December 26, 2013 | Vol. 117 -- No. 36

Eastern women roll into break, Big Sky play on win streak

Eagles top Northwest, Boise State for fourth straight victory

As members of the Eastern Washington women's basketball team head home for a little time off for the holidays, they finally appear to be pointed in the right direction, too, on the basketball court.

Eastern\'s Lexie Nelson had a pair of 20-plus point nights for the Eagles\' two victories.

Following wins last week over NAIA Northwest College 90-48 Tuesday, and an 81-66 win against Mountain West Boise State, Eastern (4-5) has now won four straight heading into the start of Big Sky Conference play this Sunday, Dec. 29 at 2 p.m. in Reese Court.

"It's good to see us finding some different ways to score," head coach Wendy Schuller said. "I like the fact that we're not one-dimensional, I think that makes us harder to defend."

On the flip side, "I wasn't pleased with our defensive play against Boise State," Schuller said. "I just thought that there were things we didn't do great. We know that we can continue to improve in a lot of areas."

With junior Lexie Nelson tossing in a career-high 27 points, Eastern got by Boise State (4-6) when the Butte, Mont. native helped rally the Eagles from a 21-17 deficit by scoring 12 straight points, giving them a lead they would never relinquish.

Eastern went to the dressing room at the break with a 38-34 lead, thanks to freshman Bethany Montgomery who came up with a steal and lay-up to give the Eagles a four-point lead at the break.

The Broncos hung around through the early parts of the second half until Nelson's 3-pointer with 15:56 to go gave the Eagles a 49-42 lead. Her layup with 11:08 to go gave Eastern a 14-point lead.

"Offensively, Lexie was really efficient tonight," Schuller said. "I thought she came prepared and ready to play. I was very pleased with her effort."

Sophomore Hayley Hodgins netted 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting, including a pair of 3s. Senior, Laura Hughes was the other Eagle in double figures with 10 points.

Miquelle Askew led the Broncos with 13 points while Lexie Der added 12.

It was Nelson again Tuesday versus Northwest, another team with an Eagle mascot based in Kirkland, Wash. as she led all scores with 21 points. Hughes had 13 points and seven rebounds. Freshman Tisha Phillips added 10 points and a game-high-tying eight rebounds, both of which were career highs. Alyssa Dario led the visitors with 10 points.

Eastern raced to an 11-0 lead and was never challenged, leading 47-16 at the half. The Eagles shot 19-for-21 from the free throw line, 90.5 percent. Nelson was 6-of-7 and Hughes 5-of-6.

Despite the easy victory, Schuller still found this game as a window into some areas her team's needs to improve upon before the Big Sky grind begins for the preseason favorite to win the league regular season title.

"We're glad to get out of here with a win, and I thank Northwest for playing hard and for giving us some things we need to work on going forward," Schuller said.

Because the Boise State game was moved to last Friday from Saturday afternoon in order to accommodate EWU's FCS playoff game against Towson, the players got some additional time off to be with family for the holidays.

"We've been going pretty hard since October so I think it's important for them to have an opportunity to decompress, spend time with family," Schuller said. "Family is obviously important to me and we stress that with our players."

Paul Delaney can be reached at pdelaney@cheneyfreepress.com.

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