It was the Collin Chiverton of old.
The senior forward scored eight points in a key 16-1 run in the first half to help the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team romp past Northern Arizona 82-59 Thursday (Jan. 10) in a Big Sky Conference game at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.
Chiverton scored a season-high 22 points to lead four Eagles in double figures, with forward Venky Jois recording his seventh double-double of the season with 14 points, 14 rebounds and four blocked shots. Eastern made a season-best 50.0 percent of its shots from the field and held NAU to 34.9 percent – EWU’s second-best effort of the year.
Eastern is now 2-3 in the league and 4-11 overall, while Northern Arizona is 2-3 in the league and 5-10 overall. The Lumberjacks have already equaled their win total of a year ago when they finished 5-24 overall and 1-15 in the league. One of NAU’s league wins this season was a 57-50 home victory on Jan. 3 over Sacramento State, EWU’s next opponent.
“I do think we are coming together,” said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. “Not having Collin for that whole month slowed our development, but he’s back, and he is going to have a good finish to his senior year.”
Six-foot-10 center Martin Seiferth made 6-of-8 shots from the field and finished with 13 points and eight rebounds for the Eagles. Senior guard Jeffrey Forbes added 11 points, four rebounds and two steals. True freshman Thomas Reuter finished with six points, six rebounds and a season-high seven assists for the Eagles, and true freshman point guard Daniel Hill came off the bench to dish out three assists.
Forbes and senior point guard Kevin Winford did the damage on defense for the Eagles, holding starting guards Gabe Russell, Stallon Saldivar and DeWayne Russell to a combined 15 points in the first half and 25 in the game.
“Our senior guards did a really good job in the backcourt on Rogers and Russell, so give Forbes and Winford credit,” said Hayford. “All summer Collin told us he could be a lock-down defender, so give him credit. He did a really good job. I thought Collin’s size really bothered Russell.”
Chiverton also had three assists, and he had his best scoring performance since netting a career-high 26 against Seattle on Jan. 16, 2012. He made 8-of-14 shots from the floor, 3-of-4 free throws and sank 3-of-6 of his 3-point attempts.
“Tonight Collin looked like he did last year when he was at his best,” said Hayford of Chiverton, who missed six games from Nov. 30 to Dec. 22 for personal reasons. “What I like the most is seeing him play with a smile on his face and enjoying basketball.”
Eastern trailed early 17-16, but Chiverton started the 16-1 run with a 3-pointer that gave EWU the lead for good. He hit another trey, then made a pair of free throws with 4:18 to play that gave EWU a 32-18 lead.
The lone points for the Lumberjacks in that stretch was a free throw at the 6:02 mark. Northern Arizona missed nine-straight shots and had four turnovers during the run.
Eastern’s 40-22 lead at halftime was easily its biggest of the season, having owned an 11-point advantage against Utah Valley in November. But the loss to Utah Valley – as well as losses to Idaho in December and Montana State on Jan. 5 – came after EWU held double-digit second-half advantages.
The Eagles led by as many as 25 in the second half and no fewer than 16 after intermission.
Hayford said he could see his team’s level of play rise despite losing at Montana (81-66) and Montana State (70-68 in overtime) last week.
“We started taking a big step forward on the Montana trip,” he said. “We just didn’t finish the second night real well. We were in a position to take a Big Sky road win the other night.”