Eastern Washington’s men’s basketball team showed off the freshened up Reese Court and a pair of talented freshman last Friday.
Both passed the test in the Eagles come-from-behind 79-75 non-conference victory over Cal State Fullerton as forwards Venky Jois from Australia scored 22 points and German recruit Thomas Reuter chipped in 16 points, including 13 in the second half.
Jois also added 13 rebounds for his third double-double in the last four games.
Fans at Reese got to test out the new individual seats and watch replays on the newly installed video board as the Eagles improved their preseason record to 2-5, 1-0 at home as they prepare to meet Idaho tonight at 6:05 p.m.
With junior transfer Justin Crosgile adding 16 points and 10 rebounds, he joined Jois in the double-double club.
“Our team grew up a lot tonight,” Eastern head coach Jim Hayford said. “I’m very proud of them. I’m really proud of the defensive effort we put up in the second half.”
After trailing 46-39 at the break, the Eagles out-scored the Titans 40-29 in the second half, and held them to 28 percent shooting after intermission, including just 1-of-10 3-point field goals.
Crosgile scored on a driving layup to give Eastern a four-point advantage with 1:26 to play, and senior Jeffrey Forbes helped clinch the win by making five of six free throws in the last 28.2. Parker Kelly, who had a season-high 12 for the Eagles, closed out the victory with a pair of free throws with 1.4 seconds left.
Reuter took the place of starter Collin Chiverton, who returned to his hometown of San Francisco due to the death of a close friend. It’s been a tough few weeks for Chiverton whose mother passed away as well in the last 30 days.
“We went to Reuter because we wanted to make them pay for having in four guards out there,” Hayford said. “So Thomas was the mismatch.”
Kwame Vaughn led the Titans (3-3) with 22 points, and D.J. Seeley added 21 points. Seeley, however, scored only two points in the second half after having 19 at intermission.
Following the halftime break, the Titans quickly built their lead to 11 at 54-43 with 15:42 left. But then Reuter scored all of the Eagles’ points in a 7-0 run to pull Eastern to within two. Next it was Jois’s turn as he scored four points in a 6-0 run that tied the score at 58.
The Eagles took their first lead since the 8:51 mark of the first half when Crosgile hit a 3-pointer with 7:46 left. That gave Eastern a 63-60 advantage. Crosgile then made a layup to give Eastern a 72-68 lead with 1:26 to play.
Hayford finally got to see his team finish what they had started Friday.
“We felt in the six road games we showed flashes of a good team, but we hadn’t done it for forty minutes,” he said. “Tonight we finished strong. We finished strong like how an Eastern football team finishes strong. It was good.”
Followning six straight games on the road, the Eagles are in the midst of a stretch with five of six games at Reese. After taking on Idaho – which features former EWU head coach Kirk Earlywine and who is now an assistant for the Vandals – Eastern faces Seattle University Monday, Dec. 10.
The Eagles play at UC Davis on Dec. 17 before starting Big Sky Conference play at home against Weber State Dec. 20, and last year’s first-round tournament foe Idaho State, Dec. 22.
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.