Tuesday, February 7, 2012

EWU Eagles outscore Sac State 50-35 in 2nd, still lose 75-71

Cliff Ederaine (#42) led the Eagles in
a second half rally
photo from khq.com

Another slow start for the Eagles on Saturday as they hosted a suddenly hot Sacramento State.  The Hornets came out shooting well and punishing the Eagles for every mistake and they made plenty of them.  Coach Hayford had to pull a lot of magic out of his hat to get his team back into contention and although they ultimately lost, he found enough magic to make it competitive.

The officials called a very tight game and really didn’t seem to be letting anyone play through much, the result was a combined 70 free throws attempted, 51 personal fouls and 4 players fouled out.  Eastern came in the game averaging  71.3% from the free throw line on the season.  In this game in which they attempted 33 free throws just one shy of their season high (34 against Northern Arizona the previous Thursday) they hit just 54.5% of those shots their second lowest output of the season (they previously went 5 of 11 at Cal State Fullerton).  Hitting their season average of 71.3% would have meant the Eagles would have made 23 pts from the line instead of 18 and when considered against the final score (75-71), its easy to see how important those free chances are.

The Eagles came out in the first half just playing sloppy on both ends of the court, failing to find the open looks and missing even when they did.  They low-light of the first half came with just over a minute remaining just after a foul called on Collin Chiverton (#24), who had already been benched to start the game for his unnecessary and foolish technical foul against Northern Arizona on Thursday.  Chiverton was called for a foul and vehemently protested the call with the official.  He was warned by the official and Coach Hayford called him back to the bench and presumably told him to cool off.  Chiverton’s protestations continued dramatically as he was then arguing with Coach Hayford.  Coach was fed up and Chiverton was sent to the locker room.

In a game where Coach Hayford’s team needed every bit of offense they could muster to shoot their back into it, Coach left his team’s leading scorer on the bench for the entirety of the second half.  Even late when he went with a lineup stocked full of three point shooters, his best 3pt shooter remained on the bench.  For Coach, this was a statement about who is running this team.  Cue the scene in Hoosiers where Gene Hackman says, “My Team is on the floor.”  Although the Eagles ended up losing this one, I love that Coach Hayford stood his ground.  He said when he took the job, “We want Eastern Washington basketball to be a meeting place where the community wants to come together, take pride in the kind of players that are on the court, want to cheer them on and share in their success,” he said. “We want to bring a lot of people to the party.”  Benching Chiverton when he was in the state he was in and not focused on his team was the right thing to do, “because Collin wasn’t emotionally able to help us,” Hayford said.

Instead, Coach turned to the rest of his team and led by Cliff Colimon (#11) (25 pts, 3 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 assist) and Cliff Ederaine (#42) (15 pts, 18 rebounds and 6 assists), the Eagles clawed their way back to within 2pts with less than 10 seconds to go.  The Eagles outscored the Hornets 50-35 in the second half.

The loss hurts the Eagles’ post season hopes, but they still sit in a 5th place tie with Portland State.  Up next for the Eagles is a Saturday trip to conference leading Weber State.  Sacramento State hosts Montana State on Thursday.