January 27, 2014

@EWUWBB Wraps Up First Half Of Big Sky Play At North Dakota, Northern Colorado

This Week In EWU Women's Basketball

at North Dakota at Northern Colorado
Thursday, Jan. 30 | 5 p.m. PST Saturday, Feb. 1 | 1 p.m. PST
Betty Engelstad Center | Grand Forks, N.D. Butler-Hancock Pavilion | Greeley, Colo.
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The Eastern Washington women's basketball team concludes the first half of Big Sky Conference play this week with a pair of road games. The Eagles open play at North Dakota on Thursday, Jan. 30, at 5 p.m. PST before taking on Northern Colorado on Saturday, Feb. 1, at 1 p.m. PST.

Eastern (8-9, 4-4 Big Sky) is currently tied for sixth in the league standings with Idaho State. EWU owns the tiebreaker over the Bengals thanks to its win over ISU earlier this month. The top seven teams qualify for the Big Sky Tournament, with the top seed receiving a first-round bye.

EWU dropped a heartbreaker at Southern Utah last Saturday, Jan. 25, as sophomore Hayley Hodgins' last-second jumper rimmed out as time expired. The Eagles had erased a 14-point first half deficit before taking the lead midway through the second half only to see the host Thunderbirds rally late to hang on for the victory.

Senior Laura Hughes led all scorers with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting, doing all of her damage in just 21 minutes. She was one of four Eagles in double figures as junior Lexie Nelson extended her double-digit scoring streak to 15 games behind a 13-point performance. Hodgins added 12 points while freshman Bethany Montgomery chipped in a season-high 11 points in just 11 minutes off the bench.

EWU did nearly everything right against Southern Utah, shooting better than 40 percent while holding SUU to a 37-percent clip. It was the first time Eastern has lost this season when limiting its opponents to below 40 percent shooting. The Eagles turned it over 19 times, however, and gave up 18 offensive rebounds that the Thunderbirds turned into 16 second-chance points.

Nelson saw her streak of consecutive made free throws come to an end against Southern Utah, snapping it at 24 straight with a miss in the second half. She is now 44-of-46 from the line in Big Sky play.

North Dakota (12-6, 7-2 BSC) are atop the Big Sky standings after winning its first six league games. Its two losses have come to Montana State at home and Sacramento State on the road. UND is nearly perfect at home, owning a 7-1 record in games played at the Betty Engelstad Center. Madi Buck (16.8 ppg, 8.4 rpg) and Mia Loyd (14.5 ppg, 10.1 rpg) have each collected Big Sky Player of the Week honors this season. North Dakota has gone to the line 200 more times than its opponents, shooting an average of 27 free throws a game while committing just 17 fouls a game.

Northern Colorado (10-8, 4-5 BSC) sit half a game back of Eastern in the league standings, having won four of its last six games. The Bears are 5-4 at home this season, but are just 1-3 at home in league contests. Stephanie Lee (20.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg) is the Big Sky's second-leading scorer while Jamie Derrieux (10.6 ppg, 3.1 apg) is the only other Bear to average double figures. UNC is shooting 42 percent from the field but just 27 percent from long range on the season.

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