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.
The last-place Hornets were suddenly 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 Sacramento State (2-21, 1-9) – the nation’s second-longest skid among NCAA Division I schools.
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 six-game losing streak and moved into seventh place in the Big Sky standings, one-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. Teammate Andy Genao added 13 points, a team-high eight rebounds and four assists.
Eastern shot 54.8 percent (17 for 31) prior to intermission and befuddled Sacramento 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 8 minutes of the 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 41-9 halftime lead.
The Hornets, whose halftime total was its lowest since joining the Division I ranks in 1992, didn’t score their first point until the 12:26 mark of the opening half. They finished the half shooting just 17.6 percent (3 for 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 4 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 for 26) from the field and got to the foul line 10 times. Loren Leath, after scoring two points in the first half, finished with a team-high 12, which was four less than his average.
Earlywine called Eastern’s second-half play, which included 11 turnovers and 38.1 percent (16 for 42) shooting, “very disconcerting.”
“But I guess we can take it was a learning opportunity,” he said. “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 Washington 67, Sacramento State 46
Sacramento State (2-21, 1-9)- Flaggs 0-3 0-2 0, Ward 0-0 0-0 0, Eller 3-6 1-1 7, Stigall 1-2 0-0 3, Leath 4-12 2-2 12, Adams 4-8 3-5 11, Thomas 0-1 0-0 0, Marcial 2-3 0-0 4, Blockmon 0-0 0-0 0, Wilson 1-1 0-0 2, Selling 0-3 2-2 2, Malloy 1-3 2-2 5. Totals 16-42 10-14 46.
Eastern Washington (10-13, 4-7)- Genao 4-6 4-4 13, Dunn 3-6 2-2 8, Moore 6-10 2-4 14, Gibson 1-3 0-0 2, Stanojevic 3-6 0-0 8, Busch 1-2 1-2 3, Valentine 5-13 0-0 11, DeLeon 2-7 2-2 6, Christensen 0-0 0-0 0, Brunell 1-2 0-1 2. Totals 26-55 11-15 67.
Halftime—Eastern Washington 41, Sacramento State 9. 3-Point Goals—Sacramento State 4-10 (Leath 2-4, Stigall 1-2, Malloy 1-1, Flaggs 0-2, Eller 0-1), Eastern Washington 4-19 (Stanojevic 2-4, Valentine 1-7, Genao 1-2, DeLeon 0-4, Busch 0-1, Brunell 0-1). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Sacramento State 21 (Adams 5), Eastern Washington 39 (Genao 9). Assists—Sacramento State 8 (Malloy 3, Marcial 3), Eastern Washington 14 (Gibson 5). Total Fouls—Sacramento State 16, Eastern Washington 16. A—1,774.
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