MOSCOW -- They tried harder. They cried afterward. They managed to impress both coaches.
They improved in ways perhaps too subtle for the average fan to notice Thursday night, but the Idaho Vandals lost again in undisputed fashion, 59-48 to Eastern Washington.
"I don't get solace out of anything in a loss," coach Leonard Perry said, "but I cannot be prouder of a group of kids. These guys give me blood, sweat and tears. Guys are crying in the locker room."
Yet were they close to winning? Not really. The quick, stylish Eagles (5-3) pummeled Idaho 37-16 over a 21-minute period to overcome an early 26-20 deficit. Any doubt about the outcome was put to rest with two 3-pointers in a 1:12 span by Jason Lewis, making it 55-42 with 2:58 left.
The Eagles, whose early-season schedule has been rugged, seemed surprised they had to work so hard to vanquish this small, shallow team whose losing streak went to five games.
"Leonard Perry is doing a heckuva job to get the most out of what he has right now," EWU coach Ray Giacoletti said of Idaho's first-year coach. "I don't know if people understand what kind of job he's doing."
The Vandals (1-5) took Eastern out of its comfort zone by spreading their offense, and denied the Eagles' strengths by clogging the lane against slashers like Chris Hester, held to four points.
But Idaho seems to lack the depth to maintain these strategic coups. Starting guards Bethuel Fletcher and Justin Logan combined for only three minutes' rest, and Moe Jenkins made a quick escape from Perry's doghouse, scoring 18 points in 35 minutes.
The second-half lapse bore similarities to Idaho's loss last week to Boise State, but Perry's reaction was entirely different.
"I thought our kids played hard against Boise except for the last nine minutes," Perry said. "And I'm not sure they weren't playing hard, but they got their heads down. They hadn't done that prior to that nine-minute mark, and they haven't done it since."
Alvin Snow scored nine points during the first seven minutes of the second half to ignite the Eagles, finishing with 15 points. Lewis and Marco Quinto notched four assists apiece.
In the first half, Idaho developed a sudden, uncharacteristic confidence in its perimeter shooting and led 26-20 before giving up six straight points. Jenkins, promoted to the starting lineup after Rashaad Powell aggravated his shoulder injury this week, provided a varied mix of jumpers to score 10 points in the half and Fletcher added seven points.
But Idaho shot 31 percent in the second half and 39 percent for the game.
>"We're shooting more confidently; they're just not going in," Perry said. "And I want them to keep shooting. We're getting better. As much as it hurts me to say that after a loss, we're getting better."
Hester 2-5 0-0 4, Quinto 1-3 0-0 3, Lewis 2-3 2-2 8, Snow 6-10 2-2 15, Humbert 1-4 4-4 6, Hull 1-2 0-0 3, Lincoln 1-3 0-0 2, McCulloch 2-4 1-2 5, Cooper 2-5 0-0 6, Browne 3-7 0-0 7, Axton 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 21-48 9-10 59.
Fletcher 5-10 2-2 13, Logan 0-5 0-0 0, Jenkins 6-14 4-4 18, Hilaire 3-9 2-4 9, Gerschefske 2-5 0-1 4, Holmes 2-2 0-0 4, Turner 0-0 0-0 0, Howell 0-1 0-0 0.
Halftime-- EWU 26, Idaho 26. 3-Point goals-- EWU 8-21 (Lewis 2-3, Cooper 2-5, Hull 1-2, Quinto 1-3, Browne 1-3, Snow 1-4, Lincoln 0-1), Idaho 4-14 (Jenkins 2-4, Hilaire 1-2, Fletcher 1-4, Gerschefske 0-1, Logan 0-3). Fouled out--none. Rebounds--EWU 31 (Humbert 6), Idaho 28 (Jenkins, Hilaire 7). Assists--EWU 14 (Quinto, Lewis 4), Idaho 9 (Jenkins 4). Total fouls--EWU 12, Idaho 13. A--525.