Eastern Falls in Overtime to Idaho State, 76-73

Eagles struggle to make plays down the stretch, resulting in heartbreaking loss at home

Playing in its first overtime game of the 2010-11 season, the Eastern Washington University women's basketball team could not find a way to finish, falling to the Bengals of Idaho State, 76-73 on Saturday (Feb. 5) afternoon at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.

The Eagles, now 8-12 overall and 4-5 in Big Sky action, have dropped 13 of the last 14 meetings with Idaho State. With the win today, the Bengals earned a sweep of the regular-season series with EWU, and improved its overall record to 14-7. The Bengals are now one spot ahead of Eastern in the Big Sky standings with a 5-3 record.

With just over eight minutes remaining in regulation, and the score knotted at 51-51, Eastern turned up its offensive pressure, scoring nine unanswered points, seven of which came at the free throw line. But over the next five minutes, Idaho State knocked down 5-of-6 shots from the field, including three from downtown. The Bengals had not made a single three pointer in the second half until Chelsea Pickering and Ashleigh Vella drained back-to-back treys at 5:00 and 4:19.

ISU was able to pull within one after Lindsey Reed hit two free throws at 3:41, but Eastern responded with back-to-back layups by Julie Piper and junior Chene Cooper.

Freshman Aubrey Ashenfelter then buried a three with two minutes remaining on the clock, but Pickering answered with a three of her own to tie the score again at 67-67. Eastern was able to get to the line on its next possession, but junior Brianne Ryan missed both free throw shots to keep the game in a deadlock. Reed threw up a baseline jumper as time expired, but her shot was just off the mark, resulting in overtime at Reese Court.

One minute into OT, Pickering drained another three, and then went on to make two free throws and a layup to put ISU up by four with just under two minutes to go. Ashenfelter again, came up with a huge three pointer that pulled the Eagles within one at 74-73, but ISU's Kaela Oakes converted both free throws on the other end of the floor to make it 76-73 with 17 ticks remaining. Eastern's final two attempts to tie were unsuccessful, and ISU walked away with the hard-fought victory.

"That was a heck of a ball game," said EWU head coach Wendy Schuller. "But in the end, Idaho State made some plays down the stretch and we didn't. They made the most of their opportunities. We had chances, but we missed free throws, we missed layups, and that was the difference in the game."

Eastern finished the night shooting an even 40 percent from the field. The Bengals, who shot a dismal 31 percent in the first half, made 14-of-23 shots in the second and two big buckets in overtime to finish the game at 43 percent from the field.

EWU did have one of its best nights from three-point range, as it converted 8-of-18 in the contest. Ashenfelter, and fellow-freshman Chenise Pakootas, had two apiece, as did junior Jordan Schoening.

Ashenfelter has now scored in double figures in back-to-back outings. She was one of four Eagles to score 11 points in the game. She also added three assists and three boards in a season-high 31 minutes.

"We have been so pleased with the growth of our freshmen," commended Schuller. "They have all seen enough minutes to where they're not playing like freshmen anymore. They are hitting big shots and doing great things on the defensive end, which is sometimes the hardest area to learn because defense in college is so different than high school."

In addition to Ashenfelter and Pakootas, freshman forward Laura Hughes made significant contributions against the Bengals, finishing with nine points, five rebounds, one block and a steal.

Piper, Ryan and Cooper all finished with 11 points, while Piper and Coop led the team on the glass with nine rebounds each. Every Eagle who entered the game scored at least two points for the team.

"I thought that we played better tonight than we have in awhile," said Schuller.  "We shared the ball well, we played as a team, and I thought we communicated. It was as great a team effort, but Idaho State is a very good team, and they made the big baskets down the stretch."

The Eagles out-scored Idaho State in the paint, 34-26, and had a slight 13-10 edge in steals, but the Bengals proved to be the superior team in the clutch.

Pickering, who was 2-of-12 to start the game, finished with 18 points, 12 of which came between the last five minutes of regulation and first two of OT. Oakes was the leading scorer for ISU with 19 tallies, while Vella also eclipsed double-digits with 15.

Eastern will be back on the road next week for a non-conference game at Seattle on Feb. 8, followed by another Big Sky showdown with Weber State on Feb. 12 in Ogden, Utah.

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