As a college men’s basketball team preparing to spend most of the holiday season on the road, Eastern Washington University decided on Saturday afternoon to leave its friends, fans and family members with a warm memory on its way out the door.
The Eagles, behind career-high scoring efforts from Brandon Moore, Kevin Winford and first-time starter Abebe Demissie, treated a Reese Court crowd of 1,697 to a wildly entertaining 100-97 overtime win over Seattle University – an NCAA Division I independent, that came in with wins over Utah, Fresno State and Weber State.
“That was a heck of a win for us,” said third-year head coach Kirk Earlywine, who now takes his Eagles (4-5) on the road to play their next four games before returning home for a Dec. 31 Big Sky showdown against Sacramento State. “(Seattle) is a good basketball team that causes lots of problems because of their play and personnel, both.”
The Redhawks (5-5) came in boasting one of the nation’s top scorers in 6-foot-10 junior forward Charles Garcia, who was averaging 26 points and 10.4 rebounds a game, and a defense that had forced their first nine opponents into 173 turnovers.
But Eastern held Garcia to 12 points and used the splendid play of its young guards to attack Seattle’s press and set up Moore and fellow senior Mark Dunn for a bunch of easy baskets.
Demissie, a 6-5 redshirt freshman, finished with 12 points, eight rebounds, six assists, three blocked shots and two steals, while classmate Winford – who has been limited of late by a concussion – added 20 points, six rebounds, four assists and a steal.
“Our freshmen had the poise of seniors tonight,” said Moore, a 6-9 senior forward, who scored a game-high 26 points with 11 rebounds and four assists – a couple of which went to low-post running mate Dunn, who finished with 21 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks.
“They did a great job of staying in control, getting the ball up the floor and getting the ball to us down low,” said Moore.”
Eastern, which was hampered by the early foul troubles of starting freshman point guard Glen Dean and senior Benny Valentine, also got a solid effort from senior Gary Gibson, who missed the first six games with lingering knee problems.
“A special hats-off to Gary,” Earlywine said of Gibson, who turned the ball over only once in 21 minutes. “He’s had a rough go, but he came in tonight, stabilized us when Benny went out and was a huge factor in the game.”
The Eagles, who never trailed by more than eight points, tied the game at 83 on a basket by Dunn with 10 seconds left in regulation, and then survived a desperation 3-point attempt by Seattle’s Mike Boxley from the right corner to force overtime.
And despite having Valentine, Dunn and Demissie on the bench with five fouls in the extra period, they managed to build a 93-87 lead they were able to protect by making 6 of 8 free throws down the stretch.
Winford made five of those foul shots and finished 6 for 13 from the floor and 6 for 8 from the free-throw line.
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