January 21, 2012

Eagles Use Late 20-7 Run to Take Down Portland State, 75-67

Eastern scores 48 points on 58 percent shooting in second half to knock off defending Big Sky regular-season champs

Trailing by five points with less than six minutes to play, the Eastern Washington University women's basketball team went on a 20-7 run in the final five minutes to hand the Vikings of Portland State a 75-67 loss on Saturday (Jan. 21) at the Peter W. Stott Center in Portland, Ore.

With the win, the Eagles move into second place in the Big Sky standings with an 11-9 overall record and 5-2 mark in league play. Eastern is now 3-0 on the road in this conference season. The Vikings, who were picked as the preseason favorite heading into 2011-12, drop to 11-7 overall and 3-3 in the Big Sky.

Saturday's contest was a tight battle the entire way, as evidenced by 12 ties and seven lead changes.

Midway through the second half, the Vikings went on a small 11-6 run, which gave the home team a 60-55 edge with 5:29 remaining on the game clock.

But over the next five and a half minutes, the Eagles hit 5-of-9 field goal attempts, including back-to-back 3-pointers by seniors Chene Cooper and Brianne Ryan, and converted 8-of-8 free throws.

The Vikings missed six of their final eight shots, while Eastern came up with three steals, two blocks and grabbed two offensive boards during the late surge.

"We had pressed the entire game, but those last five or six minutes was when we started making plays off the press," said EWU head coach Wendy Schuller. "Coop and Ryan gave us a spark with back-to-back threes, but really everyone stepped up to make a play when we needed it. It was as good of a team effort as we've had in a while."

The Eagles had 15 assists on 30 made baskets, and had only 10 turnovers in the game, which tied a season-low for the red and white. For the fifth game in a row, and 12th time this season, Eastern forced 20+ turnovers. EWU leads the Big Sky and ranks in the top 50 in the nation in turnover margin.

The Vikings had 21 turnovers, which the Eastern converted into 22 points. The Eagles also dominated down low, with a 44-26 advantage in points in the paint.

Junior center Carrie Ojeda finished with a team-high 18 points, while freshman forward Melissa Williams chipped in a career-high 12.

Ojeda also tallied a game-high 10 rebounds for her fourth double-double of the season.

After shooting just 32 percent in the first half, EWU converted 18-of-31 attempts in the second to finish with an overall field goal percentage of 43.5. The Eagles are 10-1 this year when shooting above 40 percent from the field.

"At halftime, we really put an emphasis on finishing around the rim," said Schuller. "I thought we were getting pretty good shots in the first half, but just weren't converting. We did a much better job of attacking the lane and attacking the rim in the second half."

Cooper and Ryan both finished with 15 points, while also combing for nine of Eastern's 15 assists. Ryan was also busy on the defensive end, as she tallied a career-high six steals.

Cooper was a perfect 8-of-8 from the charity stripe, with six of those made free throws coming in the final five minutes.

"Coop is our senior point guard, and that's what you're supposed to do is knock down free throws," said Schuller. "We wanted the ball in her hands and she did a great job of knocking them down."

The Eagles will stay on the road for their next two Big Sky duels, as they head to the Montana schools. Eastern takes on the Lady Griz in Missoula on Thursday (Jan. 26), followed by Montana State on Saturday (Jan. 28) in Bozeman.

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