Eastern drains season-high 11 3-pointers, including four apiece for Ryan and Pakootas
It was the most efficient night of the season for the Eastern Washington University women's basketball team.
In its final non-conference tune up of the 2011-12 campaign, Eastern shot 50 percent from the field and nailed 11 3-pointers en route to a dominant 76-61 win against Idaho on Wednesday (Dec. 21) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.
The Eagles (6-7) will now enjoy one week off for the holidays before returning to Reese for their Big Sky Conference debut against Montana State next Thursday (Dec. 29).
"We have quite a few players who have the ability to score on any given night," said EWU head coach Wendy Schuller. "Chenise gave us a big lift and got us going offensively. Her ability to score really gave the team some energy. When we decide to be aggressive, and are unselfish with the ball, we can really score."
Pakootas hit four 3-pointers in the first period, while Cooper and fellow senior Brianne Ryan each made one as well. But despite Eastern's sharp shooting from beyond the arc, the Vandals managed to keep it to a one or two-possession game for most of the half.
"For the first 10 minutes, we kind of played Idaho's style of basketball of possession by possession," said Schuller. "Once we started pressing and forcing turnovers, we were able to get it going to our pace. It's huge for us to get up and down and play our kind of basketball."
Not until the 5:05 mark did the Eagles start to pull away. With some help from Eastern's crafty 5-foot-0 point guard, senior Breauna Russell made back-to-back layups in transition to give EWU at 13-point lead with just over a minute to go in the half. Idaho buried a three right before the buzzer, but Eastern still maintained a double-digit advantage (37-27) at intermission.
Eastern then opened the second half on a 9-0 run, and never really looked back. The Eagles had earned a 69-46 lead - their largest of the night - with 6:39 remaining on the clock. But over the next four minutes, Idaho went on an 11-2 run to cut it to 15 - and at no point did Schuller call a timeout.
"Early in the year, especially before we get into conference, I really wanted us to be able to play through runs without calling constant timeouts," said Schuller. "I felt like we still had the game under control and I wanted to see, with the maturity level of our team, what we looked like in terms of withstanding those kinds of runs. I felt like we handled it well."
Eastern converted two layups in the final two minutes to seal the 15-point victory.
After making 6-of-10 3-pointers in the first frame, EWU stayed hot in the second, nailing 5-of-7 to finish with a season-high 11. On the night, Eastern shot 50 percent from the field, including a sizzling 64.7 percent from beyond the arc.
Eastern did have with the fewest free throws made and attempted in any game this season, as it got to the line just four times and converted three of the four. But it didn't matter thanks to a well-balanced and efficient offense.
Ryan led all scorers with 18 points, followed by Pakootas' career-high 14. Pakootas also led the Eagles on the glass with five rebounds, while Ryan tied her career-high in assists with six.
Cooper finished with her second double-double of the season with 11 points and 11 assists. She also had four steals, which brings her career total to 211 - just one away from tying the EWU all-time career steals record, held by Lisa Comstock (1982-85).
Almost every other Eagle who stepped on the court Wednesday scored at least two points. Freshman Kylie Huerta had a career-high seven, while Russell, junior Jordan Schoening and sophomore Laura Hughes each chipped in four.
"I thought we had a great effort tonight," said Schuller. "It was our third game in five days, and that was important to us because it showed our condition and depth. We said going in that how we play in this last game is going to be what we carry with us into conference."