OLYMPIA — Perhaps playing the nation’s top-ranked men’s basketball team brings out a certain spark and snarl in The Evergreen State Geoducks.
Even though the last-place Geoducks haven’t won a game since Dec. 18, they held their own against Eastern Oregon, the No. 1-ranked NAIA Division II team, losing 82-67 to the Mountaineers on Saturday night at the College Recreation Center gymnasium.
Evergreen coach Arvin Mosley, Jr., was surprised and pleased with how his team handled such a formidable opponent.
A concern for Mosley prior to the game was his team’s energy following Friday’s 89-78 loss to College of Idaho, with many players getting extra minutes down the stretch in the first game of a back-to-back.
But the Geoducks found the will Saturday to cut Eastern Oregon’s lead to single digits in the final four minutes.
“Our guys didn’t get down on themselves, as hard as I am on them, they didn’t let it get to them,” Mosley said. “I was proud of that effort. I’ve got no complains on what they brought to the table effort-wise.”
While Eastern Oregon’s largest lead was 18 points, Evergreen (2-19 overall, 1-12 Cascade Collegiate Conference) cut the lead to nine late on three occasions. Freshman point guard Frankie Johnson’s 3-pointer with 2:08 remaining reduced the lead to 72-63, but that was as close as Evergreen got.
Johnson finished with a game-high 21 points, including 5-for-11 shooting from 3-point range. He was one of three Evergreen players in double figures as Cody Peters had 13 points and Marc Taylor finished with 12 points and six rebounds.
The Mountaineers (24-1, 12-1) have won 10 consecutive games since the loss Dec. 14
on the road to then-No. 12-ranked Southern Oregon, 72-68.
Against the Geoducks, they shot 45.6 percent (26-for-57) and got 33 points from their 3-point shooting, connecting on 11-for-23 from 3-point range. Cody Thurmond led Eastern Oregon with 17 points and was a perfect 10-for-10 from the free-throw line. The Mountaineers were 19-for-23 on free throws compared to 6-for-8 for the Geoducks.
Evergreen held its deficit to single digits for most of the first half. TESC trailed 24-20 with 5:33 left in the first half, but that’s when Eastern Oregon went on a 15-6 run before halftime. And it did it with hot outside shooting, going 7-for-12 on 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes.
Evergreen has been on the cusp of winning lately. They’ve lost by an average of 8.8 points in its past six games, including a 71-68 loss on the road at Oregon Tech, the defending NAIA national champions.
At Seattle Pacific 82, Saint Martin’s 54: The Falcons, ranked No. 5 in the latest NCAA Division II national poll, shot 53 percent from the field and handed the Saints their third consecutive loss in GNAC play.
Roger O’Neill led the Saints (6-11, 2-7 GNAC) with 22 points on 8-for-18 shooting, but the rest of the Saints combined to hit 12 field goals. SMU shot 31 percent (20-for-63). Patrick Simon, a Washington State transfer, led the Falcons with 21 points.
Eastern Oregon 50, at Evergreen 45: The Geoducks had the nation’s fifth-ranked team cornered in one of its more tightly-contested games of the season before the Mountaineers pulled away in the final minute to remain unbeaten in CCC play at 13-0 and 23-2 overall. Evergreen trailed by four points three times in the final 5:08.
The Geoducks (5-12 overall, 4-9 CCC) had a chance to make it a one-possession game following Jessica Denmon’s bucket that pull Evergreen to 47-43 with 56.8 seconds left. The Geoducks forced a jump ball after making a trap defensively in the corner on Eastern, but Sammi Clark’s baseline drive went awry.
Denmon finished with nine points, and junior Danielle Swain had nine points and 14 rebounds before fouling out with two minutes to go.
Alaska Anchorage 48, at Saint Martin’s 45: Trailing by three with 9 seconds left in the game, the Saints had a chance to tie the game with a 3-pointer, but a turnover snapped their two-game winning streak.
Chelsea Haskey led the Saints (11-8 overall, 4-5 GNAC) with 18 points and seven rebounds. Saint Martin’s trailed by as much as 12 in the second half before cutting the deficit to 46-45 with 1:28 remaining.Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 firstname.lastname@example.org theolympian.com/southsoundsports @megwochnick