Spokane, Wash. – Up against a ranked opponent for the first time this season, the Eastern Washington women's basketball team held their own against No. 24/25 Gonzaga, falling, 78-58, Wednesday, Nov. 20, at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
The Eagles hung with the taller Bulldogs on the glass, outrebounding GU 19-14 in the second half. Eastern recorded 13 second-chance points to Gonzaga's 12, finishing with 13 offensive rebounds. The Bulldog's starting 6-footers, Sunny Greinacher and Shelby Cheslek, were limited to a total of six rebounds.
"Rebounding was our focus this week," head coach Wendy Schuller said. "You could see our team making a concerted effort to not only box out but go and get the ball."
Senior Laura Hughes continued her hot start to the season, finishing two points shy of her career high with 18, adding a team-high six rebounds, three of which came on the offensive end.
Junior Lexie Nelson went for 17 points, draining three triples and finishing a perfect 6-of-6 from the free throw line.
Freshman Bethany Montgomery added eight points off the bench to go along with a team-high four assists and three rebounds. Senior Aubrey Ashenfelter led Eastern with four steals, adding six points, and five rebounds.
Hughes got Eastern (0-3) on the board first before giving EWU a 4-2 lead on a layup at the 17:41 mark. Gonzaga (3-1) answered with a 7-0 run over the next two-plus minutes to go up 9-4 before a jumper from Ashenfelter stopped the run with 14:53 on the clock. Down seven, 13-6, Nelson buried a triple to bring the Eagles to within four at the 12:06 mark, but the hosts reeled off five straight points, forcing Schuller to call timeout with 9:46 remaining.
Out of the break, Eastern went on a 6-0 run, punctuated by a jumper from Montgomery at the 8:12 mark, pulling to within three, 18-15. After another Gonzaga run that put the hosts ahead by 13, freshman Tisha Phillips converted a layup before draining a three-pointer, bringing the Eagles to within eight, 30-22, with a little over two minutes left. The Bulldogs ended the half on a 7-2 run to take a 13-point lead into the break.
Gonzaga extended its leads to 17, 41-24, to open the second half, causing EWU to take an early timeout. Eastern went to its full-court press out of the timeout, drawing to within nine, 46-37, after Ashenfelter came up with a turnover and passed to a streaking Montgomery for a layup with a little over 13 minutes left. After a GU bucket, Ashenfelter made a jumper of the Eagles' next possession, keeping EWU within striking distance.
The Bulldogs ramped it up from there, using a 15-5 run over the next four minutes to take a 19-point lead, 63-44. Eastern would get no closer than 16 points the rest of the way as Gonzaga held on for the win.
"I'm proud of how hard we played tonight," Schuller said. "That's one of the signatures of this program, that we have kids that play hard for 40 minutes. I saw some good things tonight, as well as some things we need to continue to work on."
Haiden Palmer led all scorers with 25 points, shooting 10-of-15 from the field. Lindsay Sherbert added 17 points while Kiara Kudron chipped in 12.
EWU shot 35 percent from the field compared to GU's 51.6 percent clip. The Eagles made 75 percent of their shots from the charity stripe while the Bulldogs converted at a 64.3 percent clip.
Up next for the Eagles is a trip to Las Vegas, Nev., where they will play a pair of games as part of the South Point Shootout. Eastern opens with a tilt versus No. 22/16 Iowa State on Friday, Nov. 29, at 7:30 p.m. EWU concludes its stay with a contest against Butler on Saturday at 5 p.m.