Washington State Knocks Off Eastern in Opener 88-69 - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

Washington State Knocks Off Eastern in Opener 88-69

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by Eastern Univ. Athletics

It wasn't the way the Eagles hoped to begin an extended road stretch to start the 2012-13 men's basketball season.

Eastern Washington made just one of its first 10 shots and fell behind early 7-0, and Washington State went on to an 88-69 victory in a non-conference game Saturday (Nov. 10) at Friel Court in Cheney, Wash.

Junior point guard Justin Crosgile, a transfer from St. Joseph's, had 28 points and five assists in his Eagle debut in a losing effort.

Eastern and WSU both scored 49 points in the second half, but the damage was done in the first half. Washington State led at halftime 39-20 and by as many as 33 in the second half. Eastern made only 22 percent of its shots in the first half, including just 3-of-19 from 3-point range.

"We didn't come out and do justice to the letters E-W-U on our jerseys," said second-year Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. "We are a very young team and we'll learn from this so that it doesn't happen again.

"It could have been better, but it's a work in progress," he added. "We have a young team and when they come together we will be a good team,"

Crosgile's performance was the best debut for an Eagle since EWU moved to NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season. Last year, his Eagle teammate Collin Chiverton scored 25 against Gonzaga, and the previous most was scored the year before by Tremayne Johnson with 21 versus San Jose State.

Interestingly, current Detroit Piston Rodney Stuckey scored only 14 points in his debut against Pacific Lutheran in the 2005-06 season. Crosgile's scoring output was also the second-best season-opening performance by an Eagle since David Peed scored 29 points on Nov. 25, 1989, in EWU's 96-84 loss to BYU.

Crosgile made 9-of-24 shots, including 7-of-17 3-point attempts. He also had four rebounds, but made just 3-of-14 shots in the first half, making him 6-of-10 after intermission.

"What I love about him is that he kept competing and kept his chin up," said Hayford. "He knew he had a really poor first half, and he turned it around in the second half. But we need him to be more consistent."

No other Eagles scored in double figures, but senior Jordan Hickert came off the bench to finish with eight points and four rebounds. Eastern was out-rebounded 47-34, but did have 15 offensive rebounds. True freshman Venky Jois led the way with nine boards, including three on the offensive end.

"The rebounding is skewed because we missed so many shots," said Hayford. "But we had15 offensive rebounds, which shows me some hustle and pride."

Besides their 1-of-10 start, the Eagles had a five-minute stretch in the first half with just one basket, and an 11-0 Cougar run opened a 27-10 lead. Eastern pulled to within 13, only to have WSU score eight of the last 10 points in the half to take a 19-point lead at intermission.

"We got some really great looks and they didn't go down, then our players got really tentative," Hayford explained. "Our defense really hung with it, but in the last seven or eight minutes our lack of offensive success kind of affected us defensively. Then they got separation on us."

The Cougars took a 58-29 advantage in the second half before EWU finally found its shooting eye.

"That was the game we wanted to play -- 49-49," Hayford said of the second half score. "We were trying to come out of here with a something like a 90-87 win, and if you are going to play that way you have to shoot well. When we are making shots we look really, really good. When we are missing shots we look pretty silly. We'll be better than that."

The Eagles are now 11-55 in the all-time series against Washington State and haven't defeated the Cougars in Pullman since 1952. The Eagles are now 12-77 all-time against the Pac-12 Conference, and since Eastern moved to NCAA Division I in the 1983-84 season, EWU is 2-36.

A year ago, Eastern finished 15-17 overall and was 8-8 in Big Sky Conference play to finish fourth, and the Eagles hosted and won their first Big Sky Conference Tournament game since 2006. Eastern improved by five victories from the year before, as the Eagles equaled their most wins since Eastern made its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance in 2004.

Eastern continues on the road to face Cal State Northridge on Nov. 12. The Matadors finished 7-21 overall last season and 3-13 in the Big West Conference. The Matadors, who were a member of the Big Sky Conference from the 1996-97 to 2000-01 school years, are coached by Bobby Braswell. He is currently in his 17th season at Cal State Northridge, having started there in CSN's initial year as a Big Sky member.

Eastern doesn't play at home until Cal State Fullerton visits on Nov. 30.

 "Give Washington State credit – this is the second year in a row they've made us look silly and look like we have a poorly-coached team," added Hayford, whose team lost 75-49 last season in Pullman for EWU's worst loss of the season. "But we can build on that second half. We did come back to compete and show pride.

"We will do a lot of teaching," he added. "We'll just put them in the lab and start showing them. We'll rest their bodies and test their minds."

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