For the first half of last Sunday’s nonconference men’s basketball game between Eastern Washington and Seton Hall, it looked as though the Eagles were able to perform on the big stage.
But something happened after the break where Eastern’s field goal shooting percentage dropped by 10 points and the Eagles lost 92-70 at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. to the Pirates of the Big East.
It was the first of a two-game road trip to the East Coast for Eastern which visits the University of Connecticut Saturday for a 10 a.m. tipoff in Bridgeport’s Webster Bank Arena.
“It’s a 40-minute game, but we had a really good first half,” EWU head coach Jim Hayford said. “We had a little lack of offensive success to start the second half, and I thought that carried over to us losing a little bit of our defensive edge that we had.”
The Eagles stayed right on the heels of the Pirates (8-4) in the first half, trailing just 38-36, but a couple of runs allowed the Pirates to put distance between themselves. Eastern led for a good portion of the first half, and took its biggest leads at 12-6 early in the game and 26-20 with 6:55 left. Eastern’s last lead was 26-23.
In the second half, Seton Hall had runs of 8-0, 8-0, 7-0 and 7-2 to take a 73-54 lead with 7:27 to play. In all four runs, Eastern went without a field goal three different times for spans of over two minutes each.
“Our players really tried hard to re-group,” Hayford said. “When we got it down to 10 (57-47 with 12:46 remaining), I used my second-to-last timeout. We went zone, but credit them, they made the next run that made the difference too big.”
Junior Parker Kelly scored 17 points to lead the Eagles, while sophomore Tyler Harvey scored 16. Sophomore Venky Jois had the 12th double-double of his career and third this season with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Eugene Teague and Brian Oliver each scored 16 for the Pirates.
“We did a really good job on the boards - we had 17 offensive rebounds,” Hayford said. “But of course you are going to get a lot of offensive rebounds when you don’t put the ball in the basket.”
The Eagles (5-5) now play the 10th-ranked Huskies Dec. 28 before opening Big Sky Conference play on Jan. 2. The game against the 10-1 UConn begins at 10 a.m. and is televised on SportsNet New York (SNY), and may also be heard on ESPN 700-AM.
Eastern opens league play on the road at Weber State, Thursday, Jan. 2 and Idaho State Saturday, Jan. 4 before hosting Montana Thursday, Jan. 9 and Montana State Saturday, Jan. 11.