Portland, Ore. – Senior Laura Hughes led three Eagles in double-figures with 17 points but the Eastern Washington women's basketball team saw its lead evaporate due to a late charge from host Portland, falling, 68-65, in its 2013-14 season opener on Friday, Nov. 8, at the Chiles Center.
Hughes did all of her damage in just 18 minutes of action due to foul trouble. She shot 7-of-12 from the field and 3-of-4 from the free throw line while grabbing a team-high-tying five rebounds.
Junior Lexie Nelson finished with 15 points on 6-of-15 shooting, draining a trio of three-pointers while tying Hughes with five boards. Sophomore Hayley Hodgins shot 5-of-11 and tallied 14 points to go along with four rebounds.
"In the end, they knocked down some shots and we didn't," head coach Wendy Schuller said. "We had some open looks that could've put the nail in the coffin, and we can't afford to give up late offensive rebounds. I saw some very good things, but there are some other things we know we can get better at going forward."
Hodgins gave Eastern (0-1) an eight-point advantage, 59-50, with a little over eight minutes remaining in the contest after converting a three-pointer, but Portland (1-0) tightened up their defense down the stretch, going on a 12-4 run over the next six minutes to pull to within one, 63-62. After junior Melissa Williams converted a jump shot with 1:31 remaining to put Eastern up three, UP's Alexis Byrd scored on the hosts' ensuing trip down the floor.
After an EWU timeout, freshman Jade Redmon had her shot blocked by Kari Luttinen with 50 seconds remaining. Eastern managed to get a stop on the Pilots' next possession, but Cassandra Thompson and Cassandra Brown grabbed crucial offensive rebounds, after which Portland called timeout. Brown finished a layup after the stoppage to give UP a 66-65 lead, then Byrd came up with a steal on the Eagles' next possession, sealing the comeback win with a layup from Brown with three seconds remaining.
Portland got 18 points from free throws, going to the line 30 times compared to Eastern's 11 attempts.
"The free throw discrepancy was tough to handle," Schuller said. "A lot of that can be attributed to Portland's aggressiveness going to the basket coupled with our willingness to shoot jumpers."
Senior Aubrey Ashenfelter finished with five points, five assists and four rebounds while Williams tallied six points and four rebounds off the bench. Redmon notched two points and five assists in her collegiate debut, playing 27 minutes off the bench.
The Pilots scored the first points of the game 30 seconds in, but Hughes quickly tied the score, converting a layup off a pass from Ashenfelter. The hosts regained the lead on a triple from Thompson before going up six, 12-6, on a pair of free throws at the 16:24 mark. After a brief scoring drought from both squads, three-pointers from Nelson and Ashenfelter tied the score at 14-14, but Portland drilled a triple on its next possession to regain the lead with 11:39 left.
Redmon scored her first career collegiate points at the 9:34 mark, bringing Eastern to within one, 17-16, but UP answered with a 5-1 run to take a four-point advantage, 22-18, with 8:02 on the clock. After a layup from Byrd gave the Pilots a six-point lead, buckets from Hughes and Nelson brought EWU to within two, 24-22, forcing Portland to call timeout at the 5:46 mark. The Eagles tied the match on a jumper from freshman Bethany Montgomery 30 seconds later before Nelson buried a three-pointer to five EWU its first lead, 27-26, with 4:22 remaining. Neither team would make a field goal the rest of the way as Eastern converted three free throws to take a 30-29 lead into the locker room.
Hughes extended EWU's lead to three, 32-29, with a jump shot early in the second half before a triple from Nelson gave the Eagles a six-point advantage, 43-37, with 13:35 on the clock. Just after Portland cut the deficit to two, 43-41, junior Kylie Huerta buried a three-pointer at the 11:55 mark to stop UP's run.
Both teams shot better than 40 percent on the night, with Eastern connecting on 42.6 percent of its shots while the Pilots made 43.4 percent of their attempts.
Portland outrebounded EWU, 41-30, but committed 14 turnovers to the Eagles' 10. UP finished with 32 points in the paint and 18 bench points while Eastern tallied 28 points in the paint and got 10 points from its bench.
Brown led the Pilots with 17 points while Thompson finished with a double-double of 13 points and 12 rebounds.
The Eagles are back on the court next Saturday, Nov. 16, for their 2013-14 home opener against SMU. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m.