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Tuesday, September 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Young Eagles grow up during OT win

Eastern Washington's third-year head men's basketball coach Kirk Earlywine thought some of the young players on his team grew up during Saturday afternoon's 100-97 non-conference overtime win over visiting Seattle University -- and with good reason.

You can read the game story that ran in Sunday morning's S-R here, you can access what EWU's sports information department posted about the game here, and you can take a look at what SU published about the game on its website here.

For more day after details on the game, read on.

Earlywine was obviously impressed with several areas of his team's play against the Redhawks.  But during his post-game interview outside the Eagles' team room he kept going back to the play of freshmen guards Abebe Demissie, Kevin Winford, Glen Dean and Jeffery Forbes.

With senior guard Bennie Valentine in foul trouble most of the night, it was those four who were saddled with the difficult task of getting the ball up the floor against Seattle U's aggressive and physical full-court defensive pressure.

Remarkably, the Eagles finished with only 15 turnovers, which might seem like a lot on most nights. But Earlywine had no complaints, considering the trying circumstances.

"Only having 15 turnovers in a game that goes into overtime, and in a game where Seattle traps and presses as much as they do, is pretty respectable," he said. "Especially when you take into account we had to play a significant amount of the game with Glen Dean and Benny Valentine in foul trouble.

"I looked out there a few times tonight and we had Abebe, Kevin, Glen and Jeffrey -- four freshmen -- on the floor, and they aquitted themselves pretty well, I thought."

Equally impressive, in my opinion, was the defensive job the Eagles did on Seattle's 6-foot-10 junior forward Charles Garcia, who came into the game as the nation's second-leading scorer with an average of 26 points per game.

Eastern seemed to frustrate the Redhawks' potential NBA draftee with a series of different defenses, including a 2-3 zone that Earlywine -- a die-hard man-to-man advocate -- introduced to his team earlier in the week.

"We need to have a zone," Earlywine admitted. "It's helped us in the  past. But you have som many things early in the season that you have to work on, concentrate on and put in that we didn't have our zone in until Thursday.

"So, it was not the world's best zone, by any means, but it brought us some time and kept us from fouling at times.  And it made them maybe not drive it as much as they usually do. It's something we need to continue to clean up and work on."

Earlywine went on to explain that keeping Garcia off the foul line was one of the Eagles' top priorities, considering he came into the game having shot 129 free throws -- an average of more than 14 per game.

"Going into the game looking at ways to guard a guy who's in the top five in the country in scoring and rebounding, we knew we had our hands full," Earlywine said of Garcia. "To be honest, I didn't know if we could hold him below 20 (points), because he's so big and so skilled.

"But the one thing we wanted to do, is we wanted to hold him to single-digit free-throw attempts.  And we wanted to make him earn his baskets with jump shots, and I thought, for the most part, we did that."

Demissie, a 6-5 redshirt freshman whose second-year development has been slowed by a lingering hamstring injury, made his starting debut and did a lot of nice job of stuffing the state sheet with 12 points, eight rebounds, six assists, three blocks and two steals.

"His size allows him to make some passes that our small guards can't make," Earlywine said of Demissie. "He gives us length on the perimeter, and a skill level, as well. He's a good ball handler and passer.

"He has a tendency to get loose and try and make the pretty play (instead of the simple one).  Sometimes I'm not sure he realizes he's playing at Eastern Washington and not back high school, because he still makes some high-school plays.

"But 12 (points) and eight (rebounds) from a freshman?  I'll take that."

Earlywine was feeling pretty good about the injury problems that have depleted his team in the early going, saying his hopes to have senior forward Matt Brunell (ankle) healthy for the first time five games when the Eagles play Nevada in Reno on Thursday.

But that was before he received an unofficial post-game injury report on Valentine, who was limping noticeable when he left the game after fouling out with just over four minutes left in regulation.

Earlywine had said he thought Valentine had bruised a knee or thigh, but as senior center Brandon Moore walked out of the team room, he informed Earlywine that Valentine had rolled his ankle.

"Well, that's just kind of the way it's been for the Eagles this year," Earlywine said, making no effort to hide his frustration.

Earlywine would not speculate, however, on what Valentine's status might be for Thursday night game.

 




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