Eagles Remain Eighth With 61-55 Loss - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

Eagles Remain Eighth With 61-55 Loss

A nagging ankle injury is turning into a pain in the neck for the Eastern Washington University men's basketball team.

Playing their second-straight game without freshman sensation Venky Jois, the Eagles used a 9-0 run to take its first leads of the game in the second half, but a subsequent scoreless spell of nearly five minutes led to a 61-55 loss to Sacramento State Thursday (Feb. 7) at the Hornets Nest in Sacramento, Calif.

Eastern used a 9-0 run to pull in front for the first time in the game, but went 4:58 without scoring as Sac State went on a 10-0 run to regain a six-point advantage. The Eagles had costly turnovers and misses down the stretch, and the Hornets made 7-of-10 free throws in the final 3:24 to close out the victory.

As a result of the loss, the Eagles remained in eighth in the Big Sky Conference standings, tied with Northern Colorado at 4-9. The Eagles are now 6-17 overall, while Sacramento State improved to 6-7 in the league and 11-10 on the season, including a season sweep over the Eagles.

Senior Collin Chiverton made 5-of-6 shots and finished with 12 points to lead Eastern. Senior Kevin Winford scored 11 and true freshman Thomas Reuter had nine, with both finishing with five assists for EWU.

The Eagles made 42 percent of their shots compared to 40 percent for the Hornets, and EWU sank 10-of-28 3-point attempts. The difference was at the free throw line where Sac State was 20-of-27 compared to 3-of-8 for Eastern.

 "Our effort was good, our execution was good and our defense was good," said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. "We just needed to make a few more shots, and then we needed to get to the foul line more and make them. We showed pride and we showed class in a hostile environment. I'm going to hang my hat on that."

Jois sprained his ankle with 3:15 left in a 72-68 victory over Montana State on Jan. 31, but has now missed the two games since. Senior guard Jeffrey Forbes started and scored six points against the Hornets, but essentially did not play in the previous four games because of an injury on his shooting hand that required stitches. 

Jois has established himself as a bonafide contender for All-Big Sky Conference honors, as well as the league's Freshman of the Year and Newcomer of the Year accolades. Jois has had nine double-doubles this season, and is averaging 13.1 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.4 blocked shots per game.

Forbes has now started 99 career games, and with 113 games played, is nearing the EWU career record of 119.

The Eagles are 5-5 at home this season, but are still winless at 0-11 on opponent home courts (1-1 at neutral sites).

"We did a good job – we made thee more baskets than they did and we made 10 3-pointers," said Hayford of the Sac State loss. "But they out-scored us by 17 at the foul line. We have to do a better job of drawing fouls in the second half."

Sacramento State jumped out to a 19-11 lead on the Eagles, but EWU battled back to pull within 29-27 at halftime.

Early in the second half, Eastern made a trio of 3-point baskets in a 9-0 run that gave EWU a 45-41 lead 9:58 to play. Chiverton made the first treys to give the Eagles their first lead of the game, and Reuter made the third to complete the run.

Reuter hit another 3-pointer at the 8:43 mark to give EWU a 48-44 advantage. But Eastern went scoreless for the next 4:58, missing six-straight shots and a pair of free throws. The resulting 10-0 Sac State run gave the Hornets a 54-48 lead with 4:15 remaining.

After sophomore Parker Kelly hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 54-51 with 3:45 to play, Sac State out-scored EWU 7-4 the rest of the way. The Hornets made 7-of-10 free throws in the last 3:24, while EWU had two turnovers and missed four shots in that same time frame.

"Sac State really stepped up," added Hayford. "We had some great looks during their run and we tried to keep grinding. That's the difference – in close games you have to execute and you have to put the ball in the basket. Our team did a really, really good job with execution, but we didn't make the winning plays – that's what we need to do. We showed poise, we just need to finish the plays with makes."

The Eagles will be in Flagstaff, Ariz., Saturday (Feb. 9) to face Northern Arizona at 12:05 p.m. Pacific time. The game versus the Lumberjacks will be televised live on FOX Sports Arizona Plus (DISH: 448 SD, 9518 HD; DirecTV: 695 SD, 695-1 HD), as well as on Fox College Sports Pacific (1 a.m. Pacific time on Feb. 10).

The radio broadcast of all Eastern games is on 700-AM ESPN, via the web at www.700espn.com and via iPhone application (search for "700 ESPN" and download the free app). The broadcast is also available via www.tunein.com and tunein's mobile phone app. Larry Weir returns for his 20th year as the play-by-play voice of the Eagles.

Northern Arizona won its second-straight game with a 79-72 victory over Portland State on Thursday, and is also 6-7 in the league and is 9-14 overall. Eastern is ahead of Portland State (3-10) and Idaho State (3-10) in the league standings, and only the top seven teams advance to the league tournament March 14-16.

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