It wasn’t an easy game to watch – or analyze, for that matter.
Even for Eastern Washington University’s third-year coach Kirk Earlywine, who admitted just moments after watching his Eagles turn back Whitman 100-88 at Reese Court on Tuesday night that he has no intentions of torturing himself or his players with a repeat viewing of the crazy affair.
“We won’t watch film of this or even talk about it after tonight,” Eastern’s head coach said after the shorthanded and weary Eagles (1-2) survived their third game in four nights and picked up their first win of the season in front of a crowd of 1,302.
In a game that had no flow and even less aesthetic value, Eastern managed to overcome 30 turnovers – just one short of a single-game school record – and escape with a win over the Division III Missionaries (0-1), who feature a frantic style of play and a hack, hold and bump full-court defensive strategy designed to help compensate for their lack of size.
As a result, the ratty game featured 49 turnovers and 56 personal fouls.
The Eagles, playing without starters Matt Brunell (ankle) and Kevin Winford (concussion), who were injured in Monday night’s 67-61 road loss to Washington State, got a game-high 23 points from senior guard Bennie Valentine and a career-high 21 from senior forward Mark Dunn.
Three others finished in double figures, including senior center Brandon Moore, who scored 19 points and pulled down a career-high 19 rebounds to craft the eighth double-double of his career. Moore also equaled a career high with five blocked shots.
The Eagles used their decided size advantage to dominate inside and won the rebounding battle 54-35.
Despite having played in Pullman just 24 hours earlier, Eastern showed remarkable energy early in the game, sprinting to a 26-7 lead on its way to a 49-30 halftime advantage. But the Eagles spent much of the second half trying to keep from imploding under the weight of Whitman’s frenetic defensive pressure and an avalanche of their own mistakes.
Earlywine said he scheduled back-to-back games to help prepare his team for Big Sky Conference play. But he did not anticipate being so shorthanded when he signed up the Missionaries.
“When you play that style, you need bodies, and it became painfully obvious in the second half that fatigue was a huge factor,” he said.
It helped that redshirt freshman Abebe Demissie was able to play for the first time this year after recovering from a hamstring injury. But there was no question the Eagles were gassed at game’s end.
“It would have been much better for us if we’d have had a day to prepare for this and work live,” Earlywine said. “But we had 45 minutes (of practice) today, and we didn’t do anything at full speed at the risk of another injury.”
The Eagles will take what Earlywine called “a much needed” day off today before beginning preparation for Saturday’s road game against Texas-Arlington.
Eastern Washington 100, Whitman 88
Whitman (0-1)- Davidson 3-5 3-4 10, Clark 2-11 2-2 8, Shaw 8-19 8-10 24, Artis 4-7 3-4 11, Thompson 2-10 4-6, 8, Michaels 2-4 6-7 10, Adcox 0-0 202 2, Brent 1-6 0-0 3, Brandon 0-2 0-0 0, Raher 5-11 2-2 12. Totals 27-75 30-37 88.
Eastern Washington (1-2)- Gibbs 3-6 0-1 6, Dunn 7-12 7-8 21, Moore 5-7 9-12 19, Dean 0-2 2-2 2, Forbes 4-11 2-2 11, Valentine 6-14 10-12 23, Griffin 5-7 0-0 10, Demissie 2-5 4-5 8. Totals 32-64 34-42 100.
Halftime—Eastern Washington 49, Whitman 30. 3-Point Goals—Whitman 4-23 (Clark 2-9, Brent 1-5, Davidson 1-2, Shaw 0-3, Raher 0-2, Artis 0-1, Thompson 0-1), Eastern Washington 2-15 (Forbes 1-5, Valentine 1-5, Demissie 0-3, Dean 0-1, Dunn 0-1). Fouled Out—Dean, Griffin, Raher. Rebounds—Whitman 35 (Raher 5), Eastern Washington 54 (Moore 19). Assists—Whitman 10 (Thompson 3), Eastern Washington 21 (Valentine 7). Total Fouls—Whitman 30, Eastern Washington 26. A—1,302.