Eagles Outlasted by First-Place Vikings in Cheney

Jan. 24, 2009

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The Eastern Washington University women’s basketball team came up short against first-place Portland State in a Big Sky Conference game on Saturday afternoon (Jan. 24), falling to the Vikings 65-55.

The Eagles played well on a number of levels, outshooting their opponents, 41.7-40.0 percent, and out-rebounding the Vikings, 35-34. Unfortunately, Eastern was hurt by its 18 turnovers (Portland State had 12) and three-point shooting (1-of-8; PSU shot 6-of-15 from beyond the arc).

“It is disappointing,” head coach Wendy Schuller said. “I thought there were some critical turnovers and offense rebounds that we gave up that were really the difference in the basketball game. Against a great team like they are, you can not have those things, especially in the last five minutes of the game.

“But I think we showed that we can play with the top teams in the Big Sky.”

Julie Piper had an outstanding individual performance, scoring 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting and grabbing 11 rebounds, leading all players in both categories. The point total was the best for an Eagle since Tatjana Sparavalo had 24 at Idaho State on Feb. 16, 2008.

“I thought Julie Piper played really well on both ends of the floor,” Schuller said. “Kelsey Kahle is a great player, and Julie rose to the challenge and did a great job of defending her. Offensively, she really went at them. She was aggressive and able to finish. She did a nice job for us.”

Nicole Scott had three blocks, the second-best Eagle blocking performance this year (she had four at UNLV on Nov. 28). Jessica Huntington had an impressive 5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio today.

Sparavalo and Scott each had seven points in the game, while Scott and Amy Bratvold contributed six rebounds apiece.

“I was proud of our effort,” Schuller said. “I thought the players did a nice job of sticking to the game plan and knowing the strengths of the Portland State players. It feels good to know that we are right there with them, but it hurts that much more as well.”

With 11:27 to go in the first half, a Sparavalo jumper tied the game at 14, but the Vikings (13-6, 6-0 BSC) immediately responded with eight straight points to go up 22-14 with 10:09 left. However, the Eagles whittled down the lead to one right before the break, 28-27, on a Piper jumper with 37 seconds left.

With 16:34 gone in the second half, Eastern Washington (8-11, 3-3 BSC) took its first lead since 4-2 when Piper hit a pair of free throws to put Eastern up 33-32. Unfortunately for the Eagles, that would be their last lead of the game.

Eastern did, however, cut its deficit to 43-40 with 10:32 left and 57-53 with 2:53 to go, but the Vikings converted their free throws down the stretch to cement their win.

The Eagles will play host to Montana State and Montana next week. The Bobcats (8-10, 2-4 BSC) will visit on Thursday (Jan. 29) for a 7:05 p.m. tip-off, while the Lady Grizzlies (17-3, 6-0 BSC) will play the Eagles at 2:05 p.m. on Saturday (Jan. 31).

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