Eastern Washington led West Coast Conference power Saint Mary’s much of the second half Tuesday, but the Eagles fizzled down the stretch in a 80-75 loss to the Gaels in Moraga, California.
Saint Mary’s guard Tommy Kuhse scored a career-high 34 points, including a key floater with 69 seconds left in regulation to help sink EWU (1-4)
EWU led Saint Mary’s (7-1) for 28 minutes and took a 55-46 lead in the second half when Tyler Robertson hit a 3-pointer at the 14:49 mark, but Kuhse and the Gaels came alive and the Eagles missed six of their last seven shots.
“You have to give him credit, he’s a good, good player,” EWU coach Shantay Legans said of Kuhse. “But we have to come out and make sure we make plays in the second half, and we didn’t do that.”
Robertson and fellow forward Tanner Groves each scored 17 points to lead EWU.
Jacob Davison (15 points) and Kim Aiken Jr. each reached double figures for the Eagles, who exchanged 11 leads and were tied eight times with Saint Mary’s.
Alex Ducas’ 3-pointer gave Saint Mary’s its first lead of the second half, 68-66, with 6:08 left. EWU guard Ellis Magnuson was subsequently called for a flagrant foul.
Kuhse hit both ensuing free throws and the Eagles never led again.
EWU, which shot 7 for 22 from 3-point range, missed its last four attempts from beyond the arc.
“We missed some free throws, had some turnovers and that intentional foul call hurt us,” Legans said.
Matthias Tass and Kyle Bowen scored 10 points apiece for Saint Mary’s, which has won seven straight.
Eastern Washington has also suffered narrow road losses to Washington State (71-68) and Arizona (70-67), games in which the Eagles blew second-half leads.
The defending Big Sky Conference champions look to remedy their late-game play on Friday when they open conference play at Northern Arizona (0-3).
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