Nailing its first five shots of the game, the Eastern Washington University women's basketball team set the tone early on Friday (Dec. 7) night at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. Shooting 58 percent from the field in the first half with seven 3-pointers, Eastern went on to beat Boise State on its home floor, 74-63.
With the win, Eastern snaps a two-game losing streak against the Broncos and a two-game losing skid in the 2012-13 season. The Eags are now 3-5 heading into its Big Sky Conference debut on Dec. 20 against Weber State. EWU will not play again until it makes that trip to Ogden, Utah, right before Christmas.
"Before this game, we talked about the importance of heading into conference play on a high note," said EWU head coach Wendy Schuller. "We come home and don't play again for 12 days. We did not want to have 12 days with a bitter taste in our mouths.
"This was a fun game, and a good one for us in terms of learning and growing," added Schuller. "Boise State is a lot like the teams we are going to see in the Big Sky. They have a similar style of play and similar style of players, and it was a great way to help prepare us for what we're going to see in conference."
Eastern had four players eclipse double digits on Friday against the Broncos, led by sophomore Lexie Nelson, who notched 20 points on a 7-of-13 effort from the floor. For the third game in a row, and fourth time this season, the sophomore guard hit three 3-pointers.
Junior Aubrey Ashenfelter poured in a season-high 16 points, junior Chenise Pakootas contributed 11, and senior Carrie Ojeda finished with a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds.
"That is what we need in every single game," said Schuller, of four different players scoring in double figures. "It just makes us harder to guard, harder to defend as a whole. Carrie took eight shots tonight, Lexie 13 and Aubrey and Chenise each with 11. We spread out our shots and did a great job distributing the ball."
Eastern came into the game averaging just 55.3 points per game, but thanks to a hot start, EWU was able to put a season-high 74 points on the board. The Eagles made 18-of-31 shots in the first half, and 7-of-12 from beyond the arc to build a 45-24 advantage at intermission. Eastern cooled off slightly in the second, but did enough to maintain a comfortable lead.
By the nine-minute mark of the second period, Eastern had built its largest lead of the night at 68-42. But despite trailing by double digits for most of the game, the Broncos found a way to make it interesting with a late run.
Trailing 72-54 with just under six minutes remaining, BSU scored 15 unanswered points to pull within nine at 72-63. But the late surge took nearly five minutes off the clock, and EWU still led by three possessions with just 48 ticks left on the clock.
The Broncos were forced to foul, which sent sophomore Kylie Huerta to the free throw line. The 5-1 point guard missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but sophomore forward Morganne Comstock corralled the offensive rebound and put it right back up for an easy lay-in to seal the game.
"I thought we came out in the second half more passive than we should have," said Schuller. "We turned down a couple really good shots that had been taking in the first half. The pace of the game also changed a little, and not to our advantage. There were 17 fouls called and a lot of stoppage of play, so we just weren't able to get up and down like we want. But credit to Boise State, because they came out aggressive and were shooting the ball a lot better there at the end."
Eastern held the Broncos to 35.6 percent shooting in the game, and forced 17 turnovers. Boise State made just 9-of-35 shots in the first half, and only 1-of-10 from long range. EWU also out-rebounded the Broncos in the first half, 24-18.
"I thought our defense was a huge key tonight," said Schuller. "We rebounded really well in the first half, which really enabled us to run the floor - just get it and go. All week, we had talked about a better flow offensively, and I think we saw that tonight. We stopped thinking so much about it, and just played. We were taking the right shots at the right time, and getting ball to the right people."
Along with her 20 points, Nelson had five rebounds, three assists and one steal in 31 minutes on the floor. Ashenfelter had four rebounds and three assists to go along with her 16 points, while Pakootas added five boards and three dimes.
Huerta finished the night with six points, five assists and three steals, while redshirt-freshman Hayley Hodgins contributed five points, two rebounds, one assist and one block.