Eagles suffer first loss of season at Saint Louis

Eagles suffer first loss of season at Saint Louis
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The Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team suffered its first loss of the season, getting out-shot 57 percent to 30 percent in a non-conference game at unbeaten Saint Louis Wednesday (Nov. 13) in St. Louis, Mo., in a Gotham Classic Game at Chaifetz Arena.

The Billikens of the Atlantic 10 Conference had a stretch of 12 makes in 13 attempts spanning halftime, and turned a six-point lead into a 19-point lead early in the second half. Saint Louis, which made only 1-of-12 free throws in the first half, led by as many as 28 and trailed by no less than 14 the rest of the way. At one point in the second half, Saint Louis had made 21 of 24 shots for 88 percent.

“We didn’t play particularly well on the offensive end – we have to get better,” said Eastern head coach Shantay Legans , whose team next plays at Boston College on Nov. 20. “But our heads are held high and we played tough and battled.”

Eastern’s rebounding was impressive in the loss, finishing with 40 compared to the 41 of one of the top rebounding teams in NCAA Division I. A year ago, the Billikens were 17th in rebounding margin (plus 6.5 per game), 10th in total rebounds (39.6 per game) and fifth in offensive boards (13.7). The Eagles forced 18 turnovers, but also had 18 themselves.

“When you lose by only one on the glass against a team like this, that is huge for us,” said Legans. “You have to play through the tough times and we didn’t play as well offensively as we need do to win this game. We’ll get another chance against Boston College, which is another big team like this. I know we will because our team has great character. I’m looking forward to the next game. But we have to put these guys in better positions to make some easy shots.

Sophomore Kim Aiken Jr. paved the way with his second straight double-double with 13 rebounds and 13 points. Senior Mason Peatling finished with 10 points, six rebounds and three assists, and senior Tyler Kidd came off the bench to score 10.

The Eagles had a tough shooting half in the first 20 minutes, making just five of their first 23 shots to fall behind 24-14. Eastern made its last three of shots in the half, but the Billikens finished with a stretch of six-straight makes and took a 36-24 lead at halftime.

After a miss to open the second half, Saint Louis had another stretch of six-straight makes to open a 56-35 lead with 12:22 to play. A basket by Aiken and 3-pointers by Casson Rouse and Tyler Kidd helped cut the margin to 14, but that was the closest EWU would get the rest of the way.