With three Eagles scoring in double figures, and a 36-28 advantage on the glass, the Eastern Washington University women’s basketball team cruised past Portland, 68-50, for its first win of the season on Sunday (Nov. 18) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.
The win was the second-straight for EWU against the WCC-school, and the third over Portland in the last four years. The all-time series now stands at 15-9, in favor of Eastern.
After struggling offensively in its first two outings of the year, the Eagles found a way to execute on their home floor. Eastern knocked down 45 percent of its shots from the field, which included five made 3-pointers.
“I was pleased with our effort. We played hard today,” said EWU head coach Wendy Schuller. “Offensively, we stuck to our game plan, and did the things we wanted to do. We held the ball better, we made extra passes and took care of each other that way.”
Eastern was particularly sharp in the first half, hitting 16-of-28 shots to earn a comfortable 44-30 lead heading into the break. The Eagles made 3-of-5 from beyond the arc, and shot 75 percent from the line.
Early in the half, the Pilots took a 9-6 lead after an old-fashioned three-point play by sophomore guard Kari Luttinen. But Eastern responded, scoring 10 unanswered points over the next three minutes. The Eagles never relinquished their lead the rest of the way.
Sophomore Lexie Nelson had 16 of her game-high 23 points in the first period. She made 5-of-7 field goals, and got to the line five times.
“Lexie is a tremendous competitor,” said Schuller. “She is as competitive as any player I’ve ever coached. She just hates, hates, hates to lose. I can only imagine how many hours she spent in the gym by herself after the way we shot the ball against Northridge. It’s always good to see someone who has worked so hard for something get what they deserve.”
Nelson finished the game with a career-high 23 points, to go along with three rebounds, two assists and one steal.
Within the first five minutes of the second half, EWU had built its lead to 20 at 53-33. Although Eastern shot just 33 percent, the Pilots never got closer than 15 points.
EWU also out-rebounded UP, 21-10, in the second period and earned six second-chance points.
“I think we were a little tentative in the second half,” said Schuller. “This was our first time playing with a lead, so we’ll just have to learn from it and work on staying aggressive. We did do a much better job on the glass, which is something we talked about at halftime. We were down on the boards in the first half and ended up out-rebounding them by eight in the game, so that is really good for us.”
Junior Aubrey Ashenfelter led EWU in that category with 10 rebounds. She also tallied 11 points for her first-career double-double. The Portland, Ore., native also led her team in assists with six, and contributed two steals and one block.
“Aubrey had a really nice game,” said Schuller. “She is a great defender, and did a nice job there. She went to the glass, and also had six assists, which is really positive for her. She came out aggressive tonight, which is something we need her to do this season. We’ve asked her to step up and play a little bit different role than she has been the last couple years.”
Senior Carrie Ojeda was the third Eagle in double figures, as she poured in 16 points on 8-of-14 shooting. She also had six rebounds.
“We did a much better job of getting our posts touches,” said Schuller. “That is important for us because it’s makes the defenses collapse a little bit, which will open up our shooters. Carrie did a good job for us down there. She was physical and gives us that post presence. She is a senior and just knows what she is doing. She knows how to play and communicates for us out on the floor.”
Eastern notched 32 of its 68 points in the paint, and also had 23 points off turnovers. The Pilots turned the ball over 20 times, 11 of which were steals by the Eagles.
Junior Chenise Pakootas recorded a career-high four takeaways, while sophomore Melissa Williams had three.
Eastern will now head out for a seven-game road swing, starting with the Cal Classic by Doubletree on Nov. 23-24 in Berkeley, Calif. The Eagles play host-Cal the day after Thanksgiving at 1 p.m.