CHENEY, Wash. - With both teams battling for their postseason lives, it wasn't a surprise it was an overtime battle. In fact, the game essentially came down to a 30-foot 3-pointer to force overtime by the visitors.
Northern Colorado made 8-of-11 free throws in the extra period and defeated the Eastern Washington University men's basketball team 88-80 in overtime Thursday (Feb. 28) in a Big Sky Conference showdown at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.VIDEO: Eagles playoff hopes take hit in overtime loss
"It was a great basketball game," said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford, whose team held a 72-69 lead in the last minute. "We played (the end of the game) well, but they came up with a thirty-foot banker."
Eastern's undoing was 22 turnovers – one shy of a season high – as the Eagles surrendered a season-high 24 points off turnovers. Despite a performance that saw Martin Seiferth finish with 21 rebounds -- the third-most in recorded school history – Eastern's Big Sky Tournament hopes took a hit.
Eastern played its third-straight game without senior point guard Kevin Winford, who is out after undergoing emergency compartment syndrome surgery on his shin.
"Give Northern Colorado credit -- that is uncharacteristically high for us turnover-wise," said Hayford. "Some of our guys have gone three or four weeks without that amount of turnovers. Give the Northern Colorado defense credit."
Remaining in ninth in the standings, the Eagles are 6-11 in the Big Sky Conference and 9-19 overall with just three games to play. Northern Colorado is now 1 1/2 games ahead of EWU at 8-10 (10-17 overall). Earlier this season, Eastern lost on the road to the Bears 72-56.
Redshirt freshman Tyler Harvey, making his second start at point guard, finished with 22 points, four assists and four rebounds for the Eagles. In the last five games, the new-found scoring sensation has scored 77 points; in his first 13 games of the season, he scored just 17.
Seiferth also had 11 points and two blocked shots as he finished with his third double-double on the season. The only rebounding performances ahead of him on the all-time list are 22 by Paul Butorac (11/18/06 versus Lewis-Clark State) and 28 by Dave Hayden (1/15/72 versus Oregon Tech).
"That is a big time winning number, and I am very proud of him," said Hayford.
Also scoring in double figures for EWU were Venky Jois with 14 points, six rebounds and a pair of blocked shots, Collin Chiverton with 11 points and Parker Kelly with 10 points and six rebounds. Senior Jeffrey Forbes finished with nine points, four rebounds and five assists.
"Martin and Tyler had really good nights," said Hayford. "Now we are going to need some help from people. We need to show pride. We need to get a win Saturday, and get the next one, and then we will see where everything falls. Our guys need to walk out of here and around campus with their heads held high."
Northern Colorado's Derrick Barden had a double-double with 28 points and 10 rebounds, but also contributed four steals, a block and three assists. Tate Unruh added 21 points, seven rebounds, five assists and a pair of steals.
"Barden is a beast, and he is tough to handle," said Hayford.
The first half was a draw, with UNC leading by as many as six in the early going, and then the Eagles led by as many as five. But a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Derrick Barden after an EWU turnover gave the Bears a 37-36 halftime advantage.
Despite 54 percent shooting from the field, turnovers plagued Eastern in the first half with 10. Northern Colorado scored 12 of its 37 points off EWU's miscues.
The Bears opened a 60-52 lead in the second half, but EWU wiped that out with a 9-2 run thanks to a trio of 3-pointers. Later, a trey by Chiverton gave EWU a 68-67 lead with 5:12 to play.
Jois made a pair of free throws with 1:12 left to give EWU a 3-point lead, but Unruh helped send the game into overtime with his long 3-pointer with 57 seconds left. Eastern had a turnover on its final possession, while UNC missed its final two shots of regulation.
"We committed a turnover, which was our big downfall tonight," added Hayford. "But I was proud of our guys to get a stop and to force overtime."
A pair of layins to open overtime put the Bears up for good, then UNC did the rest of its work at the line. Eastern made only 3-of-10 shots in OT, while Northern Colorado made 4-of-5.
Still alive for one of seven berths in the Big Sky Conference but with its hopes hanging by a thread, Eastern finishes off its regular season home schedule Saturday (March 2) by hosting North Dakota. Tipoff is 2:05 p.m. and is Senior Day, with Eastern honoring four players taking part in the final game of their careers – Jeffrey Forbes, Kevin Winford, Collin Chiverton and Jordan Hickert.