sac State to 39 percent, and led 33-23 at halftime.
The dagger for Eastern in the second half was a 15-0 Sac State run in which EWU was held scoreless for 6:37. The result was the 10-point advantage turning into a 44-37deficit with 11:21 to play.
Later, Eastern was down 50-43, but then went on a 10-2 run to regain a 53-52 lead on a basket by Jois with 2:23 remaining. Seiferth had a pair of three-point plays in the run, including a rebound dunk, and Jois scored the other two baskets.
Sac State closed out the scoring by making 6-of-6 free throws in the last 1:47, plus a key basket with 45 seconds left.
“Again, give Sac State credit because they were able to execute their plays through all forty minutes,” said Hayford. “It’s a 40 minute game, and we did not play up to our ability for 40 minutes.”
Eastern now heads out on the road to face Big Sky Conference newcomer North Dakota on Thursday (Jan. 17) and Northern Colorado on Saturday (Jan. 19).