The road finally got to be just a little more pleasant for the Eastern Washington women’s basketball team.
Melissa William’s jump shot with 1 minute, 57 seconds remaining held up for the winning points as the Eagles scored a 52-51 Big Sky Conference victory over Northern Colorado last Saturday afternoon in Greeley.
The win, Eastern’s first this year on the road, salvaged a split in the Eagles’ eastern road trip following their 82-60 loss Thursday at North Dakota, in Grand Forks. The Eagles evened their conference record at 5-5 (9-10 overall) heading into a pair of home games tonight (Thursday, Feb. 6) at 6:05 p.m. against Montana State (6-4, 11-8) and at 2 p.m. Saturday against Montana (7-3, 13-6).
“Down the stretch, I thought we communicated and showed a lot of determination defensively,” head coach Wendy Schuller said.
The final seconds made Eastern earn this one the hard way.
First, the Bears’ Stephanie Lee, the game’s leading scorer with 13, went to the free throw line with 59 seconds left with a chance to tie, hitting her first free throw before the second was disallowed due to a lane violation.
Then, after Eastern’s Lexie Nelson was fouled with 19 seconds to play and missed the front end of a one-and-one, the Eagles had to first survive a missed 3 and then Kim Lockridge’s contested field goal try that rimmed out at the buzzer for the Bears (5-6, 11-9).
Eastern trailed at the half 25-23, and then all the way until the 2:55 mark when freshman Jade Redmond’s layup gave the Eagles a 50-48 lead.
“I’m very proud of our team to come up with this win after a tough road swing,” Schuller said. “We rebounded a lot better today and we found a way to put the ball in the basket when it mattered.”
After getting outrebounded by 27 at North Dakota, Eastern won the rebounding battle 33-27 over the Bears. Eastern gave up just five offensive rebounds while grabbing 14 offensive boards and a 16-4 advantage in second chance points.
Laura Hughes and Hayley Hodgins scored 12 points to lead the Eagles against UNC. The senior Williams pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds.
Thursday’s play on the court for the Eagles matched the frigid temperatures outside the Betty Engelstad Center.
Eastern shot just 33.3 percent from the field, its lowest output of the season. The Eagles connected on just 23.5 percent of their shots in the second half and were an uncharacteristic 3-of-16 from 3-point range on the night. This while North Dakota knocked down 50 percent overall after connecting at a 57.1-percent pace in the first half.
Hughes led the Eagles with 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting, knocking down her first five shots from the field. Aubrey Ashenfelter and Hodgins added 10 points apiece.
It was a back-and-forth contest in the first nine minutes with 11 lead changes. Bethany Montgomery’s lay-up brought the Eagles to within one at 24-23, with 9:33 left in the half, but UND went on a 19-5 run over the next 6:30 on the way to a 43-33 edge at the break.
UND held the Eagles without a field goal for the first 3:30 of the second half, expanding its lead to 20, 54-34.
Eastern was limited to just 12 offensive rebounds as UND outrebounded the Eagles, 52-25. Eastern converted 26 North Dakota turnovers into just 14 points.
North Dakota saw five players reach double figures, led by Mia Loyd’s 16.
Paul Delaney can be reached at email@example.com.