Hot Shooting in First Half Secures 63-38 Victory for Eags

Redshirt-freshman Hayley Hodgins is perfect from the floor (7-7) in first-career start for EWU

It was best and worst 3-point shooting of the season on display Saturday afternoon in Cheney, Wash.

The Eastern Washington University women's basketball team hit 9-of-16 long range shots for a season-high 56 percent, while the Bears of Northern Colorado went 0-for-22 from three to suffer a demoralizing 63-38 loss at Reese Court.

With the home sweep, EWU (9-8, 5-3 Big Sky) moves into third place in the Big Sky standings, just a 1/2 game behind Montana (5-2) and two games behind conference-leading Montana State (7-1). The Eagles defeated Big Sky newcomer North Dakota, 75-72, on Thursday (Jan. 17).

The Bears, now 7-9 on the year and 4-3 in Big Sky play, fall into a three-way tie for fourth place with Idaho State and Sac State.

Eastern set the tone early on Saturday, converting five of its first seven shots in the game, which included a perfect 3-of-3 from downtown. Within the first 10 minutes, EWU had doubled up UNC with a 21-10 advantage. And it only got worse for the Bears from there.

Eastern closed out the first period on a 13-0 run, as the home team went into the locker room shooting 65 percent from the field and 78 percent from beyond the arc. After knocking down seven 3-pointers in the first half, the Eagles enjoyed a 25-point advantage at the break - the biggest halftime margin of the season for the red and white.

Eastern did cool off in the second half, converting just 2-of-7 3-point attempts, but Northern Colorado was far worse. The Bears were 0-of-13 from three, and made just 7-of-23 shots inside the arc for a second-half shooting percentage of 19.4. After a layup by senior forward Lauren Oosdyke at the 14:46 mark, UNC went more than seven minutes without another field goal.

"We tried to contest shots as much as we could, and we did a good job of covering for each other in the zone, but Northern Colorado went 0-of-22 from three - that's not us, that is just them having a rough night," said EWU head coach Wendy Schuller. "UNC is a good basketball team, and this does not change my opinion of them. I know when we go play there [Greeley, Colo.] in a month, they are going to be a tough team to beat."

EWU was led by a flawless performance from redshirt-freshman Hayley Hodgins, who was making her first-career start for the Eagles. The Pasco, Wash., native certainly responded well to that starting nod, as she went 7-of-7 from the floor and 3-of-3 from downtown for a career-high 17 points.

In the last four games, Hodgins has scored 59 points - 21 more than her total from the previous 12 games.

"Hayley is feeling good right now, and she knocked down some tough shots today," said Schuller. "I think she made the most of her opportunities. We tell all of our players to take what comes to them, to understand their strengths and play to them. Hayley did a great job of that."

Junior Laura Hughes and sophomore Lexie Nelson contributed 11 points apiece, while senior Carrie Ojeda chipped in eight.

The Eagles finished the game shooting 53.5 percent from the field, with 15 assists. Redshirt-freshman Kayleigh Ryan had a career-high seven rebounds to lead EWU on the glass, while sophomore Kylie Huerta tied her career-high in assists with seven.

"I thought we got the ball inside today, and that forced them [UNC] to collapse," said Schuller. "Then we kicked it out and knocked down shots. When you are missing shots, it is contagious and becomes a bad epidemic. When you are making them, it's the same thing. We were fortunate to be on the good end of it today."

The Bears made just 14-of-23 shots in the game, including the dismal 0-of-22 effort from long range. The 38 points put up by UNC were the fewest points by an EWU opponent in more than two years.

EWU will have a quick turnaround for its next Big Sky contest, as it plays at Portland State on Monday (Jan. 21). The Vikings, who are 9-8 on the year and 3-4 in conference play, are coming off a 73-66 victory over North Dakota. Tipoff from the Peter W. Stott Center in Portland, Ore., is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

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