Despite better perimeter shooting, Eagles overmatched in the post
The Eastern Washington University women's basketball team fell victim to some powerful post play on Tuesday (Dec. 4) in its annual meeting with cross-town rival Gonzaga.
With 24 offensive rebounds, and 31 points as a result of them, the Bulldogs handed Eastern a 65-50 loss at the McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane, Wash. The Eagles drop to 2-5 on the year, while GU improves to 7-2 with its ninth-consecutive win over the red and white.
Eastern did in fact shoot the ball better than Gonzaga on Tuesday, posting a 40.9 field goal percentage, compared to 38.2 for the Zags. But because of a season-high 24 turnovers, Eastern simply had far less opportunities on that end of the floor.
With field goals and free throws combined, Gonzaga took 90 total shots in the game, while the Eagles managed to put up just 60.
"Gonzaga is a very good defensive team," said EWU head coach Wendy Schuller. "We made some mistakes and had some unforced errors, but there were definitely a lot forced turnovers that they created by being aggressive. We just did not execute offensively, and I was pretty disappointed we weren't able to do more with our post play."
Eastern was never able to get a lead on GU, but after facing a 34-22 halftime deficit, EWU did cut it to single digits a few different times in the second half.
A made basket in the paint by Aubrey Ashenfetler, followed by two free throws from Lexie Nelson pulled Eastern within eight points (36-28) at the 16:47 mark of the second half. Gonzaga answered with a three, but back-to-back buckets from Nelson and senior Carrie Ojeda saw Eastern again cut it down to eight (43-35).
But the Zags continued to feed it down low, and layup by GU freshman Shelby Cheslek at 12:07 sparked a 14-4 run for GU over the next eight minutes. Despite seven points for Nelson in the final three and half minutes of the game, Gonzaga was able to maintain a double-digit advantage the rest of the way.
"We would hang around and hang around, but we just couldn't get the stops when we needed to," said Schuller. "It seemed every time we felt we were going to make a run, [Sunny] Greinacher would get another offensive rebound or there was a loose ball that we couldn't get to. But that's what good teams do. They figure out how to put you away."
Of the 65 points scored by GU in the game, 52 of them were off Eagle turnovers or second-chance points earned by some tenacious rebounding. Coming into the game, the Bulldogs were averaging 12 offensive rebounds per game. They doubled that average on Tuesday with 24 against the Eagles.
"From watching film, I knew this team had great length and had some big kids who had the ability to score," said Schuller. "I knew combating that size was definitely something that could be a problem for us tonight. But despite their size advantage, we still need to be able to score more inside in certain situations."
Eastern was led by Nelson, who finished with 19 points on a 5-of-13 effort from the floor and a perfect 6-of-6 from the line. Just as she did in Eastern's previous game at Idaho, Nelson scored a majority of those points in the second half. She was 1-of-6 in the first period on Tuesday, and 4-of-7 in the second.
"The thing we need from Lexie is for her to be a scorer in both halves," said Schuller. "That is a role we need somebody to fill right now, and I think she has the ability to do it. Sometimes, she sits back and waits, but at this point, I don't mind her throwing some folks on her back and making things happen."
Junior Aubrey Ashenfelter contributed 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting, while also leading the team in assists with four. But the 6-0 guard did have six turnovers and just one rebound.
"I thought Aubrey was really aggressive for us offensively," said Schuller. "She knows she can take care of the ball better than she did tonight, but she played a lot of minutes and played hard and also did a good job defensively."
Sophomore Melissa Williams led EWU on the glass with 10 rebounds, marking her second double-digit rebounding effort of the season. Ojeda finished with six points and six boards.
Next up for the Eagles is a trip to Boise State for its final non-conference tune up on Friday (Dec. 7). Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. Pacific time.