Pocatello, Idaho – Junior Melissa Williams finished with a career-high 23 points but the Eastern Washington women's basketball allowed host Idaho State to score 55 second-half points, dropping a Big Sky contest, 86-62, in Reed Gym Thursday, Mar. 7.
Eastern (15-13, 11-8 Big Sky) and Idaho State (12-16, 10-9 BSC) were tied at 31-31 at the half but the Bengals shot a blistering 79.2 percent in the second half to run away from the Eagles over the final 20 minutes.
"Idaho State was a team that just couldn't miss tonight," head coach Wendy Schuller said. "I was disappointed with our effort, and we didn't come out with the same energy and focus as Idaho State did. Give them creid, they hit us in the mouth and we didn't respond as well as we should have."
Despite the loss, EWU remains in sole possession of fourth place in the Big Sky standings after Sacramento State fell at Montana in another league counter tonight.
Williams made 9-of-13 shots from the field and five of her seven free throw attempts while pulling down a team-high five rebounds. Her career-high 23 points were 10 more than her previous career best, which came last season at Northern Arizona on Jan. 10, 2013.
Williams had never led the Eagles in scoring in 86 career games prior to tonight.
"I thought Melissa was aggressive tonight," Schuller said. "Idaho State is tough and physical, but we knew we could take advantage of her size inside."
Redshirt sophomore Hayley Hodgins added 13 points, burying three three-pointers.
Senior Aubrey Ashenfelter tied her season high with four steals to go along with five points.
Freshman Bethany Montgomery scored six points in 11 minutes off the bench.
Eastern shot 41.8 percent for the game, including a 52.0-percent clip in the second half, but Idaho State could simply not miss, making 19-of-24 shots in the second half, burying seven three-pointers.
Idaho State won the rebounding battle, 39-24, while each team corralled nine offensive boards.
EWU turned the ball over just 10 times while forcing the Bengals into 15 miscues.
The Bengals jumped out to a quick 4-0 start before a lay-up from Ashenfelter and a jumper from Williams evened things at 4-4 with 17:41 on the clock. ISU answered with an 8-2 run over the next three minutes to take a 12-6 lead.
Williams knocked down a pair of free throws to stop the Bengals' run before a layup from senior Laura Hughes and a three-pointer from redshirt junior guard Lexie nelson gave EWU its first lead, 13-12, at the 13:03 mark. ISU rebounded to go up three, 17-14, but two free throws from Hodgins and a steal and layup from Montgomery put the Eagles ahead, 18-17, with 9:13 left.
The Bengals had another run in them, using a 6-0 stretch to take a three-point advantage, 23-20, at the 7:09 mark. A jumper from Ashenfelter snapped a near-three minute scoring drought for Eastern and cut ISU's lead to one, 23-22, with 5:56 on the clock. After Idaho State went back up by three, EWU scored seven of the next eight points to take its largest lead of the first half, 31-28, with 57 seconds remaining.
Idaho State's Sheryl Bitter was fouled on a three-point attempt with 24 ticks left, making all three free throws to tie the score at 31-31 heading into the break.
The hosts came out of the break hot, opening up a six-point advantage, 41-35, less than four minutes into the second half. A jumper from Hughes and a triple from Nelson brought EWU to within one, 41-40, with 15:50 on the clock, but the Bengals went on an 8-4 run over the next five minutes to open up an eight-point advantage, 52-44.
Williams momentarily stopped Idaho State's run with a jumper from Nelson at the 10:44 mark but two more three-pointers and a pair of jumpers gave the Bengals their largest lead of the night, 62-47, with 8:44 remaining. Lindsey Reed extended ISU's lead to 17, 64-47, at the 7:16 mark before Kara Jenkins made two more to spot the Bengals a 19-point advantage with 7:01 left.
After a layup from Bitter gave Idaho State a 22-point cushion with a little over five minutes remaining, Nelson knocked down a three-pointer to break a five-minute scoring drought for the Eagles, cutting ISU's lead to 19, 70-51, at the 5:07 mark. Eastern would get no closer the rest of the way, however, as the Bengals maintained their twenty-point advantage down the stretch.
Bitter led four Bengals in double figures with 21 points while Tingey added 16.
Eastern concludes its 2013-14 regular season at Weber State on Saturday, Mar. 8. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. PST.