The Eastern Washington women's basketball team led from start to finish Saturday, Feb. 8, completing a weekend sweep with a win over visiting Montana, 71-61, in a Big Sky contest at Reese Court.
Eastern (11-10, 7-5 Big Sky) raced out to a 13-2 lead over the first seven minutes as Montana (14-7, 8-4 BSC) made just one of its first five shots and committed four turnovers over the opening 6:25. The visitors would get no closer than seven points through the opening 20 minutes before the Eagles' lead ballooned to as many as 15 points midway through the second half.
The Lady Griz would cut EWU's lead to nine, 64-55, with 2:48 remaining but Eastern made seven of its eight free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
"I have to give our players tremendous credit," head coach Wendy Schuller said. "I think our fast start certainly helped us. It got us moving a little bit more defensively and we were able to play through the fatigue because of it."
The Eagles' weekend sweep of the Montana schools marks just the seventh time in program history that EWU has defeated both Montana and Montana State in the same weekend. Eastern has now beaten Montana at home in back-to-back seasons.
EWU entered the week in seventh place in the Big Sky standings but now sits in a three-way tie for fourth with Sacramento State and Idaho State.
"Anybody can truly beat anybody on a given night in this league," Schuller said. "It's a long, long horse race and we know there is still a ways to go. You have to bring your best because there are a lot of great players and quality programs."
All five of Eastern's starters scored in double figures for the second consecutive game, highlighted by junior Lexie Nelson's game-high 19 points. The Montana transfer shot 6-of-9 from the floor against her former team, knocking down three three-pointers and all four of her free throws.
Junior Melissa Williams notched a double-double for the second straight game, finishing with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Senior Aubrey Ashenfelter and freshman Jade Redmon added 13 points apiece while redshirt sophomore Hayley Hodgins chipped in with 10 points.
Ashenfelter added seven rebounds and a pair of assists while Hodgins pulled down six rebounds and dished out four helpers. Redmon led the Eagles with five assists and three steals to go along with five rebounds.
Eastern shot 47 percent for the game after connecting on 50 percent of its shots in the first half. The Eagles drained seven of 17 three pointers and shot 18-of-24 from the charity stripe.
Montana was limited to 37 percent shooting and 25 percent from long range, making just seven of its 28 attempts. The Lady Griz converted at a 59-percent clip from the free throw line, making 10 of its 17 attempts.
The visitors won the rebounding battle, 38-32, marking just the second time this season that EWU has won when getting outrebounded. Montana grabbed 17 offensive rebounds that it turned into 19 second chance points while the Eagles corralled seven offensive rebounds but scored just two second chance points.
Eastern did a lot of damage in transition, pouring in 16 fast break points while keeping the Lady Griz scoreless in the open court. The Eagles also took care of the ball, turning it over just eight times while forcing Montana into 13 miscues.
Torry Hill led the Lady Griz with 15 points while McCalle Feller added 13 points off the bench. Kelli Cole, Montana's leading scorer on the season, was held scoreless for the first time this year.
The Eagles are on the road next week, taking on Sacramento State and Northern Arizona in Big Sky counters. EWU opens play at Sacramento State on Thursday, Feb. 13, at 7 p.m.