January 4, 2007

Eagles Earn Road Win, Start Big Sky Play 1-0

Jan. 4, 2007

Final Stats

The Eastern Washington University women's basketball team claimed a win in its opening contest of the Big Sky Conference schedule on Thursday night (Jan. 4) to start its league slate 1-0 for the fifth straight season. The Eagles, 6-8 overall, topped the host school, Montana State (5-8, 0-1 BSC), in nail-biting fashion, 69-66.

 

The victory was the fifth straight for Eastern over MSU and the third consecutive win on the Worthington Arena floor. It was EWU's second straight overall following its 84-66 win over Portland on Sunday (Dec. 31).

 

"We thought it was really important to go on this trip and play well," head coach Wendy Schuller said. "We wanted to start 1-0 in the Big Sky. Montana State gave us a great battle. In the first half, they shot the lights out, but we made adjustments at halftime (MSU shot 48.6 percent in the first half, 17.9 percent in the second). The team played with a lot of heart and we had a lot of people step up. It was a great team win."

 

The Eagles saw three different players reach the double-figure mark in scoring: Phynique Allen (18), Joanna Chadd (13) and Ashley Knight (12). Allen's scoring output was the second-highest of her career. The rebounding leader for Eastern on the night was Sydney Benson, as she garnered eight boards. Allen had six on the night and led the game in assists with four.

 

Amanda Murdoch returned home to Bozeman and scored a pair of points on 1-of-2 shooting. The freshman played for Bozeman High School and led the team to the AA state championship last season, earning state tournament MVP honors.

 

The first half was close as the largest lead earned by either team was just seven points until the very end, when Montana State scored nine straight points to take a 45-34 advantage into the locker room.

 

Eastern came out for the second half and, after the Bobcats extended their lead to 13, went on a timely 12-0 run to cut the deficit to just one, 49-48, with 12:48 remaining.

 

"We made adjustments and changed to a 2-3 zone, and that kind of took Montana State out of the great flow they were in," Schuller said. "We got the game at a pace we were more comfortable with, started knocking shots down, taking better shots and overall had a better half."

 

The game would stay close the rest of the way, as Eastern stayed within five points and would take its first lead since being up, 21-20, midway through the opening stanza on a Chadd three-pointer with 3:59 remaining, 64-62.

 

Although Montana State quickly tied the game at 64, Eastern held the lead through the final buzzer, extending it to three on an Ashley Knight three-pointer with 1:26 left, seeing it fall to one with 53 seconds left and back up to three on a Chadd jumper with 21 ticks showing on the clock. MSU's Alyssa Nelson missed a three-pointer at the buzzer, which would have sent the game to overtime if it were good.

 

The Eagles continue its trip to the state of Montana with a Saturday (Jan. 6) contest versus the Montana Lady Griz. UM improved to 13-1, 1-0 in Big Sky play, with an 85-67 victory over Portland State on Thursday, stretching its winning streak to 10 games. Montana is receiving votes in both the AP and the USA Today/ESPN Top 25 polls and is currently ranked 10th nationally in the collegerpi.com rankings. Tip-off for the game is set for 6:05 p.m. PT.

 

"We know anytime you go into Missoula and play in their house, it is going to be loud and a great college basketball environment," Schuller said. "We are playing against a team with a heck of a record and should be in the top 25. We will have our hands full, but if we play like we did in the second half tonight, carry it over and give great effort, you never know. That's why they play the game."

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