The Eastern Washington University women’s basketball team started hot, but ended cold.
In a Big Sky Conference showdown between the Eagles and Hornets of Sacramento State, the home team had the edge, defeating Eastern, 85-70, on Saturday (Jan. 12) in Sacramento, Calif.
Eastern (7-8, 3-3 Big Sky) made six of its first eight shots of the game, and enjoyed an 8-0 lead within 90 seconds after tipoff, but the Eagles could not sustain that momentum on the road, especially in the face of a suffocating Hornet press.
Along with conceding 29 points off turnovers in Saturday's game, the Eagles went more than six minutes at the start of the second half without a bucket. During the drought, the Hornets scored 11 unanswered points to build a double-digit cushion, which they maintained the rest of the way.
“We were working hard and actually getting good looks, but we could not buy one,” said EWU head coach Wendy Schuller. “Sac was able to extend their lead, and then every time we felt like we were going to make a run, one of their kids would step up and hit a huge three. But credit to them for knocking down those big shots.”
The Hornets were 10-of-21 from behind the 3-point arc, including a sizzling 6-of-9 in the second half. They capitalized on the notorious high-tempo style employed by fourth-year head coach Jamie Craighead, as Sac State took 72 total shots - the most by any EWU opponent this season. The Hornets knocked down 43 percent of them, and made 13-of-15 from the charity stripe for a season-high 85 points.
After the hot start, Eastern went into the locker room shooting 46 percent from the field, but its 14 turnovers in the first 20 minutes allowed the Hornets to enjoy a 43-38 edge at the break. EWU then made just 31 percent of its shots in the second half, and was also out-rebounded 26-20.
“I was a lot happier with our effort tonight than what we saw at Northern Arizona,” said Schuller. “We played hard and went after more balls, but you can’t shoot 31 percent and expect to win on somebody else’s floor. In the end, it really comes down to who can knock down shots.”
In spite of the unproductive second half, the Eagles did have five different players reach double figures. Sophomore point guard Kylie Huerta led the way with 14 points, while junior guard Lexie Nelson chipped in 11.
Coming off a career-high 16 points against NAU, redshirt-freshman Hayley Hodgins continued to impress with 10 points in Sacramento.
Junior Laura Hughes also had 10 points, as did her classmate, Melissa Williams. Williams also led the team on the glass with 11 rebounds for her second-straight double-double. But the junior forward was forced to leave the game early after going down with an injury late in the second half.
Suffering its third-straight loss, Eastern will look to end this skid on Thursday (Jan. 17) when it takes on Big Sky newcomer North Dakota at 6:05 p.m. at Reese Court in Cheney.