CHENEY, Wash. - he Eastern Washington University women's basketball team yet again battled back from a double-digit deficit in the Women's Basketball Invitational (WBI), however, it would not yield a similar result, as the Eagles fell to Big Sky Conference rival Idaho, 74-67, on Monday (March 20) in the WBI Quarterfinals.
Like in their first round matchup against Texas State last Thursday (March 16), the Eagles found themselves down by double digits early in the third quarter. EWU again battled back to take a one-point lead going into the fourth, but the Eagles ended the game hitting just one of their final five field goal attempts, as the Vandals brings Eastern's season to an end for the second-straight year.
"(Fatigue) played a factor down the stretch and that's what we talked about in the locker room after the game," said head coach Wendy Schuller. "When you get down (by double-digits) and fight so hard to comeback, you really tire yourself out. I thought that was a factor in the fourth quarter, but you have to give Idaho a lot of credit. Every time we play them it's a battle and tonight they won that battle."
An Idaho three-pointer gave the Vandals a 14-point lead with 7:29 remaining in the third quarter. Eastern would call a timeout after the made basket and did not allow another field goal in the frame out of the break.
The Eagles defense allowed them go on a 20-5 run to close the third, as Idaho only made five free throws in the final 7:29 of the quarter. Junior Delaney Hodgins capped off the run in the final seconds of the third, as she went coast-to-coast off a missed free throw attempt and sank a running jumper as time expired to give EWU a 51-50 lead heading into the game's final quarter.
Idaho scored the first six points of the fourth to retake a 55-51 lead, but Eastern rolled off five-straight to reclaim a 56-55 lead after an Ashli Payne 3-point field goal with 8:34 left to play.
That would be the final lead of the game for Eastern, as Idaho went on an 8-0 spurt to take a 62-59 advantage with 5:29 left to play. EWU would pull within a point 66-65 after another Payne three-pointer, but the Eagles would go cold down the stretch, as Idaho was able to convert on all four of its final free throws to secure a seven-point victory and advance to the WBI Semifinals against Rice later this week.
"I was proud of our team for having fight in them. We got down in that third quarter, called a timeout, and came out and played hard from there. We got running a little bit and that got ourselves back into the game, but in the fourth we missed some good looks. It really came down to Idaho being able to hit shots in the fourth quarter and us not."
Idaho shot 52.9 percent (9-of-17) in the final frame, while Eastern only managed a 37.5 percent (6-of-16) success rate from the field in the last 10 minutes of play.
Payne picked up her second-straight double-double in the WBI with 17 points and 11 rebounds against the Vandals. The senior hit 6-of-15 from the field in her final game as an Eagle and pulled down double-digit rebounds for the 19th time in her career. It was also the 14th double-double of her two-year EWU tenure.
"I thought Ashli had a really couple of nice games in the WBI," said Schuller of one of her two seniors. "She really didn't want her collegiate career to come to an end and she fought all the way to the end. Her and Tisha Phillips both played hard and left it all out there tonight."
Payne was one a three double-digit scorers for the Eagles, as the 'Big 3' of Payne, Hodgins and Phillips scored 49 of the team's 67 points tonight. Hodgins led the team with an 18-point outing, while Phillips scored 14 points and dished out five assists in her final game with the Eagles.
Idaho's Mikayla Ferenz scored a game-high 33 points on 12-of-24 shooting from the field. The Vandals All-Big Sky first team selection also hit a game-high five 3-point field goals. As a team, Idaho hit 10 threes on the night.