Eastern Loses Lead Late, Drops Heartbreaker at Montana State

Bozeman, Mont. – Up by 10 points with eight minutes left, the Eastern Washington women's basketball team saw host Montana State finish on a 25-11 run to steal a come-from-behind win, 78-74, Saturday, Jan. 11, in a Big Sky contest at Worthington Arena.

Senior Aubrey Ashenfelter gave Eastern (6-8, 2-3 Big Sky) a 10-point advantage on a pair of free throws with a little over eight minutes left, but Montana State (8-5, 3-1 BSC) used a 7-0 run over the next 2:30 to crawl to within three, 63-60. The Bobcats would eventually tie the game at 65-all with 3:29 left before taking its first lead in nearly 12 minutes on a three-pointer at the 2:58 mark.

Sophomore Hayley Hodgins twice tied the score down the stretch, but the Bobcats were able to come up with clutch baskets while the Eagles went 0-of-4 from the field over the final 1:30 as MSU held on for the comeback victory. Ashenfelter had a chance to tie it with 12 seconds left, but her jumper rimmed out before the Montana State twice evaded Eastern's foul attempts to score lay-ups on the other end.

"Bottom line, they made shots and we didn't," head coach Wendy Schuller said. "They stepped up and hit some big shots and we had some missed opportunities. They were also able to get to the free throw line down the stretch, and we weren't able to."

Junior Lexie Nelson led Eastern with 19 points, shooting 9-of-10 from the free throw line, including 7-of-8 in the first half. She saw her streak of 21 consecutive made free throws come to an end midway through the opening stanza.

Hodgins finished with 18 points, knocking down four three-pointers while pulling down a team-high eight rebounds. Senior Aubrey Ashenfelter added 13 points and six rebounds, making six of her eight free throw attempts.

Junior Melissa Williams came off the bench to score six points and grab four rebounds while freshman Tisha Phillips chipped in five point and four rebounds in just seven minutes.

It was a back-and-forth affair in the early going as Eastern answered each Montana State bucket with one of its own until Hodgins knocked down a triple with 16:05 on the clock to give EWU its first lead, 12-9. Phillips came off the bench and promptly scored consecutive baskets, putting the Eagles up five, 16-11, and forcing the Bobcats to call timeout at the 11:51 mark.

Phillips' lay-in with 12:14 on the clock would be Eastern's last made basket over nearly seven minutes, however, as Montana State regained a 19-18 lead with 7:58 remaining, its first lead in more than eight minutes. Senior Laura Hughes put back her own miss at the 5:21 mark, snapping the Eagles' scoring drought before five straight points from Nelson put EWU back on top, 29-28, with 2:25 left. After the Bobcats regained the lead on a triple from Kalli Durham, freshman Hanna Mack nailed a turnaround jumper on the baseline to tie the score at 35-35 heading into the break.

Neither team shot well in the opening 20 minutes as both sported field goal percentages below 40 percent. The Eagles knocked down nine free throws and four three-pointers in the first half, going just 7-of-24 from two-point range in the opening period.

The Eagles came out hot in the second half, using a 7-0 run over the opening 2:30 to take a 42-35 lead. The hosts battled back to within two, 44-42, before taking a one-point lead, 45-44, with 15:26 on the clock. Eastern would reel off 10 consecutive points out of the under-16 media timeout to go up nine, 54-45, at the 12:20 mark. The Bobcats snapped EWU's run with a jumper on their next possession, but Hodgins answered with a three-pointer as Eastern took its largest lead of the game, 57-47, with 11:38 left.

The hosts continued to battle, pulling to within six, 59-53, but junior Melissa Williams converted a lay-up to restore an eight-point lead with 8:59 remaining. Montana State would go on its game-changing run at that point, erasing a 10-point deficit over the final eight minutes.

Montana State shot 51.6 percent in the second half compared to Eastern's 36.1-percent clip.

EWU shot just 35 percent for the game while MSU connected at a 45-percent clip, including 54 percent from long range (7-13). Eastern knocked down eight three-pointers, shooting 40 percent from deep. The Eagles finished 18-of-22 from the free throw line while the Bobcats were a perfect 13-of-13.

Both teams pulled down 41 rebounds, but MSU snagged 15 offensive boards to Eastern's 10. The Bobcats turned it over 17 times to EWU's 12 miscues.

Ashley Brumwell led all scorers with 26 points, adding 10 rebounds for a doube-double. Ausha Cole added 12 points while Durham chipped in 11 points.

Eastern returns home for a pair of Big Sky counters next weekend, welcoming Northern Arizona and Sacramento State to Reese Court. The Eagles kick off the week against the Lumberjacks on Thursday, Jan. 16, at 6 p.m.

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