LOS ANGELES – Resilience and a strategic change of pace could not compensate for height and ineffective offense as Eastern Washington played its first game against one of the nation’s perennial basketball powers.
Despite recovering from a 14-point deficit, the Eagles lost to UCLA 60-47 on Wednesday night in front of 4,229 at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena.
“I can’t shoot like that if my team wants to get a win,” said forward Collin Chiverton, who scored a team-high 15 points despite missing 16 of 22 field-goal attempts.
“We’ve got to come together as a team and trust each other,” Chiverton said. “But it’s hard when shots aren’t falling. You really don’t know who to go to and who not to go to. We’ve got to be more decisive as a team about what is a great shot as opposed to what is a good or a bad shot.”
Eastern (5-5) – which ranked fourth nationally in 3-point shots made per game – converted only 5 of 22 behind the arc.
For the game, the Eagles shot 25.9 percent from the field.
“We just missed some really good looks,” EWU coach Jim Hayford said. “We just didn’t make shots and that’s where I credit UCLA’s length.
“We don’t have that interior scoring presence, especially when we have 6-foot-7 going against 6-foot-11.”
The Bruins (4-5) feature 6-10 Joshua Smith and David Wear on their forward line.
The Eagles’ best antidote was 6-8 Laron Griffin and 6-9 Jordan Hickert.
As a result, Eastern decided to try a different approach against UCLA’s 2-3 zone defense: force a slower tempo and begin driving to the basket with 14 seconds on the shot clock.
“The strategy was to slow the game down and minimize possessions so it wasn’t such a rebounding war,” Chiverton said. “We didn’t want to get in foul trouble.”
“We wanted to make the first half slow,” Hayford said. “We wanted to make it a 20-minute game.”
UCLA used a 10-0 spurt to build a 16-5 lead with 9:23 left in the first half.
The Eagles failed to score during a span of 6 1/2 minutes, as the Bruins extended the margin to 21-7.
Yet early in the second half, Chiverton scored nine points – all on 3-pointers – during a 12-2 surge that narrowed EWU’s deficit to 32-30 with 14:34 to play.
But Chiverton did not score the rest of the game, and Eastern made only three baskets in the final 10 minutes.
“Collin got going and they keyed on him,” Hayford said of the Bruins’ defense. “They shut him down.”
Meanwhile, an 11-1 blitz gave UCLA a 43-31 lead with 9:14 left. The Eagles failed to score a basket for 5 1/2 minutes.
Eastern made one final push. Cliff Colimon and Tremayne Johnson each scored four points as the Eagles drew within 44-39 with 6:45 to play.
But UCLA’s Lazeric Jones made a steal underneath EWU’s basket and drove the lane for a lay-in that extended the lead to 46-39 with 6:21 remaining.
Despite their third loss in four games, the Eagles won the rebounding war by securing 42 rebounds, tying a season high.
“We had them spread out and we were able to crash,” Hayford said. “We wanted to spread them out and hit the offensive rebounds hard.”
Cliff Ederaine grabbed eight rebounds and Johnson added seven rebounds while finishing with a season-best 15 points.