CHENEY - Steve Dickerson, sixth-year head coach of the Pacific Lutheran Lutes, loved his team's effort but rued the missed opportunity to pull a major upset. Jim Hayford, the first-year head coach of the Eastern Washington Eagles, surely didn't expect it to be this close.
PLU, a NCAA Division III school, came into EWU's Reese Court and gave the NCAA Division I Eagles all they could handle before dropping a 83-72 non-conference men's basketball decision on Friday night.
Eastern Washington improves its record to 6-5, while the Lutes are now 4-4 this season.
Eastern is the same team that two days prior battled Pac-12 powerhouse UCLA before losing by 13 points on the road, and that eight days ago destroyed Linfield, like PLU a member of the Northwest Conference, by 50 points. Suffice to say that Hayford, formerly the head coach at NWC member Whitworth, may not soon again put PLU on his new team's schedule.
Pacific Lutheran pulled within three points of the Eagles, 65-62, on Kai Hoyt's layup with 5:55 left in the game. With 2:03 left, Cameron Reister drilled his fifth three-point basket of the game to make it a six-point game at 74-68. After that, however, Eastern gradually pulled away for the 11-point victory.
The Lutes hung with the Eagles through the first 10 minutes of the game, though they never led. Cameron Schilling, who scored nine of the team's first 11 points, hit a three-point basket and a jumper to help the Lutes tie the game at 3-3 and then at 5-5 about 2 1/2 minutes into the contest. Those were the only ties in the contest.
PLU pulled to within four points, 23-19, on Hoyt's layup with 12:12 left in the opening half, but Eastern eventually broke away from the Lutes. Using a 9-0 run, capped by Cliff Collimon's three-point run with 5:32 left, Eastern opened up a 42-24 lead with 5:32 in the half. PLU held Eastern without a point the rest of the period, however, and Terrell Williams buried a a three-point shot with 27 seconds left as the Lutes closed out the period with a 9-0 run of their own to trail, 42-33, at the break.
Eastern led fairly comfortably by low double digits for more than 10 minutes of the second half before Reister led a spirited Pacific Lutheran rally. Reister's second trey in a one-minute stretch made the score 60-52 with 9:39 left, and a couple of minutes later Drew Earnest and Reister drilled threes to make it a five-point Eastern lead. Hoyt followed with his layup with just under six minutes on the clock, but three points was as close as the Lutes would come.
Colimon scored five straight points to put Eastern on top 79-68 with 32 second left, and the Eagles held off the Lutes by hitting four consecutive free throws in the closing seconds.
Collimon and Collin Chiverton both scored 26 points to lead Eastern, while Cliff Ederaine added 12 points. Eastern shot 57 percent overall and 50 percent (11-for-22) from three-point range. Collimon and Chiverton both knocked down four three-point shots.
PLU, which owned a 29-26 rebounding edge against the much bigger Eagles, got 18 points from Schilling, 15 from Reister and 14 from Hoyt. All of Reister's points came on three-point baskets as he scorched the nets with 5-for-10 accuracy from long range. Hoyt, a 6-foot-4 wing, led all players with six rebounds. Senior point guard James Conti contributed seven assists and Schilling had five as the Lutes finished with 18 assists on their 25 baskets.
The Lutes shot 47 percent from the field overall (25-for-53) and 48 percent from three-point range (10-for-21).
Pacific Lutheran returns to action on Monday night when it travels to Lacey to take on the NCAA Division II Saint Martin's Saints.
- PLU -