Eastern women get stout offensive, defensive efforts
Eastern Washington's Jade Redmond (20) drives to the hoop against Sacramento State in the Eagles' 78-65 Big Sky Conference women's win Saturday.
First the offense went wild, then the defense clamped down and the result for the Eastern Washington women's basketball team was a Big Sky Conference sweep of a pair of home games last week at Reese Court.
With three Eagles scoring at least 20 points in the same game, Eastern recovered from a slow start to breeze past Northern Arizona, 92-68 last Thursday night.
Then Saturday afternoon, the Eagles slowed things down and patiently took apart high-flying, big scoring Sacramento State 78-65, holding the Hornets well under their 90-plus points-per-game average.
Eastern emerged from the weekend with a 4-3 record in conference play and evened their overall mark at 8-8 heading into their lone game of the week Saturday at Southern Utah (3-3, 9-6). It's the first of three straight road games for Eastern.
"We were just trying to do simple math and limit their possessions," Eastern head coach Wendy Schuller said. "The less possessions, the less 3s they can shoot the less points they can score."
Junior Lexie Nelson and senior Laura Hughes each scored 19 points for the Eagles with Nelson fueling a run with 10 straight points to open the second half that rallied Eastern from a single-point deficit, 30-29, and eventually gave them a lead they would not lose.
"We just changed the attack a little bit and Lexie led the charge, knocked down some shots and kind of got us going," Schuller said of her junior guard.
Following Nelson's effort, Eastern led 39-33, then saw Sac State close to within 39-38, but Eastern went on another run following a timeout.
"Fatigue set in a little bit, we got that timeout," Schuller said. "We regrouped, got some subs in and we were able to get some of the touches we wanted."
Hughes got her points in just 16 minutes, going 8-of-12 from the field. Sophomore Hayley Hodgins added 14 points and junior Melissa Williams 10 for the Eagles who shot an impressive 54.8 percent in the second half, up considerably from 39 percent clip in the first. Shanti Smith led the visitors with 17 points.
Sac State made a couple of runs in the final 10 minutes, closing to with 59-54 with 4 minutes, 30 seconds to play but a layup from Hughes gave Eastern a 68-59 lead at the 2:19 mark. The Hornets made one final try, closing to 68-63 with 1:45 to play. A Hodgins' basket, plus four free throws each from Jade Redmond and Nelson wrapped things up.
Thursday versus NAU (2-4, 5-10) the Eagles got off to a slow start and trailed 7-2. But then things came together and Eastern went on a 32-5 run and it was game-over early.
"It took us a little while to get things going offensively," Schuller said.
Three Eagles, Hodgins with a career-high 26, Nelson with 21 and 20 from Hughes are believed to be the first time in school history that three players have surpassed those totals. Ashenfelter added 11 points.
"We got a feel of what they were trying to do and then Hailey (Hodgins) got going for us a little bit offensively which was nice," Schuller said.
Eastern shot a solid 47 percent in the first half but improved to 58 in the second. Eastern got 38 points in the paint, the most in six Big Sky games this season. The Eagles turned 19 offensive rebounds into 17 second-chance points.
Amanda Frost scored a game-high 29 points for NAU.
Paul Delaney can be reached at email@example.com.