Cheney, Wash. - An impressive third quarter run propelled the Eastern Washington University women's basketball team to a 59-55 win over visiting Northern Colorado in the Big Sky Conference opener for both teams Thursday afternoon, Dec. 31.
EWU improves to 7-6 with the win and 1-0 in league play, while Northern Colorado drops to 5-6 with the loss and 0-1 in conference games.
After a competitive first quarter saw the Eagles lead 19-15, the second quarter proved to be just as tough, featuring multiple lead changes and solid shooting from both teams. Eastern shot exactly 50 percent from the field, while UNC kept pace with a 44.4 field goal percentage. However, a stellar third quarter propelled EWU to a sizeable, 53-40 lead. The offense stayed efficient all quarter, shooting 66.7 percent from the field, and keeping many players involved, including freshman Aqeelah Williams, who made two key three-pointers off the bench. The defense also played well, holding UNC to 25.8 percent shooting from the field.
With the momentum on their side, the Eagles went into the fourth quarter with their largest lead of the game. But this did not deter the Bears from making one last attempt at the comeback; Eastern's offense began to sputter as it was held scoreless for eight minutes of the final quarter. The 9-0 Northern Colorado run was ended by a clutch three-point play from sophomore Delaney Hodgins, with 2:15 remaining in the game, which would prove to be the deciding factor. The Eagles' defense held up in the final minutes, and some late game free throws iced the game.
Delaney Hodgins led the team in scoring with a career high 22 points. She shot 8-of-13 from the field, collected nine rebounds, and blocked two shots.
Junior Ashli Payne recorded her third double-double of the season, grabbing 12 boards and scoring 10 points.
Senior Hayley Hodgins scored 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting, and stole the ball twice.
Aqeelah Williams provided an important late game spark off the bench, scoring eight points on 3-of-4 shooting from the field, and 2-of-3 from three-point range.
EWU finished the game shooting 48.9 percent from the field, and 40 percent from three, compared to 34.5 percent shooting, and a 24 percent clip from three for the Bears.
Northern Colorado limited its turnovers to 12 on the game, and benefited from 13 points off of Eastern miscues. The Eagles turned the ball over 18 times, and scored eight from UNC mistakes.
EWU controlled the defensive glass well, collecting 35 defensive rebounds, compared to 18 for Northern Colorado. But, the Bears led the offensive side, grabbing nine offensive rebounds to Eastern's five.
Quoting Coach Schuller
"I thought our perimeter defense was very good. We knew they were going to look to shoot a lot of threes, and we wanted to try and make sure we at least had a hand up and make them shoot it quicker or more contested than they're used to. To hold them to 24 percent from three is a good job by us. You always like to feel good about stuff and have some confidence built up, and we have a lot of things we can learn. Part of it is us still being young and not having our usual point guard right now, and that was evident in the fourth quarter. I thought we were holding on too tight and we just need to relax. We were getting good shots, including a lot of layups, but just couldn't knock them down. We have a lot of stuff we can learn from today, but I'd much rather learn from a win than a loss."
Delaney Hodgins' 22 points was good for a new career high, beating out her 20 points against CSUN earlier this season.
Hayley Hodgins has now scored in double figures in 29 straight games dating back to last season, and has 76 career games of at least 10 points. She now has 1,446 career points in 107 career appearances, good for fourth all time in career scoring.
The Eagles begin the new year with more conference play against North Dakota at home, on Saturday, Jan. 2. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m. PST at Reese Court.