January 4, 2014

Defense Carries The Day As EWU Leads From Start To Finish In Win Over ISU

Cheney, Wash. – Behind arguably its best defensive performance of the season, the Eastern Washington women's basketball team never trailed, defeating visiting Idaho State, 67-55, in a Big Sky contest Saturday, Jan. 4, at Reese Court.

Eastern (6-6, 2-1 Big Sky) held Idaho State (3-8, 1-1 BSC) to 36.5 percent shooting on the day, just the third time the Eagles have held an opponent below 40 percent this season. Coincidentally, EWU is 3-0 in those games.

"I thought that was the best defense we've played all year," head coach Wendy Schuller said. "I thought we were focused and communicated really well. Idaho State is a really difficult team to guard, and I thought our team did an outstanding job disrupting their offense and fighting through screens."

Junior Lexie Nelson and sophomore Hayley Hodgins teamed up for 37 of Eastern's 67 points, shooting a combined 14-of-23 from the field while knocking down a total of five three-pointers. Hodgins led all scorers with 19 points while Nelson poured in 18, extending her double-digit scoring streak to 10 games.

The Eagles' bench chipped in 15 points, the most in four games. Freshman Marly Anderson scored a season-high seven points on 3-of-4 shooting in just four minutes while junior Melissa Williams and freshman Bethany Montgomery chipped in four points apiece.

"Our bench came up big tonight, especially in the first half," Schuller said. "They gave us a boost, especially on the offensive end. I love the fact that we have a good, deep bench. I don't think it matters if you're a starter or not. Every player contributes and helps us, and I thought everyone bought in and did a great job of that tonight."

Senior Laura Hughes finished with eight points on 4-of-7 shooting, snapping her nine-game double-figure scoring streak. Classmate Aubrey Ashenfelter recorded six points and a game-high seven assists, finishing without a turnover in 32 minutes of play.

Freshman Jade Redmon registered her first-career start, tallying a team-best seven rebounds to go along with five assists, three steals and two blocks.

Eastern started out the game sharp on both ends, opening up an 11-0 lead through the first three minutes of the game as the Bengals missed their first five field goals and committed three turnovers. Jasmine Lemon put ISU on the board with a jumper at the 15:19 mark, but Nelson buried a triple on EWU's next possession to restore a double-digit advantage, 14-2.

A quick 6-0 run from Idaho State cut Eastern's lead to six, 14-8, with 13:15 on the clock. The Eagles answered with a run of their own, regaining a 12-point lead over the next four minutes thanks to four points apiece from Hodgins and Nelson and a jumper from Williams. The Bengals would crawl back to within seven, 22-15, with 8:02 left in the first half, but EWU took its largest lead of the first half, 30-17, three minutes later on back-to-back jumpers from Ashenfelter and Anderson. Idaho State managed to hold Eastern to just five points the rest of the way, pulling to within 10, 35-25, at the half.

The Bengals coughed the ball up 10 times in the first half as Eastern scored 12 points off turnovers in the opening 20 minutes.

Idaho State refused to go quietly, however, scoring 10 of the first 16 points of the second stanza to cut EWU's lead to six, 41-35, with 13:55 remaining. A triple from Montgomery gave the Eagles a 10-point cushion, 47-37, three minutes later but the Bengals remained on the offensive, pulling to within three on a jumper from Jessica Tingey at the 8:33 mark.

After Schuller called timeout, Redmon took things into her own hands, finding Hughes in the paint for a jumper before igniting a fastbreak with a blocked shot that ended in a lay-up for Ashenfelter on the other end. She corralled the defensive rebound on ISU's next possession before feeding Nelson for a lay-up that put Eastern back up nine, 55-46, with 7:21 left to play.

The Bengals could never recover as a Hodgins three-pointer gave the Eagles a 12-point lead, 58-46, at the 6:49 mark. Eastern took its largest lead, 65-50, on a jumper from Nelson with 1:47 remaining before knocking down a pair of free throws down the stretch to seal the win.

Eastern shot 47.4 percent for the game, including a 50-percent clip in the second half. The Eagles finished 7-of-15 from three-point range while the Bengals shot just 25 percent (4-16) from deep.

Idaho State won the battle on the boards, 36-28, but managed just four second-chance points to Eastern's five. The Bengals turned it over 19 times while the Eagles finished with just 12 miscues.

Lindsey Reed led ISU with 13 points while Tingey registered 10 points. Kara Jenkins nearly finished with a double-double, grabbing a game-high 11 rebounds to go along with eight points.

The Eagles hit the road for the first time in league play next week when they travel to Big Sky country to face the Montana schools. EWU opens its road trip against Montana on Thursday, Jan. 9, at 6 p.m. PST.

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