Sunday, January 15, 2012

EWU Eagles lose 71-70 @ UNC Bears in a thrilling match up

The Eagles (3-3, 9-9) dropped this thriller in the last moments as Tate Unruh (#15) nailed 2 free throws to give the Bears (3-2, 6-10) their 70th and 71st points of the game.  Both teams battled back and forth exchanging fouls and the lead frequently. Obviously the outcome was not the one that we hoped for, but I want to take a moment and point out the things I thought the Eagles did well before moving on to what went wrong.

The most impressive individual performances of the night belong to Collin Chiverton (#24) and Cliff Ederaine (#42).  Chiverton was the leading scorer for the Eagles as he hit 7 of 13 field goals including 5 of 9 from beyond the arc, made his only 2 free throws and gathered in 3 rebounds and had 3 assists.  Ederaine had a remarkable all around performance including a double-double with 12 points, 12 rebounds while nailing 5 of 6 shots and 2 of 3 free throws.  Freshman Guard Parker Kelly (#10) also had an impressive performance with 12 points making 3 of 4 three point shots and hitting all three of his free throw opportunities.

The Eagles started out aggressively and were out running the Bears early on.  Defensively the Eagles had a very up and down performance, they were making it tough on the inside in the early going, but suffered lapses that allowed the Bears too many wide open looks.  The Bears took advantage of those chances shooting 20 of 35 as a team.  That stat points to the problem though, the Bears scored 71 points during a game in which they only took 35 shots as a team.

The Eagles got into foul trouble early and often, two starters (Laron Griffin #15 and Cliff Collimon #11) fouled out with three and five minutes to go (respectively) in the second half.  Particularly the absence of Collimon was keenly felt as the teams offensive attack devolved into a street-ball style of raining bricks from long distance.  Kelly in particular seemed to concede too much ground on offense failing to force the ball into the paint.  He wasn’t alone in that though as the Eagles took 34 of 56 shots from beyond the arc, that’s an insane margin, especially when the team was only hitting 35% of their 3 point shots.  

The Eagles just failed to bang it down into the paint enough.  That meant the Eagles forced fewer fouls (24 to 20) and received fewer free throw chances (18 to 40).  Even though the Bears were not having a great day shooting from the free throw line (62.5%) the abundance of opportunities meant the Bears were essentially gifted 25 points from the line.  In a game decided by a point that is just simply unacceptable.  

At the end of the day the most talented team did not win this game.  The Bears fought hard and played smart to stay in this game until the Eagles over aggressive, sloppy play turned the tide against them.  I think Coach Hayford and his staff will have to take a long look at the tape of this game.  Thankfully the Eagles have the rest of this week to practice before they have another conference match-up to deal with.

Up next for the Eagles a non-conference Monday night match up with the Seattle Redhawks.  Northern Colorado visits the Montana Grizzlies on Thursday.