CLASH OF CASCADE TITANS COMES TO QUINN

January 09, 2004 12:00 am
ALL-AROUND CONTRIBUTOR: Eastern's Jason Crawley, a 6-foot-6 post, has to battle under the boards against bigger players almost every game and is averaging 8.1 points a game and 5.7 rebounds for the No. 19-ranked Mountaineers. (The Observer/PIERRE LaBOSSIERE).
ALL-AROUND CONTRIBUTOR: Eastern's Jason Crawley, a 6-foot-6 post, has to battle under the boards against bigger players almost every game and is averaging 8.1 points a game and 5.7 rebounds for the No. 19-ranked Mountaineers. (The Observer/PIERRE LaBOSSIERE).

Last year, the No. 1 team in the nation came in to Quinn Coliseum and Eastern Oregon gave the favorites everything they could handle and then some.

Ultimately, however, the Mountaineers don't have fond memories of that night. Eastern held a 17-point lead with 8:20 left in the game, but the top-ranked and then-undefeated Oregon Tech Hustlin' Owls went on an epic rally, scoring 38 points in just over eight minutes to pull out a 94-86 win, breaking Eastern's heart in the process.

Eastern has a chance to do it right this year.

There will be a battle Saturday night in Quinn Coliseum of two teams getting a lot of attention nationwide.

Albertson College comes to La Grande Saturday the No. 5-ranked NAIA Div. II team in the nation. Eastern Oregon, which has already knocked off one ranked team (No. 18-ranked Carroll College) and an NCAA Div. II team (Hawaii Pacific) is ranked No. 19, and will get the chance to show that that ranking is legit. It is the first time in recent memory that two nationally ranked teams will play in Quinn Coliseum.

Eastern is 7-3 overall and 3-1 in the Cascade Collegiate Conference, with that one conference loss coming on the road in overtime.

While Albertson (11-4 overall, 4-0 in CCC) is undoubtedly a tough team, the 'Yotes do have trouble in La Grande, as they have lost three of their last four games at Eastern.

Eastern has four of the top 14 scorers in the CCC — Larry Smith (19.7), Bryan Rabas (15.3), Tyree Jones (14.1, though Jones is trying to come back from a groin injury), and Trevor Exline (14.1).

The Eastern women are likewise off to a sizzling start this season. The women Mountaineers are also 3-1 in conference (9-2 overall) and are putting together some solid team numbers so far. If the women keep up their success, they will likely end up ranked like the men before long.

Playing a bona fide team style, Eastern doesn't have a lot of individual top-10 conference leaders (Tricia Haddock is leading the conference in assists at 5.8 per game), but the Mountainers are first in the conference in scoring (78.6 points per game), first in defense (60.9), first in field goal percentage (44.5 percent) and first in field-goal percentage defense (38.0 percent). The Mountaineers are either second or third in the conference in nearly every other offensive and defensive statistic.

The women's game against Albertson (2-2 in CCC, 4-7 overall) begins at 5:30 p.m., with the men's game following at about 7:30 p.m.

— Pierre LaBossire