Without a game at Reese Court in more than a month and seven-straight on the road during that time, it took the Eastern Washington University women’s basketball team a little while to settle in on its home floor. But a strong second-half effort allowed the Eagles to grab a 58-47 victory over Warner Pacific on Saturday (Dec. 29) in Cheney, Wash.
Eastern, which has now won four games in a row, improves to 6-5 overall in the 2012-13 campaign. The Eagles will return to Big Sky Conference play next week when they host league-leading Montana on Thursday (Jan. 3), followed by Montana State on Saturday (Jan. 5) at Reese Court.
Eastern shot just 27 percent from the field in the first half against WPC, and made just 4-of-15 from beyond the arc. The Eagles had come into Saturday’s game with the best field goal percentage in the Big Sky at 41.2, and the second-best percentage from three at 35.3. But some tough defense displayed by the NAIA school out of Portland, Ore., kept EWU from converting shots on its home floor.
“We did not shoot the ball well,” said EWU head coach Wendy Schuller. “I was disappointed in the way we shot it from three and our effort at the free-throw line. Warner Pacific did a good job of disrupting our rhythm, and grinding us defensively. They made us play slower than we wanted to in the first half, and we just did not do a good job on either end of the floor.”
The Eagles scored the first eight points of the game, but Warner Pacific charged back with a 13-3 run, which gave the visiting team a two-point advantage with under nine minutes to play in the half. The two teams traded baskets the rest of the way, and went into the locker room in a 25-25 deadlock.
The second half was better on both ends for EWU, as it shot 43 percent from the field, and held the Knights to just 8-of-33, including a dismal 0-of-7 effort from long range. Eastern found its edge by attacking the lane, as it out-scored WPC in points in the paint, 22-12. The Eagles also had 10 fast break points in the second period, compared to zero for the Knights.
“At halftime, we talked about pushing the ball more, getting down the floor and getting transition baskets,” said Schuller. “We were able to get more layups and more shots in the paint in the second half, which translated into a much better shooting percentage. We just wanted to push the pace both offensively and defensively, and it was somewhat effective for us.”
The Eagles scored the first seven points coming out of the locker room, and held onto that lead rest of the way. They led by as many as 14 midway through the period, but WPC managed to hang around, and cut it to eight with less than four minutes on the clock. Junior Aubrey Ashenfelter hit a three to put Eastern back up by double-digits and sophomore Lexie Nelson sealed it with a layup at the 1:34-mark.
Nelson ended up with a game-high 19 points - her 10th double-digit performance of the season. She hit three 3-pointers, while also contributing four rebounds, three assists and one block. Ashenfelter finished with five points, five rebounds and four assists.
Sophomore forward Melissa Williams recorded a season-high eight points to go along with seven rebounds. Junior Laura Hughes also had seven rebounds, as did redshirt-freshman Hayley Hodgins, which marked a career-high for the 5-10 guard out of Pasco, Wash.
Senior Carrie Ojeda had nine points, five rebounds, two assists and one steal for the Eags.