Eastern Illinois holds on | NevadaAppeal.com

Eastern Illinois holds on

DARRELL MOODY

RENO – Eastern Illinois started fast, but needed two big defensive plays in the final 13 seconds to hold off pesky Idaho State 56-53 in the opening game of the Dodge Holiday Classic Friday night at Lawlor Events Center.

With Eastern Illinois ahead 54-51, ISU’s Slim Millien knocked down two free throws to cut the lead to 54-53 lead with 1:33 remaining. Each team missed a layup, and Idaho State had a shot to tie.

Logan Kinghorn had a ball knocked away, and there was a scramble on the floor for the loose ball. The possession arrow favored Idaho State, and the Bengals had one more shot to tie the game. ISU shooting guard Jeff Gardner had the ball stripped by Cortez Forte, who took it all the way for a dunk a split second before the buzzer.

“We had that drought when we were up by 10,” said EIU coach Rick Samuels. “Turnovers continue to plague us. They kept us off balance with junk defenses.

“We only had four fouls (going into final 13 seconds). We wanted to be aggressive and go after the ball. If you foul, it’s no big deal. We wanted to go after the ball, and if we get a steal even better. We shot the gap hard (on that last one).”

Eastern Illinois bolted to an early 20-8 lead thank’s to two three-pointers by Bobby Catchings, five points by Forte and a three by Andy Gobczynski. Idaho State battled back, cutting the lead to 32-28 at halftime.

Seven points by EIU’s Josh Gomes in the first 10 minutes helped the Panthers build an 11-point lead with 11:55 left.

Catchings led EIU with 11 points, and Gomes and Forte added 10 apiece.

Millien led ISU with 18 points and Gardner added 10.

ELLIS STARTS

Freshman David Ellis, a 7-footer from Sacramento, made his first collegiate start. He scored six points, pulled down eight rebounds and blocked a shot.

“Coach told me a couple of days ago,” said Ellis, who started in place of Jermaine Washington. “He told me to get ready. I felt really good. It’s (starting) something I could get used to. I did all right. I felt more comfortable, especially in the second half.”

Fox didn’t pull any punches when asked about why Ellis started.

“Some guys are underachieving, so they didn’t start,” Ellis said, referring to Washington. “I thought he rebounded fairly well. I felt like his inexperience showed at times, and he should have made his free throws (0-for-4).”

AN EYE ON FAZEKAS

Brian Shaw, who starred in the NBA with the Celtics, Lakers and Orlando Magic, is now a scout with the Lakers.

Shaw was at Lawlor to watch Nevada sophomore Nick Fazekas, who leads the team in scoring at 20.7 a game.

“I had a chance to see him once last year,” Shaw said. “I haven’t had a chance to see him yet this year, and I wanted to see how he’s improved.

“He has soft hands, good footwork and a nice shooting touch. He knows how to play the game. Last year he was surrounded by a lot of seniors, and he wasn’t the first option. It will be interesting to see how he reacts now that he’s the No. 1 option and how he’ll handle it.”

Shaw also said that Kevinn Pinkney has a shot at possibly getting invited to some senior all-star games if he continues to develop during the year.

SCOREBOARD WOES

For the second straight week, the Lawlor Events Center scoreboard above midcourt as well as the clocks above each basket couldn’t be used initially.

Joe Kerr, Lawlor Events Center director, said the scoreboard was operational throughout the day but started to malfunction around 3:30. The “hustle” boards located in the corners behind each basket were used for the time and scores.

Lawlor personnel worked on the problem throughout the Eastern Illinois-Idaho State game, and finally got the scoreboard to work right before the Nevada game started.

“We disconnected everything and then got a new power source,” Kerr said. “We started re-connecting wires one at a time to try to isolate the problem. There was no one thing that we found.”

Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1281.