A WALLA WALLA 'SWEET'

November 19, 2001 12:00 am

By Pat Perkins

Observer Staff Writer

Getting the first victory in the first mens basketball game of the season was just what the Eastern Oregon Mountaineers wanted Sunday.

This is one of the sweeter wins weve had in this building, Eastern Oregon coach Art Furman said after the Mountaineers opened their regular season with a 69-65 victory over Walla Walla.

That may be overstating it considering the big wins Furmans team have put together in his nine years at Eastern. But last years senior-laden team struggled before putting away the Wolves in the second half.

Eastern only has three seniors this year, and only one of them played much last year. Sunday, that squad came back from a 11-point, second-half deficit.

These guys with a lot of inexperience, they showed a lot of moxie out there and they werent going to lose this game, Furman said.

The win didnt come from great shooting Eastern shot just 33 percent from the field. And it didnt come from ball control the Mountaineers committed 25 turnovers.

Rather, the comeback started at the free throw line, where sophomore center Brad Williams went 13-for-17.

I started out and wasnt making them. Toward the second half I was making them, Williams said. That was the right time to make free throws.

Walla Walla (2-2) opened a 41-30 lead shortly after halftime thanks to a pair of 3-pointers from Ryan Moore and another from Brian Burton. They were the only 3-pointers the Wolves made all night, but they were part of a 16-0 run that stretched from late in the first half to early in the second half.

Williams made six free throws to cut Walla Wallas lead to 49-48 with 9:18 left. A 3-pointer from Scott Collins off a Jerome Toby steal and assist put Eastern on top. Collins hit another jumper, then found Jonathan Stoddard inside for two more points.

Eastern led 55-49 and had to survive a foul-fest in the final 6 minutes. After Walla Walla tied the game 63-63 with 1:23 left, Easterns Trevor Exline made one of two free throws, and the Mountaineers got the rebound on the second. Collins missed a jumper and got his own rebound, then Toby missed a layup that was rebounded by Williams, who was fouled.

Williams made both free throws with 30 seconds left, and after Walla Wallas Jeremy Claridge scored, Williams made one of two more free throws. Jeremy McLean made two free throws with 2.5 seconds left to ice the game.

Collins was 7-for-12 from the field, including 4-for-6 from 3-point range. His two 3-pointers in the first half came when Eastern was trying to break Walla Wallas full-court press.

Williams scored 15 points and had nine rebounds. McLean, Easterns only returning starter, had 11 points but was 3-for-11 from the field.

WALLA WALLA (65)

Libby 5-10 0-3 10, Burton 3-10 4-4 11, Moore 3-8 0-0 8, Gilliland 0-1 1-2 1, Meidinger 0-1 2-2 2, Bartlett 0-2 1-2 1, Ostby 0-1 0-0 0, Tulip 5-13 4-8 14, Je.Claridge 3-6 2-4 8, Libby, Carroll 2-8 0-1 4, Jo.Claridge 1-1 4-4 6.

Eastern Oregon (69)

McLean 3-11 5-7 11, Toby 4-9 0-0 8, N.Collins 0-6 0-0 0, Neibling 0-3 2-2 2, Stoddard 2-7 1-4 5, Hayes 1-3 0-0 2, S.Collins 7-12 0-1 18, Cauffman 0-2 0-0 0, Exline 3-7 2-4 8, Williams 1-3 13-17 15. Totals: 21-63 23-36 69.

Halftime score Eastern Oregon 30, Walla Walla 28. Three-pointers Walla Walla 3-19 (Libby 0-3, Burton 1-3, Moore 2-6, Bartlett 0-2, Ostby 0-1, Tulip 0-3, Carroll 0-1), Eastern Oregon 4-12 (McLean 0-1, Toby 0-1, Neibling 0-2, S.Collins 4-6, Cauffman 0-2). Fouled out Libby, Gilliland, Jo.Claridge. Total fouls Walla Walla 30, Eastern Oregon 30. Technical fouls None. Turnovers Walla Walla 24, Eastern Oregon 25. Rebounds Walla Walla 44 (Jo.Claridge 9), Eastern Oregon 51 (Exline 9, Williams 9). Assists Walla Walla 11 (Burton 3), Eastern Oregon 12 (Toby 4).