In true March Madness fashion, the Eastern Washington University women’s basketball team left absolutely everything it had on the floor Friday (March 22) night in an epic double-overtime battle against the Huskies of Washington in the first round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
After 50 minutes of blood, sweat and tears at the Alaska Airlines Arena, UW managed to escape with a 65-60 win over the Eags in Seattle, Wash.
Denied the first national postseason tournament win in school history and the first 20-win season since 1984-85, Eastern finishes the 2012-13 campaign at 19-13 overall. The Eagles went 14-6 in Big Sky play to finish third, after being picked eighth in the Big Sky preseason polls.
“The No. 1 thing we expressed to the team when we went into the locker room tonight was just how proud we were of them,” said EWU head coach Wendy Schuller. “This is a team that has battled and fought all year, and I didn’t expect anything less from us tonight.”
After out-scoring the Huskies, 26-18, in the second half and holding one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the nation to 0-of-15 from beyond the arc, Eastern found itself with a 49-47 lead with 1:09 remaining in regulation.
On its next possession, UW’s All-Pac 12 team point guard Jazmine Davis was able to get in the lane and convert a layup to knot the score at 49. Eastern had 13 seconds left on the clock, but its final attempt was off the mark, resulting in the second-straight OT game for the Eagles.
At the 2:50-mark of the first overtime period, EWU’s 5-foot-1 point guard Kylie Huerta buried a 3-pointer to give her team a 53-51 edge. The Huskies then missed two-consecutive shots, but with 1:24 left, UW's Kristi Kingma hit a jumper to tie it up at 53-53. On its next trip down the floor, Eastern missed back-to-back shots, but the Eags maintained possession after fighting and clawing for two big offensive boards.
Following a timeout called by Schuller with 20.9 seconds on the game clock and 18 on the shot, EWU set up for one final play. The shot by sophomore guard Lexie Nelson just missed, but Eastern grabbed yet another offensive rebound with enough time to make another attempt at the game winner. But unfortunately, an inadvertent whistle stopped the play with 2.1 seconds remaining.
“It’s disappointing, because Hayley was hot and she got the offensive rebound six feet from the basket, unguarded, and a whistle was blown,” said Schuller. “That’s a tough one for us, but sometimes that’s how the game goes and in the end, we needed to be six or eight points better than we were.”
On the ensuing inbounds pass, EWU got the ball to senior Carrie Ojeda, who had just enough time to turn and take a shot, but with Husky bodies all around her, it came up just short of the basket, resulting in double overtime in Seattle.
Washington struck first in the second OT with a three from Kingma, which was followed a couple minutes later with another three for Davis. But Hodgins answered every time, hitting three field goals in the overtime period to keep Eastern in the game.
Washington converted a layup that gave the home team a 63-60 lead with 23 seconds remaining, and this time, Hodgins’ 3-point attempt from the corner sailed long and the Huskies snatched up the rebound. UW then went on to make two free throws with eight seconds remaining, and EWU just ran out of time.
“This is one I know will stick with us for a long time,” said Schuller. “I felt like at the end of the first overtime, we should have won the basketball game and we didn’t. Those are hard to walk away from. For us, we weren’t about any kind of moral victory - we wanted to win a basketball game. But we are extremely proud of this team and the effort tonight.”
EWU shot the ball better than Washington for the game, finishing at 35.8 percent from the floor, compared to 31.8 percent for UW. The Huskies, who average 8.1 3-pointers per game, were held to just 5-of-36 on Friday night.
Hodgins led the Eags with 20 points, 17 of which were scored in the second half and overtime periods. Huerta had 15 tallies, while Ojeda was just one bucket shy of a double-double, finishing with eight points and 10 rebounds.
Junior guard Aubrey Ashenfelter recorded a career-high 13 rebounds for EWU to go along with three assists, three blocks and two steals.
Eastern committed 23 turnovers in the game, but 15 of those came in the first half alone. Washington took advantage of the Eagle miscues, scoring nearly half of its points off turnovers. The Huskies also had a 25-13 edge in second-chance points.
UW had a trio of players in double figures, led by Davis, who finished with a game-high 22 points.