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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eags club Sac State behind big first half

Eastern Washington held Sacramento State to just nine first-half points and breezed to an easy 67-46 Big Sky Conference win at Reese Court on Thursday night.

I've attached an unedited version of the game story that will appear in Friday's S-R below.



Just when it looked like Sacramento State’s men’s basketball team might be starting to close the gap between itself and the rest of the Big Sky Conference, Thursday night happened.



And suddenly the last-place Hornets were back to staring a painful reality dead in the face after having suffered an unsightly 67-46 loss to eighth-place Eastern Washington University at Reese Court.



The defeat was the 34th straight on the road for Sac State (2-21 overall, 1-8 in the BSC) – the nation’s second-longest skid among NCAA Division I schools. And the nasty manner in which it unfolded, particularly in the first half, nearly overshadowed a solid effort by Eastern (10-13, 4-7), which snapped its own six-game losing streak and moved into seventh place in the Big Sky standings, a half-game ahead of Northern Arizona, which lost to Portland State on Thursday.



Junior center Brandon Moore, despite missing the last 11 minutes of the first half after picking up two quick fouls, finished with 14 points and eight rebounds for the Eagles, while teammate Andy Genao added 13 points, a team-high eight rebounds and four assists.



Eastern shot 54.8 percent (17-31) prior to intermission and befuddled Sac State with its stifling half-court defensive pressure, leaving second-year coach Kirk Earlywine with little to criticize at halftime.



“I told our guys that I didn’t really have a halftime speech for holding a team to single digits and being up 32 points – other than, ‘Let’s go do it again,’ ” Earlywine said. “And we didn’t.”



Still, anything that happened after the first eight minutes of Thursday’s game hardly mattered after the Hornets missed their first six shots, turned the ball over seven times and let Eastern open with 17 unanswered points that eventually translated into a ridiculous 41-9 halftime lead.



Sac State, whose halftime total was its lowest since joining the Division-I ranks in 1992, didn’t score its first point until the 12:26 mark of the opening period and finished the half shooting just 17.6 percent (3-17) from the field while turning the ball over 14 times.



“It was hard to find any fault with what we did defensively in the first half,” Earlywine said. “But I told our guys at halftime, that in the second half Sac State was going to come out and drive the heck out of the ball, and they did.



“We fouled them five times in the first half, and then fouled them five times in the first four minutes of the second – simply because we weren’t intense enough.”



The Hornets managed to make the final score respectable by outscoring Eastern 37-26 over the final 20 minutes, when they shot 52 percent (13-26) from the field and got to the foul line 10 times.  Loren Leath, after scoring only two points in the first half, finished with a team-high 12, which was still more than four below his average.



Earlywine called Eastern’s second-half play – which included 11 turnovers and 38.1 percent (16-42) shooting – “very disconcerting,” adding, “but I guess we can take it was a learning opportunity. Obviously, this team has not had many 30-point leads, and we didn’t handle that very well, so we look at that and try to learn from it.



“We gave away half our possessions in the second half with turnovers and bad shots.”



Eastern plays at home again on Saturday night, hosting NAU at 7:05 p.m., with a chance to further distance themselves from the Lumberjacks (6-15, 3-7).



“If we play like we did the second half, we’re going to get our asses kicked,” Earlywine said. “But  if we play like we did in the first half, we’ve got a chance to win.”


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