Nearly forty percent of the Eagles points this season have come from long-range. Tonight it seemed like all of their points would come courtesy of the three point shot. Eastern's first four buckets came from deep, with Tyler Harvey providing six of those 12 points.
When EWU finally found scoring from inside the arc, which came at the charity stripe, the three ball was directly responsible. Parker Kelly made two of his three free throws.
EWU's scorching hot start from long range (8-11 from deep in the first half) was coupled with a cold start from San Francisco. The Dons began the game shooting one of six from the field over the first 4:30.
Despite the combination of threes from EWU and little from USF, the Eagles were unable to build more than an 11 point lead over the first half.
That's because for a team that came into this game shooting 60% from two-point range — fourth best in the nation entering this game — the Eagles went just six of 21 from two in the first half.
Tyler Harvey coughed the ball up on the first possession of the second half but the Dons couldn't get any points. Venky Jois hit a jumper in the paint on the Eagles' next possession to push their lead to a game high 12 points.
Then, EWU went cold.
Four straight misses over two minutes from the Eagles allowed Kruize Pinkins and San Francisco to cut the lead to two possessions. Pinkins scored eight of his career high 30 points over a two-and-a-half minute span early in the second that helped swing the momentum over to the home team.
Part of the problem for San Francisco in the first half was their inability to keep possession of the ball. The Dons turned it over 10 times in the first half. The second half was a different story, with just 6 turnovers. While San Francisco controlled the ball much better in the second, EWU got much worse.
A Tim Derksen lay-up with 9:02 to play tied the game at 57, the first time USF had a share of the lead since it was 0-0.
Venky Jois was called for an intentional foul with 6:25 to play, sending Kruize Pinkins to the line and allowing the Dons to maintain possession. Pinkins hit one of two free throws to tie it up at 62 but the Dons couldn't take the lead on that extra possession.
Derksen hit a three to give USF a 67-64 lead with 4:47 to play. On the next possession, Tyler Harvey drilled a three of his own to tie things back up.
That basket provided the first three points of a 9-0 Eagles' run leading into the two minute mark.
Chris Adams hit a three to end the run, but the Eagles just took that and ran off five more unanswered points.
The see-saw affair that had dominated the second half seemed gone with the 13-3 run from EWU, but it quickly returned. Kruize Pinkins hit two free throws, missed his third and the Dons pulled down the rebound. Pinkins then laid the ball in to extend his game high to 30 points and cut the Eagles' lead to five.
Eastern Washington managed the final minute free throw game well enough to keep their lead at five. The Eagles escape San Francisco with a 81-76 victory. EWU is now 8-1 on the season, USF falls to 5-4.