With fourth-consecutive win, Eagles inch closer to first place in the Big Sky
The Big Sky Conference race is heating up, and so is Eastern Washington.
With an 84-58 rout of Northern Arizona on Thursday (Feb. 2) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash., the Eastern Washington University women's basketball team won its fourth-consecutive league game, and the seventh of its last eight.
The win Thursday, coupled with Idaho State's overtime loss at home to Montana State, moves the Eagles within a half game of the league-leading Bengals. Eastern now owns an 8-2 Big Sky record, while Idaho State hangs on at 8-1.
Northern Arizona drops to 2-8 in conference and 7-15 overall.
Eastern shot a season-best 51.6 percent from the field on Thursday, en route to its largest margin of victory in the 2011-12 Big Sky season. The Eagles finished with 20 assists on 33 made baskets. Senior point guard Chene Cooper, who ranks sixth in the nation in assists, had nine dimes, while senior Brianne Ryan and freshman Melissa Williams added four apiece.
"I was really proud of our effort tonight," said EWU head coach Wendy Schuller. "We knew we had to just come out and do what we do well and take care of business. We did a great job of executing on both ends of the floor. We were sharing the ball and making the extra pass to find the open person. Our perimeter players were getting a lot of good looks on the outside, and they did a great job of knocking down those shots."
Ryan poured in 29 of Eastern's 84 points on the night, with 20 of them coming in the first half alone. She was 12-of-23 from the field with three 3-pointers, while also contributing six rebounds, four assists and two steals.
"She was all over the place," said EWU head coach Wendy Schuller. "It was good to see her stroking the three, but she was putting it on the floor and creating offense through that as well. It was a great effort by Brianne."
Northern Arizona scored the first four points of the game, but that would be its only lead of the night, as the Eagles immediately responded with an 11-0 run.
Midway through the half, the Lumberjacks had closed the gap to within one at 20-19, but over the next three minutes, Eastern scored 12 unanswered points to take its first double-digit lead with 5:57 remaining in the period. During the surge, Ryan hit two 3-pointers and a jumper in the lane, and also assisted on a layup by junior center Carrie Ojeda.
Enjoying a 14-point advantage at the start of the second half, the Eagles never let that lead drop below 10 the rest of the way. Nine different players scored for EWU in the second half, with sophomore Laura Hughes leading the way with 10 points on a 5-of-6 effort from the floor.
Cooper finished 12 points and six rebounds, to go along with her team-leading nine assists. Ojeda had nine points, three blocks and two steals, while sophomore Aubrey Ashenfelter also finished with nine tallies, as well as contributing five rebounds and three steals.
Williams tallied six points and had a team-leading seven rebounds.
Eastern forced 25 turnovers in the game, which it turned into 30 points on the other end. Although the Eagles had little trouble knocking it down from the perimeter, more than half of their points did come in the paint, as the team finished with 48 on the night.
Eastern will now hit the road for another Big Sky Conference game Saturday (Feb. 4) in Sacramento, Calif. The Eagles and Hornets tip off at 2 p.m. Pacific time.