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Eastern gets back on track, beats PLU

With 3D the recent rage in cinema, it’s comforting for certain NCAA Division I college basketball coaches to know D-III is still an option.

Eastern Washington University’s Jim Hayford counted himself among those Friday night after his Eagles snapped a two-game losing streak with an 83-72 win over NCAA Division III Pacific Lutheran at Reese Court.

Cliff Colimon and Collin Chiverton each scored 26 points and Cliff Edraine added 12 as road-weary Eastern (6-5) built an 18-point first-half lead and then held off the Lutes (4-4), who were paced by Cameron Schilling’s 18 points.

Hayford, who practiced his team for two hours in Los Angeles on Thursday morning following Wednesday’s 60-47 loss to UCLA, and then put his Eagles through a brief shoot-around back in Cheney on Friday morning, wasn’t about to take anything away from the PLU’s impressive performance.

But he made it clear that a step back from Division I competition was a welcomed step for his Eagles.

“To give our guys credit, when we opened up that 18-point lead in the first half, that was their good,” Hayford said. “And then, the tired legs after that, was Coach Hayford trying to get his guys tougher.

“Not to take anything away from PLU, because they shot the ball crazy good, but we had a real tired team out there in the second half.”

Colimon, who made 8 of 12 basket tries after finishing 1 for 12 in the loss to UCLA, also admitted it was nice to have a D-III opponent at home.

“We played a lot better on offense than we did on Wednesday,” said the senior point guard, who also had seven assists and three steals. “It was a good game to help us get our confidence back.”

Eastern, after shooting just 25.9 percent (15 of 58) against the Bruins, made 28 of 49 shots (57.1 percent) against the Lutes and finished 11 for 22 from beyond the 3-point line.

“We didn’t have the best of legs late,” Hayford said, “but what we can take away from this game is our offensive performance. We shot the ball a lot better tonight, and we took care of the basketball.

“It was a good offensive performance.”

Despite the big first-half lead, the Eagles found themselves leading only 74-68 with just less than 2 minutes remaining.

But Colimon sparked a big finish with a steal and lay-in, and then knocked down 3 of 4 free throws to put the Lutes away.

“This should be good for us heading into the Saint Mary’s game,” Colimon said of the Eagles’ Tuesday night nonconference matchup against the Gaels in Moraga, Calif. “That’s going to be another tough game for us.”

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