Eastern Washington’s women’s basketball team will take a three-game winning streak, a home sweep against the Montana schools and hopefully the same stellar defensive effort they showed last weekend, on the road for games at Sacramento State and Northern Arizona.
The Eagles, 7-5 in Big Sky play and 11-10 overall, are tied with Sac State (7-5 , 15-9) for fourth place. The teams tip off at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13. Saturday’s game, takes place at 5:30 p.m. in Flagstaff against an NAU team that is 3-9 in conference play and 6-15 overall.
Eastern beat Montana State (6-6, 11-10) 81-66 where all five starters scored in double figures last Thursday. Saturday afternoon, the Eagles got another balanced scoring attack – again getting double-figure scoring from its starters – in a 71-61 win over Montana, (8-4, 14-7).
Eagles’ head coach Wendy Schuller certainly liked what she saw last week and would love to see her team pack that with them on the road where Eastern is just 1-6, but won in their last outing 51-50 at Northern Colorado.
“I thought that both our outings this past weekend our team really made a concerted effort on the defensive end,” Schuller said. “The thing that I thought we did a better job of than we have pretty much all year was trying to be more personnel oriented; take away things that were strengths of whomever it was we were playing.”
So Eastern kept Montana limited on their inside presence, shifting the game to their outside shooting. While the Lady Griz may have some of the best 3-point shooting she’s seen, Schuller said the game plan was to counter the inside where the Montana had a significant size advantage.
The Eagles raced to an early 13-2 lead and never let the Lady Griz get any closer than five points the rest of the way.
Lexie Nelson, a Montana transfer, shot 6-of-9 from the floor against her former team, scoring a game-high 19. Melissa Williams, the Big Sky Conference’s Co-Player of the Week, notched a double-double for the second straight game, finishing with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Aubrey Ashenfelter and freshman Jade Redmon added 13 points apiece.
“I thought that she had almost a coming out party this weekend in terms of really looking to be a scorer, as well as distributing and running things and being good on the defensive end,” Schuller said of Redmon.
Eastern did a lot of damage in transition, pouring in 16 fast break points while keeping Montana there. Torry Hill led the Lady Griz with 15 points.
In the MSU game Nelson and Ashenfelter each tied with a team-high 16 points while Hayley Hodgins added 15. Redmon scored a season-high 14 points and Williams 12.
Eastern limited Montana State to one shot per possession, outrebounding the visitors, 42-29, and only allowing 10 offensive rebounds.
The Eagles’ sweep of the Montana schools marks just the seventh time in program history they have defeated both Montana and Montana State in the same weekend. Eastern has now beaten Montana at home in back-to-back seasons.
Eastern won this season’s first meeting, defeating Sacramento State, 78-65, in Reese Court Jan. 18 and two days earlier scored a 92-68 win over NAU. Sac State is an impressive 10-1 at home while the Lumberjacks are just 2-7 at home.
“Anybody can truly beat anybody on a given night in this league,” Schuller said. “It’s a long, long horse race and we know there is still a ways to go.”
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.