Kirk Earlywine has been around the game of college basketball long enough to realize you’ve never seen it all.
Still, Eastern Washington University’s head coach said he never expected to see his top three scorers – sophomore guards Glen Dean, Kevin Winford and Jeffrey Forbes – go a combined 0 for 17 from the field and miss all 12 of the 3-point shots they attempted in last Saturday’s 57-55 road loss to Sacramento State.
“And I certainly hope I never see it again,” Earlywine said. “It’s hard to believe your top three shooters can have a night like that – and on the same night, yet.
“Especially considering they all had some pretty good looks at the basket.”
On the positive side, EWU’s three talented young guards were 8 for 8 from the foul line. But their combined scoring contribution against the Hornets fell 26.6 points short of their combined average of 34.6 per game.
Earlywine is eager to see how Dean, Winford and Forbes respond to last weekend’s nightmarish shooting when they take the floor at Reese Court Thursday for a 7:05 game against Big Sky Conference rival Portland State.
“They were noticeably unhappy and disappointed, because they felt like they let the team down,” Earlywine said. “But that’s part of growing up. Everything’s not always going to go your way, so you’ve got to learn how to handle failure and disappointment.”
The bottom three teams in the Big Sky standings – Idaho State, Eastern Washington and Sacramento State – are a combined 0-31 on the road this year.
EWU, which has back-to-back home games against Portland State and ISU this week, hasn’t won a game away from Reese Court in more than a year, having posted its last road win on Jan. 10, 2010, when the Eagles edged Montana State 75-73 in Bozeman.
Eastern’s road losing streak stands at 17, but Earlywine is confident his young team – which has only a combined four years of NCAA Division I experience on its roster – will eventually find a way to win away from home.
“It’s no secret the road has been tough on us,” he said, “and when you don’t have any seniors, that can happen. But we’ve played well on the road at times this year, and the more you can do that and build on those good experiences, the better off you’re going to be.”
“We will break through and win on the road. We will make that happen. But right now, we’ve got a couple of huge homes game we need to take care of, because we – like a lot of other Big Sky teams – are fighting for our postseason life.”
With Portland State banned from postseason play because of a series of academic sanctions handed down by the NCAA, only eight Big Sky teams are eligible to qualify for the six-team conference tournament that starts on March 5.
Eastern is tied with Idaho State for that sixth and final conference tournament berth.