Eagles Close Out Omni Hotels Classic with 77-67 Loss to Evansville

Despite a 10-point lead at intermission, and a 46-30 rebounding advantage, Eagles drop another contest due to cold shooting down the stretch  

The Eastern Washington University women's basketball team enjoyed a 12-point lead on the Evansville Purple Aces to start the second half, but a familiar problem resurfaced for the team in Red and White, as it fell to UE 77-67 on Saturday (Nov. 27) in the consolation game of the 24th Annual Omni Hotels Classic in Boulder, Colo.

The Eagles, who are now 1-5 in the 2010-11 season, finished fourth in the Thanksgiving weekend tournament. Host-school Colorado won the event after a 65-34 rout of Loyola-Chicago in the championship game.

Eastern made only 10 of its 34 shots in the second period, including 0-of-8 from three-point range. The team also committed twice as many turnovers as it had in the first half, which the Purple Aces turned into 18 points. That, coupled with its 48 percent field goal shooting allowed Evansville to erase the double-digit halftime deficit.

"They turned the pressure up defensively, and we didn't respond," said EWU head coach Wendy Schuller. "In the first half, we felt like we were running on all cylinders and finally playing the type of basketball we wanted to play, but they just stifled us in the second."

The Eagles had a 46-34 lead on Evansville after senior Julie Piper converted a jump shot on Eastern's first possession of the second half. But two made free throws, followed by a put back by UE's Briyana Blair sparked an 18-5 run for the Purple Aces, which put them ahead by one (52-51) at the 11:35 mark.

Eastern tied the game at 55-55 and again at 59-59, but then missed 11 of its next 13 attempts from the field, which allowed Evansville to open up a 71-61 edge with only 1:14 remaining on the game clock. UE hit eight-straight free throws in the final minute to seal the victory.

For the second game in a row, the Eagles dominated its opponent on the glass, holding a 46-30 advantage in rebounds. The Eags had more than double the amount of offensive boards as UE (28-13), but they really struggled to convert on those second chances.

"I think we are all frustrated that it is not one thing hurting us all the time – it is different things in different games," expressed Schuller. "Three games ago, we struggled with rebounding. We seemed to have figured that out, but now, we're not knocking down shots. We are working hard to create opportunities and we are putting the ball in the right hands, but they are just not falling."

The Eagles had four players score in double digits, including Piper and senior Kyla Evans, who combined for 24 points. Evans hit four three pointers in the first half, but missed her only two chances from long range in the second. She finished with 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting.

Piper was also active in the first half, but was forced to sit for a majority of the second due to foul trouble. She played only 15 minutes total.

"We need Julie on the floor," said Schuller. "We expect her to play 25 minutes a game, and not having her out there really hurt us."

After playing only five minutes in the second half, Piper fouled out at the 4:01 mark. She finished with 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting. Junior Chene Cooper contributed 14 points, but made only five of her 19 shots, while also committing six turnovers.

Junior Brianne Ryan earned her second double-double of the year with 10 points and 11 rebounds, but she also shot below 30 percent and had six miscues.

Senior Tatjana Sparavalo, who was Eastern's leading scorer heading into the tournament, was scoreless against the Purple Aces. She did pull down six rebounds, but missed all seven of her attempts from the field.

Evansville was led by Meagan Collins, who scored 23 points on 8-of-15 shooting from the field and 6-of-8 from the charity stripe. UE's Samantha Heck was a perfect 7-of-7 on the night for a total of 15 points. She also tallied five assists.

After a winless four-game road swing, the Eagles will return to Reese Court for its next three contests. Eastern will first face one of the toughest opponents on its 2010-11 schedule in Gonzaga. Tipoff between the regional rivals is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 3 at 7:05 p.m.

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