Eastern Oregon men’s basketball head coach Carlito Labarda Jr. wanted to see more out of his defense after the Mountaineers allowed 115 points in their season opener — a 125-115 win over Salish Kootenai Friday.
The defense was better Saturday.
Joel Anderson led five Mountaineers in double figures with 22 points and added 10 assists as EOU wrapped up the Quinn Classic with a 114-86 win over New Hope Christian Saturday night.
“We concentrated on our defense tonight. We still gave up a little too much, but the last four or five minutes is run-and-gun pick-up ball,” Labarda said.
The second-year head coach did like what EOU did offensively, as the Mountaineers averaged 119.5 points in its first two games. On Saturday, the Mountaineers shot 57 percent from the floor — including 62 percent in the second half — and hit 11 3-pointers.
“We’re pretty efficient. We’ve got some good shooters on this team, which I knew. I was hoping that would come out in these game, which it did,” Labarda said.
The efficiency on both sides of the ball should only improve as well, with three of EOU’s main rotation players — Max McCullough, Peter Eke and Jarek Schetzle — sitting out over the weekend.
“We’ve got three potential starters that we’re still missing, and this team is still efficient,” Labarda said.
Anderson was a key part of that efficiency. After a 35-point effort in his first game for EOU Friday night, the junior was 7-for-11 shooting against New Hope Christian, hit three 3s and added four steals.
“As soon as I get the ball, I’m looking up (for) whatever play is available,” Anderson said. “If somebody’s open, get them the ball. If not, be as aggressive as possible and make smart plays.”
Labarda said a piece of what makes Anderson solid at the point is how he sets players up, even more so than whether he’s flashy.
“He’ll make one or two exciting passes, but it’s the easy passes (that make a difference),” the coach said. “He’ll pitch it ahead. He’ll make the simple pass for a standstill 3. He takes pride in assists.”
Anderson had six assists in the first half alone as EOU overcame a slow start to build a 55-39 lead by halftime. Eastern took the lead for good on a 14-3 first-half run, capped by a Said Hersi jumper for a 21-14 edge. Brock Johnson’s trey late in the half gave Eastern its 16-point halftime advantage, the largest of the half.
Anderson helped spark a 9-0 run early in the second half with a 3-pointer and assists on a pair of layups. Landon Jones, who finished with 20 points, capped the run with his own layup for a 70-48 lead with 15:10 to play. The Mountaineers eventually extended the lead to as much as 34 in the second half.
Jordan May also chimed in with 20 points for EOU. Zane Wright had 12 and Hersi scored 11. Fernando Barron led NHC with 18 points.
Eastern takes opener
The Mountaineers’ offensive potential was on display in its season opener as Anderson scored 35 points and added seven assists in the win over Salish Kootenai.
Jones and May had 22 and 17 points, respectively. Johnson poured in 15 and Hersi added 12. Anderson and Jones also had eight rebounds apiece.
EOU did find itself down 38-24 midway through the first half, but outscored Salish 41-20 in the final 8:57 to take a 65-58 lead at the break.
A 22-11 run to open the second half did help Eastern go ahead 87-71. Salish, which was led by 34 points from Julian Jones, only once cut the margin to single digits the rest of the way.
EOU (2-0 overall) hits the road for the first time this season when it travels to Carroll College Oct. 22.