The Eastern Washington women's basketball team put its toughness on display Thursday night against visiting Southern Utah, defeating the Thunderbirds, 59-54, in a physical Big Sky contest at Reese Court.
Eastern (13-11, 9-6 Big Sky) turned in a dominant defensive performance, holding Southern Utah (16-8, 10-5 BSC) to more than 20 points below its season average while limiting the Thunderbirds to just 38.5 percent shooting from the floor.
"I thought we did a good job of matching their toughness," head coach Wendy Schuller said. "We knew it was going to be a battle just as it was in Cedar City the first time. I thought we had some players step up and make big plays and we had some key defensive plays that ignited us and gave us some baskets that were hard to come by."
The Eagles scored less than 60 points for just the fourth time this season, and was well below its season average of 71.4 points per game. EWU shot 39.1 percent from the field on the night, its worst shooting performance in Reese Court this season. The Eagles came up big from outside and at the free throw line, however, knocking down seven three-pointers while shooting 16-of-22 from the charity stripe.
Junior Lexie Nelson led Eastern with 17 points, shooting 6-of-12 from the field while burying four three-pointers.
Redshirt sophomore Hayley Hodgins added 12 points and seven rebounds while freshman Jade Redmon scored in double figures for the fourth time in five games, chipping in 11 points thanks to a 7-of-8 effort from the free throw line.
Junior Melissa Williams led the way on the glass with a team-high eight rebounds to go along with eight points and three blocks.
In a game that saw eight ties and 14 lead changes, it was Eastern who had the last laugh, using a 10-3 run late in the second half to regain the lead for good. After a Carli Moreland lay-up brought Southern Utah to within one, 49-48, with 2:29 left, Nelson drilled a momentum-changing three-pointer to give the Eagles a four-point cushion.
EWU came up with a stop on the Thunderbirds' next possession, then Redmon stepped to the line and drained a pair of free throws to give Eastern its largest lead of the game, 54-48, with 1:20 remaining. A quick 4-0 run brought SUU back to within two, 54-52, with 22 ticks left, but the Eagles made five of their final six free throws to secure the win.
The Eagles and Thunderbirds pulled down 32 rebounds apiece, with SUU corralling 13 offensive boards to EWU's 11.
Both squads committed more than 20 turnovers as Southern Utah finished with 22 miscues to the Eagles' 21. SUU outscored EWU in the paint, 24-16, but Eastern finished with a 10-4 edge in fast break points.
Hailey Mandelko scored a game-high 19 points while Carli Moreland chipped in 11 points and eight rebounds. Lori Parkinson, the Big Sky's third-best percentage shooter, was held to just four points on 2-of-10 shooting.
Eastern is back in action on Monday, Feb. 24, when it squares off with Dam Cup rival Portland State in Portland, Ore. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. PST.