Eastern knocks down season-high nine 3-pointers, six of which are from senior captain Brianne Ryan, who moves within a field goal of 1,000 career points
Shooting a season-high 47 percent from the field, while forcing 20 turnovers on the defensive end, the Eastern Washington University women's basketball team soared past Portland, 76-60, on Tuesday (Nov. 29) at the Chiles Center in Portland, Ore.
Tuesday's game was the third-straight Big Sky matchup for the Pilots. Before facing Eastern (3-3), UP had won back-to-back games against Portland State and Montana - the teams picked one and two in the 2011 Big Sky Preseason Coaches' Poll. Eastern Washington was selected seventh. Although it was not a head-to-head battle against its conference foes, EWU showed it can certainly measure up with the top dogs in the Big Sky.
Senior captain Brianne Ryan paced the Eags with a sizzling 27 points on 10-of-16 shooting, which included a career-high six 3-pointers. The 5-11 guard has now had four-consecutive 20+ scoring efforts, and with 997 career tallies, she is just one more trey away from eclipsing 1,000 career points.
"Brianne has worked extremely hard to become an all-around player, and we are obviously very happy with how she is performing right now," said EWU head coach Wendy Schuller. "She is not forcing any action; she is scoring points by playing basketball. Everything happens within the flow of the game. She is difficult to defend because she is getting these points within the scope of what we do. Her teammates do a fabulous job of finding her and she finishes."
Ryan hit two 3-pointers in the first half and then hit 4-of-4 in the second. She also had seven rebounds and two assists.
The Eagles opened the game on a 7-0 run, thanks to back-to-back baskets from Portland native Aubrey Ashenfelter and two made free throws by junior Carrie Ojeda. The Pilots then had a minor surge of their own, scoring 10 of the next 14 points to take a slim 13-11 lead. But Eastern answered, converting seven of its next 10 shots, including four from downtown.
"Every time Portland hit a shot, we would come down and match it," said Schuller. "That made a big difference for us."
At the 8:04 mark, Eastern had earned its first double-digit lead at 29-19. With four minutes remaining in the first half, Portland's leading scorer this season, Natalie Day, hit a shot from long range that pulled the home team within five at 31-26. But that was the closest UP would get the rest of the way.
Eastern went into the locker room with a nine-point edge, and on its first possession of the second half, Ryan drained a 3-pointer in transition to give her team a 40-28 advantage. The Eags held onto that double-digit lead for the remaining 19 minutes.
"Coming into the game, there were two things we knew we had to do," said Schuller. "We had to keep Portland out of the lane, and we had to score against the zone. We executed in both areas. We were able to go on little runs because of strong defense and forcing turnovers. And the team did a great job of moving the ball and making the extra pass. We are so proud of the effort put forth tonight. We played really, really hard and kept attacking the whole way."
Eastern's senior point guard Chene Cooper finished with a season-high nine assists and only one turnover in 32 minutes on the floor. She nearly had a double-double, contributing 11 points to go along with five rebounds and four steals.
Ojeda was the third Eagle to score in double figures, as she tallied 11 points on 3-of-6 shooting from the floor. She also converted a career-high 5-of-8 free throws.
Ashenfelter and fellow sophomore Chenise Pakootas combined for 15 points, while freshman Melissa Williams chipped in six. The rookie from Camas, Wash., also had four rebounds, one assists and one block.
Eastern converted 28-of-59 field goals for a season-best 47.5 shooting percentage. The Eagles hit 9-of-19 3-pointers. Eight of nine Eagles who entered the game on Tuesday had at least one assist, which led to a season-high 18 for the team.
The Eagles earned a 36-32 advantage on the glass and forced 20 turnovers, which they converted into 27 points on the other end. In its previous two matchups against Big Sky teams, Portland had out-rebounded the Vikings and Lady Griz, 53-31.
Eastern will now head to Tempe, Ariz., to kick off December with the ASU Classic. EWU will play host Arizona State on Friday (Dec. 2) at 9:30 a.m., and then will face either Illinois State or Arkansas State on Saturday (Dec. 3) at 11 a.m.