Every defeat has a simple explanation. And then there is the more complex one.
For Eastern Washington University, finding the simple one Saturday night was, well, simple.
“In basketball, you’ve got to make shots,” Eastern coach Jim Hayford said. “We had some good looks and they didn’t go in. On the other end, they had some good looks and they did go in.”
Basically, that was the core of EWU’s 60-53 Big Sky Conference loss to Sacramento State, witnessed by 1,006 at Reese Court. But how that came about takes a little more examination.
The final 2 minutes, 23 seconds need a closer look, that’s for sure.
After the Hornets made a 15-0 run early in the second half – Eastern missed seven consecutive shots – and falling behind by seven, the Eagles crawled back, taking a 53-52 lead when Venky Jois drove past 6-foot-8, 290-pound Konner Veteto and finished at the rim.
Those were to be the Eagles’ final points.
Sacramento’s Joe Eberhard missed on the other end but Veteto muscled in for the Hornets’ 12th and final offensive rebound and was fouled by Kevin Winford. He hit both free throws, the last of his team-high 12 points.
Winford, a senior guard who has recently taken over at the point, then had a good look at a 3-pointer – he had hit two earlier – but missed.
When Eberhard finished the next Hornets possession with a long 2-pointer with 44 seconds left, the Eagles had to be quick. Instead they hurried.
“I feel like I was a little rushed,” admitted Winford, who drove but had his shot rejected by 6-6 John Dickson. From there Eberhard hit four consecutive free throws and Eastern couldn’t hit a 3-pointer.
But, early on, it didn’t seem as if it would ever come down to free throws and 3-pointers.
The Eagles shot 52 percent in the first half, took their time, made the extra pass – they assisted on 11 of their 13 buckets – and built a 33-23 halftime edge behind Jeffrey Forbes’ and Parker Kelly’s eight points each. That changed after intermission, when EWU hit just 8 of 28 field-goal attempts.
“In the first half, we had good looks that went in,” Hayford said, “and they had good looks that didn’t go in.”
The seeds of Sacramento’s second-half comeback were sown in the final 5 minutes before halftime. All of the Hornets’ (8-6, 3-3) final five baskets came at the rim.
That trend continued after halftime, though Eastern’s lead didn’t. Sacramento’s first 11 second-half points came inside, and they helped cut EWU’s lead to 37-34.
“They wanted to do what they wanted to do in the second half,” said Winford, who finished with 12 points. “And we wanted to do what we wanted to do in the first half, and we just didn’t. We didn’t punch back.”
The Hornets finally looked for an outside shot on their next possession and Julian Demalleville delivered a 22-footer.
The run stretched to 15 consecutive points – and a 44-37 Hornets lead – until Winford nailed a 3-pointer with 9:57 left.
But the Eagles (4-12, 2-4) got back into the game the same way Sacramento had, going inside. Down the stretch 6-10 Martin Seiferth and the 6-7 Jois had 10 consecutive Eastern points. They finished with 10 apiece and Jois, a freshman, had a season-high six blocks.
But neither touched the ball in the final 2 minutes.
“I don’t think we executed as well as we should have,” Winford said.
“We just missed some good looks,” Hayford said.
And that’s how a loss is explained.