GREELEY, Colo. — Any chance Eastern Washington University had of ending its 17-game road losing streak was tabled for at least a couple of days Thursday night when Big Sky Conference rival Northern Colorado rallied from a 12-point second-half deficit to shed off the Eagles 63-53 at Butler-Pavilion Pavilion in Greeley, Colo.
UNC’s senior guard Devon Beitzel made 14 of 17 free throws and finished with a game-high 27 points as the Bears (12-9 overall, 8-2 in the Big Sky) reeled in EWU (7-15, 4-6) and moved into a first-place tie in the conference standings with Montana (16-6, 8-2), which lost at Weber State 61-41 on Thursday.
Eastern, which got 17 points from junior guard Cliff Colimon and 15 from sophomore guard Kevin Winford, carved out a 28-20 halftime lead, but was outscored 43-25 after intermission.
UNC ended up converting 28 of 33 free throws to EWU’s 4-of-7, a dramatic difference that prompted Eagles coach Kirk Earlywine to call the officiating “brutal.”
“Thirty-three-seven on the free-throw line – what a joke,” Earlywine said in a postgame radio interview of the free-throw discrepancy. “What a way to ruin a really good basketball game.”
Eastern made five more field goals than the Bears, but converted on only nine of 31 attempts from 3-point range and lost the rebounding battle 30-23.
The Eagles, who shot only 35.7 percent (20-56) from the field, limited UNC to just 34.9 percent (15-43) shooting, but couldn’t come up with an key stops down the stretch as Beitzel scored 19 of his points after intermission .
Eastern gets another chance to snap is lengthy road losing streak on Saturday, when it faces Idaho State in another BSC showdown at 6:05 p.m.