EOU Josh Brown

Eastern Oregon guard Josh Brown, left, scored 28 points and added eight assists in the Mountaineers’ win over Pacific Union Saturday. 

The Eastern Oregon University men’s basketball team looked to be in trouble early in the second half of its final game in the Quinn Classic.

The Mountaineers trailed Pacific Union by 12 points, had picked up two technical fouls in less than three minutes, and seemed on the verge of letting the visiting Pioneers pull away.

But EOU regained its composure, retook the lead with a 17-0 run, then finished off a 107-95 victory Saturday night at Quinn Coliseum.

The Pioneers’ lead reached its largest at 63-51, with 15:44 to play after a free throw by De’Rajaee Austin, before EOU regrouped and put the game in hand — which head coach Carlito Labarda Jr. said resulted largely from getting back to playing basketball and not worrying about what it felt were questionable calls.

“This includes myself — I think we were concentrated too much on calls and the refereeing, so I made a conscious effort not to say anything to the refs, and I told the bench during a timeout, ‘No more talking to the refs, no more complaining about calls,’” he said.

It worked. A jumper by Josh Brown — who led Eastern with 28 points — a 3-pointer by Zane Wright and a rim-rattling dunk by Landon Jones pulled EOU within 63-60 and fired up the team and the crowd. Two field goals by Max McCullough gave the Mountaineers their first lead since the 9:04 mark of the first half, and two more Jones field goals — including another big dunk — pushed the lead to five. 

“This year we’ve got more versatility, and we as a team can just come together and bounce back,” Jones said.

Tim Ford finally ended the run — and a six-minute scoring drought for Pacific Union — with a jumper with 9:41 to play. But Eastern — which shot 59.6% from the floor — gradually began to distance itself, either with timely 3-pointers from Wright, Brown or Brock Johnson, inside scoring off dribble-penetration from Brown or McCullough, or the free-throw line. Eastern was 32-for-37 from the floor for the game, 23-for-27 in the second half. 

“I think it started with our guards starting to get penetration, and that led to dump-downs or kick outs to shooters,” Jones said of the turnaround. “Zane Wright hit a couple (and) Brock hit a couple.”

The lead reached double figures at 84-74 on a Brown 3-pointer with 4:47 to play in the game, and it grew to as much as 14 — 92-78 — on Wright’s corner 3-pointer, his third of the game, with 2:38 left. The Pioneers got no closer than eight the rest of the way.

Brown, who also had a team-high eight assists, was one of five players in double figures for EOU, which seemed incapable of missing once it found its rhythm in the second half. After the break, the Mountaineers shot 69.2% (18-for-26) from the floor and were 5-for-9 from 3-point range after the break. Jones added 23 points and 15 rebounds for EOU, which had nine players score. McCullough (12 points), Wright (11) and Johnson (10) were also in double figures. 

“I like the balance of this team. If one guy doesn't play well, other guys can pick that slack up for them,” Labarda said.

McCullough added seven assists, and Peter Hamilton played a big role defensively with three blocked shots.

Eastern grabbed the lead early in the contest, but Marc Williams’ 3-pointer put the Pioneers up 10-9 with 13:47 to play in the opening half as both teams struggled to get going offensively. Two field goals by Andreas Brown gave EOU a 15-10 lead with 11:34 to play in the half before the Pioneers pulled ahead, going on a 21-6 run for a 31-21 lead on Isaiah McCullough’s jumper with 6:13 to play in the half. The lead reached 11 before Eastern cut the deficit to 46-43 at the half, finishing on a 15-7 run.

The Mountaineers opened the Quinn Classic — and the season — with a much less stressful 109-81 victory over Westcliff Friday evening.

Eastern, which never trailed in Friday’s win, broke the game open with a 20-3 run, going up 16-6 after consecutive 3s by Max McCullough and Wright, and 26-9 when Josh Brown’s jumper capped the run. The lead reached 40-20 later in the half on a Brandon Porter jumper and its largest of the first half at the break — 57-29 — on a steal and jumper by Brown. The lead grew to as much as 30 in the second half.

A trio of Mountaineers reached 20 points in the game. McCullough led the way with 27 points and hit five 3-pointers. Jarek Schetzle added 21 points, and Brown scored 20. Eleven players scored all told for EOU, which shot 56.3% and hit 10 3-pointers. Schetzle added 13 rebounds and four blocked shots to lead EOU.

The Mountaineers (2-0 overall) face Montana Tech Friday at the Montana Tech Fall Classic.

East Region Sports Editor

Ronald's primary beats are Eastern Oregon University, La Grande High School and the other eight high schools of Union and Wallowa counties. As an avid sports fan, he is primarily reading about or watching sports when he isn't covering a game.

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