CHENEY – The double-digit lead the Eastern Washington men’s basketball team held for most of the second half Thursday never felt entirely secure.
But despite making just 64 percent of their free-throw attempts for the game, the Eagles sank their last 10 attempts from the line and snapped a five-game losing streak by defeating Northern Arizona University 72-59.
Eastern moved its overall record to 5-13, 2-4 in Big Sky Conference play. The Eagles will try to get their first road win of the season at Sacramento State on Saturday.
The Lumberjacks (10-8, 2-4) didn’t help themselves from the line, finishing 14 for 24. EWU’s late streak helped it finish 18 for 28.
So what the Eagles lacked in free-throw efficiency they made up for in defensive effort. NAU’s leading scorer, Cameron Jones, scored 24 points in a losing effort. But after Jones, no Lumberjack scored in double figures.
“He is a monster to try to guard,” EWU coach Kirk Earlywine said of Jones.
Eastern had a balanced offensive attack with four players in double figures, led by guard Kevin Winford’s 14 points.
Earlywine was pleased that his team outrebounded NAU 41-30 as 6-foot-7 forward Cliff Ederaine led all players with 12 boards, six on the offensive end.
“We’re a very good rebounding team when we have a passion and a heart for doing it,” Earlywine said.
“(Ederaine’s) range makes him hard to keep off the glass. He played with that type of energy and effort tonight.”
Ederaine left the game early after he suffered a sprained ankle.
The Eagles used a 12-6 first-half run to take a 33-25 lead into intermission.
EWU came out in the second half with a 10-3 start and built its largest lead of the game at 43-28.
NAU made a final push using a full-court press to get back in the game, trimming Eastern’s lead to 53-46 with 6:23 to play in the game. The Eagles withstood the run to hang on for the win.
“I thought we played equally hard in both halves,” Earlywine said. “It was good to see us do that tonight.”
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