Eastern women get split at Cal Classic, head back on road
Eagles stay on road for next five games, not home again until Dec. 29
The split the Eastern Washington women’s basketball team earned this past weekend at the 2012 Cal Classic by Doubletree at Haas Pavilion in Berkeley is just fine as far as coach Wendy Schuller is concerned.
“Your goal when you go to a tournament is to at least go 1-1, two teams are going to do that,” Schuller said. Somebody’s going 2-0, somebody’s going 0-2 and Schuller’s just happy she wasn’t the latter.
The Eagles fell to the nation’s 11th-ranked team, Cal, 91-58 Friday before earning a rugged 50-45 win over Cal-Fullerton Saturday.
Eastern came out hot against their Pac-12 hosts, shooting 58 percent in the first half, including 7-of-12 from beyond the arc, and trailed the Golden Bears by just six points, 43-37 at the half. Cal would use Eastern turnovers to score 13 straight points and open a lead that proved insurmountable.
“Obviously we ran into a really good Cal team, we knew they were one of the best teams in the nation going in,” Schuller said. “For a half we played our tails off, we shot the ball really well and handled some of their pressure.”
Despite a challenging second half, Eastern ended the game shooting 46 percent from the field - its best offensive efficiency in the young 2012-13 season. The Eagles also hit a season-high 10 3-pointers, double that of Cal.
Junior Chenise Pakootas hit four 3s as she was one of three Eagles to finish with 12 points. Fellow juniors Aubrey Ashenfelter also scored 12 on 5-of-11 shooting, while junior Laura Hughes made 5-of-6 for 12 points as well.
“The second half came around and it was like we ran into a buzz saw,” Schuller said. “It seemed like they had six on the floor at times.”
In Saturday’s consolation game Eastern scored the first field goal at the 18:09-mark, and was able to preserve that advantage the rest of the way.
“We jumped out on them [Fullerton] early, and were getting some good defensive stops,” Schuller said.
Eastern held a slim 28-22 lead at the break and made up for a shaky offensive effort in the second half – they were just 5-of-18 attempts from the field – with a solid defensive effort. They held CSF to just 31.3 percent from the field and kept them away from the free throw line completely.
The Eagles scored just two points in the first seven minutes of the second half and following a jumper from Hughes with 12:32 to play, Eastern scored seven unanswered points to lead 39-26.
From there it was hold on in what Schuller described as being a real heavyweight fight.
“Kind of at the end, it looked a little like Rocky and Apollo, they both can’t see and they’re just kind of throwing punches,” Schuller said using the old Sylvester Stallone “Rocky” movie analogy.
Schuller said, “It was kind of an ugly game at times,” and tough playing back-to-back in less than 24 hours. “Both of us had played pretty big time level teams in Georgetown and Cal,” in the first round she said.
Sophomore transfer Lexie Nelson had 15 points, 12 from the free throw line. Senior Carrie Ojeda delivered a solid all-around effort against the Titans, with 11 points, 11 rebounds.
The Eagles keep their suitcases packed with five more road games in front of them before a Dec. 29 Reese Court game with Warner Pacific. This past Tuesday Eastern fell 68-66 on a last second shot at Idaho. They travel to face another nationally-ranked opponent, Gonzaga, Dec. 4 and take on Boise State, Dec. 7.
The Big Sky schedule begins with games Dec. 20 at Weber State and Dec. 22 at Idaho State.
Paul Delaney can be reached at email@example.com.