LAS VEGAS, Nev. - A late 10-0 run helped previously winless Jackson State hand Eastern Washington a 72-67 loss Wednesday in a consolation game in the Hoop TV Las Vegas Classic at the Orleans Arena.
The loss was Eastern's fourth-straight -- all in the span of just seven days -- and dropped the Eagles to 4-9 on the season heading into a Dec. 28 game at Gonzaga. It was the first victory in 11 tries this season for Jackson State.
The game was tied at 50 in the second half when the Tigers went on game-changing 10-0 run. That gave them a 60-50 advantage, and the closest EWU came after that was seven before a late barrage cut the lead to the final margin of five.
"We had back-to-back turnovers that led right to points for them," said Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine of the back-breaking run. "Before that we changed our defense a little bit and applied some pressure. That helped get us back to a tie and momentum was definitely on our side."
Senior Benny Valentine and freshman Glen Dean each scored 17 points to lead the Eagles. Junior Alden Gibbs chipped in five points, six rebounds and three steals.
The Eagles made 49 percent of their shots in a narrow 73-70 loss at Nevada last Thursday, but since then has made only 27, 28 and 38 percent in a trio of losses, respectively, to BYU, Chicago State and Jackson State. Meanwhile, opponent percentages in those games, respectively, were 64, 45 and 46 against the Eagles.
"Hopefully Christmas will bring us back our shooting eye," said Earlywine. "When you follow-up 28 shooting with 38 percent, it's pretty tough."
Eastern had a size advantage against Jackson State, but didn't capitalize as Eastern's front line players were a combined 4-of-14 from the field.
"Our lack of speed, quickness and athletic ability on the front line was very evident," said Earlywine. "We had 12 shots within three feet that we missed. We had a size and strength advantage, but when you can't score the ball in the in the paint, that negates whatever advantage we had."
Eastern trailed 28-26 at halftime, but it could have been worse after an Eagle dry spell helped Jackson State go on an 11-2 run and take a 24-18 lead. Eastern made only four of its last 17 shots in the half after making five of its first nine.
The Eagles continued to be cold in the second half, and fell behind 36-28 before coming to life. Valentine scored eight-straight points in an 11-2 run, with a three-pointer by Jeffrey Forbes putting the Eagles on top 39-38.