OGDEN, Utah — Days after knocking off Weber State to end the regular season, Eastern Washington nearly did it again.
However, playing their first postseason game since 2006, and the first under head coach Kirk Earlywine, the Eagles could not sustain the intensity and energy that allowed them to build a 15-point lead early in the second half.
Despite 27 points from Cliff Colimon, Weber State rallied past EWU, 79-70, to advance to the semifinals of the Big Sky Conference Tournament.
Colimon torched the Wildcats for 22 points in a first-half shooting exhibition that sent Eastern Washington (10-20) to the locker room with a 45-33 lead. When the Eagles quickly bumped that margin to 15 to start the second half, it seemed as if Saturday’s game at Dee Events Center would become a mirror image of Wednesday’s upset victory.
The only 3-point shot Colimon who finished with 27 points, missed in six first-half chances was a last second heave at the halftime buzzer.
“Not since high school,” answered Colimon about a shooting performance that saw him make five consecutive three-point baskets. He finished with 27 pionts. “I was fatigued [in the second half]. I’m not used to playing at elevation.”
Meanwhile, Eastern Washington’s physical defensive approach bumped the Wildcats (18-11) on their heels. Eventually, a frustrated Kyle Bullinger committed an intentional foul late in the half.
“There was also talking,” Colimon said.
Unfortunately for Eastern Washington, it didn’t match Weber State’s determination in the second half.
“They didn’t put in any trick plays at halftime,” Earlywine said.
“They played with little more of an edge, more intensity than we did.
“The home crowd doesn’t effect the opponent. It effects the home team. As a visiting team, you have to match it.”
As the game settled into a back-and-forth affair, Scott Bamforth, who had struggled with his shot most of the night, went off. Despite re-injuring his separated shoulder, the Weber State guard found his bearings at just the right time.
Weber State took the lead for good as Bamforth buried two 3s and two foul shots in a 21/2-minute stretch late in the game. He finished with 13.
“It hurts,” Bamforth said about his right shoulder. “I just play.
“Sometimes I make them and sometimes I don’t. I trust what I’m about to do.”
With Lindsey Hughey and Bamforth shadowing Colimon, Eastern Washington could not find another offensive outlet.
“We finally calmed down and played,” said Weber State forward Kyle Bullinger who scored a career-high 26 points. “We had to worry about playing basketball.”