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Eagles win tough exhibition

There were probably some of those in the small crowd that made its way to Reese Court on Sunday afternoon who figured Kirk Earlywine needs to fire his schedule-maker – which would be Kirk Earlywine.

Exhibition games, in the minds of many, aren’t supposed to be as difficult as Eastern Washington University’s 67-58 win over Montana State-Billings.

But Earlywine, EWU’s third-year year coach, insisted the intense, physical and hotly contested affair that played out in front of a few hundred spectators was exactly what his young team needed.

“It was by design,” he said of his own decision to set up the Eagles’ second, and final, exhibition game against the senior-laden Yellowjackets, a NCAA Division II program in just its second season under former University of Idaho head coach George Pfeifer. “I knew George does a hell of a job, and I knew they were going to have good players and that he was going to get them to play hard and physical.

“I didn’t want a game we won by 25 or 30 points. We’re going to step into the fire in six days against Portland, and I had to do everything I could to make sure we’re ready for that. That’s why I scheduled Billings, because I knew they would test us – and possibly beat us.”

The Yellowjackets, who improved from 1-28 to 10-17 in their first season under Pfeifer last winter, were leading by a point with just over 15 minutes remaining. But they couldn’t find an answer the rest of the way for Eastern’s senior center Brandon Moore, who finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds, a steal and a blocked shot after missing the Eagles’ 98-61 exhibition romp past Saint Martin’s a week earlier because of knee problems.

The 6-foot-9 Moore, who underwent surgery about a month ago to remove an extra bone in his knee, played 27 minutes and scored eight of his points in those final – and decisive – 15 minutes.

“I thought he played really well,” Earlywine said of Moore, who averaged 11.2 points and 6.8 rebounds as a junior, “and I didn’t see many signs of rust.”

Along with Moore’s considerable contributions, the Eagles got 12 points each from guards Alden Gibbs, a first-year transfer, and redshirt freshman Kevin Winford. Gibbs, a 6-3 junior wing, also contributed nine rebounds, three blocks, three steals and a pair of assists, helping to make up for the lack of production from senior guard and leading returning scorer Bennie Valentine, who finished with just three points, while committing six turnovers.

Eastern opens regular-season play at home on Saturday afternoon with a 1:05 non-conference game against Portland.

EWU 67, MSU-Billings 58

 Montana St.-Billings—McCrary 4-8 0—0 9, Wright 2-12 3-6 7, Hickman 0-0 0-0 0, Jackson 3-9 8-10 14, Parghalava 3-9 4-5 13, Taylro 0-0 0-0 0, Weisz 0-1 0-0 0, Chambers 2-7 4-4 8, Blaine 0-0 0-0 0, Hentzen 1-2 0-0 2, Hodge 0-2 2-4 2, Tanascu 1-1 0-0 3, Totals 16-51 21-29 58.

Eastern Washington—Gibbs 4-6 4-5 12, Brunell 1-5 4-4 6, Moore 3-5 10-13 16, Dean 3-7 1-2 8, Winford 6-10 0-0 12, Forbes 2-4 2-2 7, Valentine 1-5 0-0 3, Griffin 0-0 1-2 1, Dunn 0-2 2-4 2, Totals 20-44 24-32 67.

Halftime—EWU 39, Montana St.-Billings 37. 3-Point Goals—Montana St.-Billings 5-16 (McCrary 1-3, Parghalava 3-8, Weisz 0-1, Chambers 0-2, Tanascu 1-1). EWU 3-8 (Dean 1-3, Winford 0-3, Frobes 1-1, Valentine 1-1). Fouled Out—Jackson, Blaine. Rebounds—Montana St.-Billings 30 (Hodge 6). EWU 36 (Moore 11). Assists—Montana St.-Billings 10 (Jackson 4). EWU 6 (Gibbs 2, Valentine 2).Total Fouls—Montana St.-Billings 32, EWU 23. A—NA.

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